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en·​cyc·​li·​cal in-ˈsi-kli-kəl How to pronounce encyclical (audio)
: addressed to all the individuals of a group : general


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: 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
The encyclical Nostra Aetate, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1965, virtually ordered the faithful to turn from past prejudices and to see Islam in a new, positive way. Victor Gaetan, Foreign Affairs, 9 Dec. 2015 In 2015, at the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference, often referred to as COP21, at least 10 world leaders made specific references to the papal encyclical during their addresses, and the meeting ended with a landmark agreement to fight climate change. Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times, 4 Oct. 2023 The gathering opens in Rome on Wednesday, the same day the pope will release a second part of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si. Ruth Graham, New York Times, 2 Oct. 2023 At some point, the Church is going to have to address it all directly, through an encyclical letter, or a synod, or even an ecumenical council on the human person—a Vatican III, which would bring the Church into the twenty-first century as Vatican II brought it, belatedly, into the twentieth. Paul Elie, The New Yorker, 25 Oct. 2020 An encyclical authored by the Pope and scheduled to be officially released on Thursday links human activity to continuing global warming. Tom Yulsman, Discover Magazine, 17 June 2015 Leaders of every major religion have published declarations similar to Pope Francis’ encyclical, calling on their followers to be better stewards of Earth. Bradley J. Cardinale, The Conversation, 2 June 2022 Pope Francis plans to give two speeches on the environment this year, including an encyclical slated for June and an address to the United Nations General Assembly in September. The Editors, Outside Online, 28 Apr. 2015 In Catholic doctrine, the encyclical Rerum novarum, released in 1891, stressed the importance of this human right, so essential for a prosperous and virtuous economy. Alejandro Chafuen, Forbes, 10 Dec. 2021
The foundational document of Catholic social tradition, the 1891 encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, argued that individual freedom did little to help workers secure a living wage, and valorized workers’ associations, urging government to intervene to balance the economy. New York Times, 19 Oct. 2021 Benedict asked in a characteristic passage of a 2007 encyclical on hope. Rachel Donadio, New York Times, 31 Dec. 2022 When Trump visited the Vatican in 2017, one of the gifts Francis presented was his encyclical on the environment — a pointed message to a leader who decided to pull the United States from the Paris climate agreement. Washington Post, 29 Oct. 2021 When Trump visited the Vatican in 2017, one of the gifts Francis presented was his encyclical on the environment - a pointed message to a leader who pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. Chico Harlan, Seung Min Kim, Anchorage Daily News, 29 Oct. 2021 That same year, the pontiff penned an encyclical that called for a revolution to save the Earth. NBC News, 29 Sep. 2021 British Ambassador Sally Axworthy told reporters at a Vatican briefing Thursday that faith leaders had made an important contribution to the Paris accord, noting Francis' own 2015 encyclical on the environment. Nicole Winfield, Star Tribune, 17 June 2021 The encyclical has been met with some criticism ahead of its publication from those who believe its title to be discriminatory toward women. The Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Oct. 2020 Pope Francis, who had excoriated trickle-down economics and dedicated an encyclical to the moral necessity of combating climate change. Matthew Sitman, The New Republic, 15 Apr. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'encyclical.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


1647, in the meaning defined above


1837, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of encyclical was in 1647

Dictionary Entries Near encyclical

Cite this Entry

“Encyclical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/encyclical. Accessed 19 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a letter addressed to a whole group
especially : a letter from the pope to the bishops of the church
encyclical adjective

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