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cel·​i·​bate ˈse-lə-bət How to pronounce celibate (audio)
: of, relating to, or characterized by celibacy:
: not engaging in or characterized by sexual intercourse
leading a celibate life
Because he regarded sex outside marriage as sinful, he remained celibate all his life.Faith McNulty
He pursued her avidly, writing her as many as three letters a day and even offering a celibate marriage to appease her fear of sex.Ruth Franklin
I'd been celibate for so long, what was another year without sex?Sue Grafton
: abstaining from marriage and sex especially because of a religious vow
Father Hawkins, for one, believes the priesthood would benefit from a broader mix of married and celibate priests.Daniel McGinn
I have met a few celibate monks in whom celibacy is truly a gift, a charism from which all—married or not—can learn …John Garvey
The Shakers, a celibate religious community, stress pacifism, equality and the communal ownership of material goods.Lyn Riddle


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plural celibates
: a person who lives in celibacy : a celibate person:
: an unmarried person
especially : one who abstains from marriage because of a religious vow
priestly celibates
: a person who abstains from sexual intercourse
… described himself as "a reluctant celibate" who had not been with a woman for four years …Janice Kennedy

Examples of celibate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The couple — who is not married and had previously vowed to stay celibate out of respect of Mary’s grandparents — broke tradition by trying for a baby. Kelly Wynne, Peoplemag, 19 Sep. 2023 That's a weird question because first of all, there have always been people who are polygamous, and there have always been people who were celibate or asexual. Gideon Lichfield, WIRED, 23 Aug. 2023 Advertisement Nelson had never expected Winnie to remain celibate during his 27-year imprisonment. Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, 9 June 2023 Before ordination, there is the choice to marry or to be celibate. Landon Mion, Fox News, 14 Mar. 2023 Grandparents with a monk son also had more grandchildren, as their non-celibate sons faced less or no competition with their brothers. Ruth MacE and Alberto Micheletti, Ars Technica, 5 Sep. 2022 But the vast majority of the world’s more than 400,000 Catholic priests are celibate. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, 4 Feb. 2022 Catholic doctrine reserves the priesthood for men, and church tradition requires Latin rite priests to be celibate. Washington Post, 4 June 2020
Many of Garcia's posts were also misogynistic, railing against women and parroting language used in incel, or involuntary celibate, communicates. Erik Ortiz, NBC News, 8 May 2023 But Joe was committed to remaining celibate from his murderous tendencies, leaving his violent ways behind with his life in America. Kelly Wynne, Peoplemag, 24 Mar. 2023 So incel means… involuntary celibate? Ellise Shafer, Variety, 12 Dec. 2022 Experts from the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) have told Refinery29 that the misogynist incel (short for involuntary celibate) movement is spreading and has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Vicky Spratt, refinery29.com, 8 Nov. 2021 Incel is short for involuntary celibate. CBS News, 18 Sep. 2021 Ex-members claim that Amy and Castillo would control their food intake and sleep schedule, and most members were expected to live celibate lives free of romantic relationships. Christopher Moyer, Rolling Stone, 26 Nov. 2021 But this ostensibly confirmed celibate oozes a gentle, undeniable sensuality. Ben Brantley, New York Times, 13 Oct. 2016 See More

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

Word History



Latin caeleb-, caelebs "not having a spouse, unmarried" (perhaps a derivative from *kail-i- "whole," going back to Indo-European *keh2i-lo-) + -ate entry 3 — more at whole entry 1

Note: The traditional hypothesis that caelebs goes back to a compound *kai̯elo-libh- (with the first element compared to Sanskrit kevala- "exclusively oneʼs own, alone, whole" and the second to Gothic liban "to live," English live entry 1) is now considered dubious.


derivative of celibate entry 1

First Known Use


1724, in the meaning defined above


1769, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of celibate was in 1724

Dictionary Entries Near celibate

Cite this Entry

“Celibate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/celibate. Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


cel·​i·​bate ˈsel-ə-bət How to pronounce celibate (audio)
: one who lives in celibacy
celibate adjective

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