cis·​tern | \ˈsis-tərn \

Definition of cistern 

1 : an artificial reservoir (such as an underground tank) for storing liquids and especially water (such as rainwater)

2 : a large usually silver vessel formerly used (as in cooling wine) at the dining table

3 : a fluid-containing sac or cavity in an organism

Examples of cistern in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The building's dirt floors were being excavated to prepare for concrete when the cistern was found. Janelle Walker, Elgin Courier-News, "Archaeologists at Elgin's Kimball House after cistern discovered, yielding clues about the past," 30 Mar. 2018 Some people reclined under palm trees, while others drew water from a cistern for makeshift baths. Kate Linthicum,, "These are the Central American migrants in Trump's crosshairs," 5 Apr. 2018 The roofs of the headquarters and a few of the neighboring buildings are outfitted with large gutters that collect and distribute rainwater to a 7,300-gallon cistern on the eighth floor of the Etsy building. Caroline Biggs, New York Times, "Plant-Loving Millennials at Home and at Work," 9 Mar. 2018 Looking at the aerial images, Stott and his colleagues discovered fragments of another aqueduct flowing into the city's southwest quarter, which would probably have supplied a rock cistern there. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Decades of aerial photos reveal how an ancient desert city got its water," 30 May 2018 The park includes a community garden with onions, beets, kale and herbs, among other vegetables the public is welcome to take, a 7,000-gallon stormwater cistern and a stage for performances. Diana Dombrowski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "An inside look at the Walker's Point community arts center renovation," 2 July 2018 Besides extensive city tours, highlights include access to the temples at Paestum and the Piscina Mirabilis at Misenum, a gigantic cistern that stored water for the Roman fleet. Rosemary Mcclure,, "Explore ancient Pompeii and Herculaneum on this Italian tour," 24 Apr. 2018 On the outskirts of Mexico City, for example, the walls of homes glisten with fresh coats of paint, while trucks carrying rooftop cisterns roll into communities with water shortages, compliments of political parties vying for votes. Danny Hakim, New York Times, "Mexico’s Hardball Politics Get Even Harder as PRI Fights to Hold On to Power," 24 June 2018 This miniature version of Petra contains a profusion of façades and cisterns, interspersed with steps, some of which lead to high and holy places on the summits. Jim Berkeley, Town & Country, "How to Plan a Trip to Jordan," 5 Oct. 2016

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

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First Known Use of cistern

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cistern

Middle English, from Latin cisterna, from cista box, chest — more at chest

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Statistics for cistern

Last Updated

21 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for cistern

The first known use of cistern was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for cistern



English Language Learners Definition of cistern

: an underground container that is used for collecting and storing rainwater

: a tank that holds the water for a toilet

: a tank on the roof of a building that holds water for the building


cis·​tern | \ˈsi-stərn \

Kids Definition of cistern

: an artificial reservoir or tank for storing water usually underground


cis·​tern | \ˈsis-tərn \

Medical Definition of cistern 

: a fluid-containing sac or cavity in an organism

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More from Merriam-Webster on cistern

Spanish Central: Translation of cistern

Nglish: Translation of cistern for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cistern for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about cistern

Comments on cistern

What made you want to look up cistern? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

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