dis·​ci·​ple di-ˈsī-pəl How to pronounce disciple (audio)
: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as
Christianity : one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ's followers according to the Gospel accounts
: a convinced adherent of a school or individual
a disciple of Freud
capitalized Christianity : a member of the Disciples of Christ founded in the U.S. in 1809 that holds the Bible alone to be the rule of faith and practice, usually baptizes by immersion, and has a congregational (see congregational sense 3) polity
discipleship noun
Choose the Right Synonym for disciple

follower, adherent, disciple, partisan mean one who gives full loyalty and support to another.

follower may apply to people who attach themselves either to the person or beliefs of another.

an evangelist and his followers

adherent suggests a close and persistent attachment.

adherents to Marxism

disciple implies a devoted allegiance to the teachings of one chosen as a master.

disciples of Gandhi

partisan suggests a zealous often prejudiced attachment.

partisans of the President

Examples of disciple in a Sentence

a disciple of Sigmund Freud a circle of dedicated disciples who conscientiously wrote down everything the prophet said
Recent Examples on the Web Such echo chambers have proved particularly successful at radicalizing lone actors mobilized by Beam’s leaderless resistance strategy toward violence — his digital disciples have gone from chatrooms to launching attacks in places like Oslo, Norway, and Christchurch, New Zealand. TIME, 5 Feb. 2024 His twin brother Thomas (also Stanfield) is one of Jesus’s disciples. Helena Andrews-Dyer, Washington Post, 25 Jan. 2024 Samuel, who grew up in a household of faith, pokes fun at the pageantry of religion and the capriciousness of disciples with the precision of an intimate. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Jan. 2024 Radio host Alex Jones’s fans, anti-vaccine activists and disciples of QAnon’s convoluted alternate reality often implore skeptics to do their own research. Lauren Leffer, Scientific American, 20 Dec. 2023 Another former disciple, Jessica Kaimu, from Namibia, recounted how she was first raped by Joshua at the age of 17. Sorcha Bradley, The Week Uk, theweek, 11 Jan. 2024 The classic hairstyle has had almost 7 billion hits on TikTok, and for 2024, bob haircuts will still be leading the trends and recruiting more disciples. Elle Turner, Glamour, 26 Dec. 2023 Lenny Bruce famously underwent a series of trials; his disciple George Carlin, who was present at one of Bruce’s arrests and, allergic to authority, refused to show I.D., once travelled to the police station with him. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 11 Dec. 2023 The most notable of these disciples was James Dewitt Yancey, better known as J Dilla. Mike Rubin, New York Times, 26 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'disciple.' 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, "follower of Jesus, one of the apostles, pupil," in part going back to Old English discipul, in part borrowed from Anglo-French disciple, both borrowed from Late Latin discipulus "follower of Christ, apostle" (translation of Greek mathētḗs), going back to Latin, "pupil, learner," of uncertain origin

Note: Traditionally explained as a derivative of discere "to learn," but the second element -pulus is neither a known word nor a suffix. According to an alternative explanation, the base is nominalized from an unattested verb *discipere, putatively, "to grasp, comprehend," from dis- dis- and capere "to take, seize" (cf. disceptāre "to dispute, debate," supposedly a frequentative from this verb); this is semantically questionable, however, and -ulus is any case not an agentive suffix.

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of disciple was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near disciple

Cite this Entry

“Disciple.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disciple. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


dis·​ci·​ple dis-ˈī-pəl How to pronounce disciple (audio)
: a person who accepts and helps to spread the teachings of another
discipleship noun

Middle English disciple "one who follows and spreads the teaching of another," from Old English discipul and early French disciple (both, same meaning), from Latin discipulus "follower of Jesus Christ in his lifetime," from earlier discipulus "pupil"

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