en·​cyc·​li·​cal | \ in-ˈsi-kli-kəl How to pronounce encyclical (audio) , en- \

Definition of encyclical

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: addressed to all the individuals of a group : general



Definition of encyclical (Entry 2 of 2)

: an encyclical letter specifically : a papal letter to the bishops of the church as a whole or to those in one country

Examples of encyclical in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Francis has been a vocal believer in the dangers of climate change and became the first pope in history to use an encyclical letter solely to address the issue, writing in 2015 that humans are exploiting nature. Andrew Mark Miller, Washington Examiner, "Pope Francis: Coronavirus could be 'nature's response' to inaction on climate change," 9 Apr. 2020 Likewise his encyclical Laudato Si’ adds new force to previous Church teaching on stewardship of the environment. Francis X. Maier, National Review, "Pope Francis’s Respectful Critics Deserve Better Than Scorn," 20 Mar. 2020 His papal documents, especially the 1864 encyclical Quanta Cura and its appendix, the Syllabus of Errors, pushed back hard, though not always wisely, against modernity. David P. Deavel, National Review, "Catholicism Confronts Modernity," 24 Oct. 2019 The conference will be a follow-up to the pope's encyclical three years ago calling on people to save the planet from climate change and other environmental ills, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke confirmed Friday. Nicole Winfield And Seth Borenstein, chicagotribune.com, "Pope summons oil executives to Vatican to talk climate change," 2 June 2018 The Pope has made climate change a cornerstone of his papacy, saying in an encyclical letter that the science around the topic is clear and that the Catholic Church should view it as a moral issue. Fortune, "Pope Francis Will Meet With Oil Company CEOs to Discuss Climate Change," 1 June 2018 Pope Paul also wrote the controversial 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the church’s traditional prohibition of artificial birth control. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "Pope Francis to Make El Salvador’s Oscar Romero a Saint," 19 May 2018 The pope’s message and the encyclical, basically guidance to clergy and the faithful on key environmental issues, were applauded by the crowd. Lucien Chauvin, Washington Post, "Pope brings environmental crusade to Peru’s Amazon, citing ‘defense of the earth’," 19 Jan. 2018 In a 2015 encyclical letter, Francis backed the conclusion of scientists who argue that human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels, is a major contributor to climate change. Adriana Leon, latimes.com, "Cardinal defends pope but says his comments were ‘of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy’," 21 Jan. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun When Trump visited the Vatican in 2017, Francis gave him a copy of the encyclical as a gift. Nicholas Rowan, Washington Examiner, "How a controversial letter from Pope Francis shaped climate politics and the Biden 2020 campaign," 20 May 2020 In his 2015 encyclical on climate change, for instance, Pope Francis invoked the end of days to argue for the preservation of the earth, urging followers to protect God’s creation until Jesus’s return. Popular Science, "Real-life climate disasters are mirroring doomsday myths—and that’s worse than you think," 23 Jan. 2020 Zmirak claims that the article cites one papal encyclical and statements by the U.S. bishops rather than the catechism as authoritative, that is, binding on the conscience of faithful Catholics. Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, "Defending Amy Coney Barrett against the Right," 3 Oct. 2019 Papal encyclicals and apostolic letters have addressed related subjects. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "Playing God," 8 Sep. 2019 Directed by Saunders as part of a new center at the Catholic University of America, the program will teach natural law and rights, along with papal encyclicals, to ready young conservatives for careers in public work. Kathryn Joyce, The New Republic, "The Man Behind the State Department’s New “Natural Law” Focus," 14 June 2019 The real effect of documents like the recent Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, or Pope Francis’s encyclical, is less immediate policy shifts than a change in the emotional climate. The New York Review of Books, "Bill McKibben," 4 Apr. 2019 As a senior at Tufts University, hardly a bastion of Christian belief, sheer curiosity brought me to the controversial papal encyclical. Ashley Mcguire, WSJ, "The Controversial Text That Saved Me," 26 July 2018 In 1968, Paul authored the influential encyclical Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), which reaffirmed the Vatican’s opposition to birth control. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "Oscar Romero, a martyr for social justice and the newest Catholic saint, explained," 15 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'encyclical.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of encyclical


1647, in the meaning defined above


1837, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for encyclical


Late Latin encyclicus, from Greek enkyklios circular, general, from en in + kyklos circle — more at in, wheel

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about encyclical

Time Traveler for encyclical

Time Traveler

The first known use of encyclical was in 1647

See more words from the same year

Statistics for encyclical

Last Updated

24 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Encyclical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/encyclical. Accessed 27 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for encyclical



English Language Learners Definition of encyclical

: an official letter from the Pope to the Roman Catholic bishops

More from Merriam-Webster on encyclical

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for encyclical

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about encyclical

Comments on encyclical

What made you want to look up encyclical? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Obscure Shapes

  • a pile of three dimensional shapes in green
  • Something that is ooid is shaped like:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!