cis·​tern | \ ˈsi-stərn How to pronounce cistern (audio) \

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

Endless suicides, women who drown themselves in cisterns, hang themselves by doorknobs: Atwood, perhaps in homage to a Puritan ancestor who was hanged for a witch, pays particular attention to the primitive nature of hanging. Susan Straight, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ sequel ‘The Testaments’ puts Margaret Atwood’s powers on full display," 4 Sep. 2019 After seeping into an underground cistern, millions of gallons of water a month was pumped into the city’s sewer system. Dominic Fracassa,, "Massive SF recycling project to save 30 million gallons of drinking water per year," 23 July 2019 Installed near the Desert Display House, the five cisterns can collect up to 4,500 gallons of rainwater from greenhouse roofs and be reused to water plants inside the conservatory, as well as other park district properties, officials said. Steve Schering,, "Oak Park Conservatory celebrates 90th anniversary," 25 June 2019 Traditionally, hammams have been in domed rooms clad in mosaic tiles, complete with stone slabs for laying down and cisterns of water for rinsing and keeping cool. Katherine Clarke, WSJ, "Public-Bathhouse Design Comes to Luxury Homes," 19 July 2018 There’s a 5,000-gallon cistern in the basement to supply fresh water. Thomas Farragher,, "A piece of Maine’s maritime history gets a lifeline," 10 July 2019 Every second of the day, a nearby aqueduct delivered 18.5 gallons of water—the equivalent of the amount of water consumed today by the city of Siena—through a cistern and into copper tanks subsequently heated by the tunnels’ 50 brick ovens. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "You Can Now Tour the Tunnels Beneath Rome’s Baths of Caracalla," 20 June 2019 Engravings of ships were also recently found on an ancient water cistern discovered in a city in the Negev desert. Fox News, "Israeli soldiers discover 3,000-year-old Biblical-era watchtower," 19 June 2019 Instead, it was filled with an ancient rainwater cistern that left little room for anything else except a few wobbly wooden shelves for preserves and a sclerotic oil-burning furnace. Bulletin Board, Twin Cities, "Sunday Bulletin Board: Like sands through the hourglass, these are the loads of our lives!," 9 June 2019

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

9 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for cistern

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

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English Language Learners Definition of cistern

US : an underground container that is used for collecting and storing rainwater
British : a tank that holds the water for a toilet
British : a tank on the roof of a building that holds water for the building


cis·​tern | \ ˈsi-stərn How to pronounce cistern (audio) \

Kids Definition of cistern

: an artificial reservoir or tank for storing water usually underground


cis·​tern | \ ˈsis-tərn How to pronounce cistern (audio) \

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).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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