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 Last month, a woman in North Queensland who had difficulty flushing her toilet was shocked to find four snakes coiled up inside the cistern. Jack Guy, CNN, "Two huge snakes fall through kitchen ceiling in Australia," 1 Sep. 2020 The kitchen area includes a mini fridge and freezer, a two burner propane stove/oven, and a small sink that pumps water from a small cistern. Kelly Corbett, House Beautiful, "This Desert Dome Available to Rent on Airbnb Is Perfect for Stargazing," 13 July 2020 Bromley and her husband, landscape designer Matthew Bromley, even discovered a toilet hooked up to a cistern under the kitchen floor. Kathryn O'shea-evans, House Beautiful, "This 1790s New York Home Was Restored in Painstaking Detail," 14 Aug. 2020 Per the press release, Emmerson and her colleagues once excavated a room in which two cesspits filled with animal bones, olive pits and other assorted waste stood alongside a cistern, or tank used for storing drinking and washing water. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "Analysis of Pompeii’s Garbage Suggests the Ancient Romans Recycled, Too," 27 Apr. 2020 The ammunition matches two Bren light machine guns that were found about a year and a half ago in another water cistern in the Western Wall plaza, according to Peretz. Fox News, "Jordanian ammunition stash from the Six-Day War discovered near Jerusalem's Western Wall," 25 June 2020 Pick your way around the remains of St. Fionán’s complex, including a graveyard, gardens, oratories, a church, water cisterns and terraced walls at this UNESCO World Heritage site. Erika Mailman, Washington Post, "Don’t want to kiss the Blarney Stone? Take a boat to a different rock: Skellig Michael.," 12 Mar. 2020 Past digs have produced several thousand artifacts, multiple colonial-era trash pits, a brick basement and a barrel cistern. Marcy De Luna, Houston Chronicle, "Torched town from Texas Revolution reemerges in archaeological dig west of Houston," 13 Nov. 2019 In stagings, Jochanaan (John the Baptist) mostly sings from an imaginary cistern, his voice amplified with artificial reverberation. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "Fabio Luisi leads semi-staged Strauss 'Salome’ with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra," 1 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for cistern

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for cistern

Last Updated

10 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cistern.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for cistern


How to pronounce cistern (audio)

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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