cel·​i·​ba·​cy ˈse-lə-bə-sē How to pronounce celibacy (audio)
: the state of not being married
: abstention from sexual intercourse
: abstention by vow from marriage
priestly celibacy

Examples of celibacy in a Sentence

a widower who has maintained absolute celibacy since the death of his wife
Recent Examples on the Web The bishops urged radical change: Grant priestly powers to married men, breaking with the bedrock tenet of clerical celibacy, and increase the reach of the cloth. Cheri Lucas Rowlands, Longreads, 17 Feb. 2024 Differences also emerged on maintaining priestly celibacy, an issue of deep importance to Catholics in remote regions where clerics are in short supply. Stefano Pitrelli, Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2023 In the original myth, Medusa is a human woman who takes a vow of celibacy out of devotion to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Selome Hailu, Variety, 27 Dec. 2023 The show filmed in the middle of Emanuel’s year of celibacy. As Told To Stephanie McNeal, Glamour, 12 Dec. 2023 James Brolin had years of celibacy under his belt before marrying Barbra Streisand. Brolin, 83, made the revelation during his appearance alongside Streisand, 81, on CBS Mornings Monday, while Streisand spoke with Gayle King about her career and new memoir My Name Is Barbra. Tommy McArdle, Peoplemag, 8 Nov. 2023 What to know about the Vatican meeting on the Catholic Church’s future Delegates described a civil, constructive atmosphere in recent weeks, but also disagreements, including on the role of women in the church and the question of priestly celibacy. Stefano Pitrelli, Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2023 The boy, a third-grader with a fondness for TikTok and video games, now faces decades of theological training, a lifetime of celibacy, and the grave responsibility of having to defend Mongolian Buddhism against Chinese pressure. David Pierson, New York Times, 4 Oct. 2023 Many Vatican watchers consider the synod to be a defining moment of the Francis pontificate, since the official agenda includes hot-button issues such as the role of women in decision-making roles in the church, the acceptance of LGBTQ+ Catholics and celibacy for priests. Nicole Winfield, BostonGlobe.com, 4 Sep. 2023

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

Word History


celibate "state of not being married" (borrowed from Latin caelibātus, from caelebs "not having a spouse, unmarried" + -ātus -ate entry 2) + -acy — more at celibate entry 1

First Known Use

1646, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of celibacy was in 1646

Dictionary Entries Near celibacy

Cite this Entry

“Celibacy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/celibacy. Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


cel·​i·​ba·​cy ˈsel-ə-bə-sē How to pronounce celibacy (audio)
: the state of not being married
especially : the state of one who has taken a vow not to marry

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