cis·​tern ˈsi-stərn How to pronounce cistern (audio)
: an artificial reservoir (such as an underground tank) for storing liquids and especially water (such as rainwater)
: a large usually silver vessel formerly used (as in cooling wine) at the dining table
: a fluid-containing sac or cavity in an organism

Examples of cistern in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The hotel strives for sustainability, including collecting rainwater in cisterns for bathing and cooking. Carley Thornell, Travel + Leisure, 19 Jan. 2024 Direct water from your roof’s downspouts to capture rainfall and store in a cistern. Nan Sterman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Dec. 2023 Somewhere there was a tractor, somewhere there was a cistern, cultivators. Ivana Kottasová, CNN, 1 Mar. 2024 These include turfgrass replacement, rain barrels and cisterns, downspout redirects and rain gutters. Caron Golden, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Dec. 2023 Roofs are pitched to maximize runoff, which flows into a series of underground cisterns where it’s filtered and sterilized with UV light. Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon, Travel + Leisure, 24 Nov. 2023 The 21-year-old’s decomposing nude corpse was discovered in a water cistern on the hotel roof. Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News, 28 Oct. 2023 The concrete deck separating the cistern, the fog house and the water tank is banked so that all rainwater flows into the cistern, where it is filtered to use for drinking, cooking and washing. Sacramento Bee, 30 Jan. 2024 Plus, water is collected off the pyramid-style roof and pumped out through a 15,000-gallon freshwater cistern. Abby Montanez, Robb Report, 3 Jan. 2024

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Cite this Entry

“Cistern.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


cis·​tern ˈsis-tərn How to pronounce cistern (audio)
: an artificial reservoir or tank for storing water usually underground

Medical Definition


cis·​tern ˈsis-tərn How to pronounce cistern (audio)
: a fluid-containing sac or cavity in an organism
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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