car·​a·​van·​sa·​ry ˌker-ə-ˈvan(t)-sə-rē How to pronounce caravansary (audio)
variants or caravanserai
plural caravansaries or caravanserais or caravanserai
: an inn surrounding a court in eastern countries where caravans rest at night
: hotel, inn

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In the Middle East of centuries past, caravans often lodged at caravansaries. These inns were quadrangular in form and enclosed by massive walls with small windows near the top. The central court, which was surrounded by an arcade and storerooms, was large enough to hold 300 to 400 camels. The name was formed from the word caravan and the Persian word sarāī, meaning "palace" or "inn." Caravansary can also be spelled caravanserai, and the word serai is used as a synonym for it.

Examples of caravansary in a Sentence

a caravansary designed specifically for self-styled cheapskates
Recent Examples on the Web Another of Bogaczewicz’s photographs captures a Saudi family having a picnic under a highway overpass, much as their bedouin ancestors might have stopped their caravansary by a desert wadi to have a meal. Wired, 26 Nov. 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'caravansary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Persian kārvānsarāī, from kārvān caravan + sarāī palace, inn

First Known Use

1599, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of caravansary was in 1599


Dictionary Entries Near caravansary

Cite this Entry

“Caravansary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


car·​a·​van·​sa·​ry ˌkar-ə-ˈvan(t)-sə-rē How to pronounce caravansary (audio)
variants or caravanserai
plural caravansaries or caravansarais or caravansarai
: an inn in eastern countries where caravans rest at night
: hotel, inn

More from Merriam-Webster on caravansary

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