con·​ven·​ti·​cle kən-ˈven-ti-kəl How to pronounce conventicle (audio)
: an assembly of an irregular or unlawful character
: an assembly for religious worship
especially : a secret meeting for worship not sanctioned by law
conventicler noun

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Conventicle comes to us from Latin conventiculum and ultimately from convenire, meaning "to assemble." Conventiculum means "place of assembly" (it was applied in particular to Roman Christian meetinghouses) or simply "assembly." The English "conventicle" also originally meant "assembly." It then developed an application to illegal meetings, which, in turn, led to the arrival of a sense describing secret meetings for worship in a religion proscribed by law. And finally, "conventicle" developed a sense of "meetinghouse," echoing the earlier use of "conventiculum."

Word History


Middle English, from Latin conventiculum, diminutive of conventus assembly

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of conventicle was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near conventicle

Cite this Entry

“Conventicle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

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