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

Did you know?

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.

Example Sentences

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 example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'caravansary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 29 Nov. 2022.

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Name That Thing

You know what it looks like… but what is it called?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.