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

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 In Rome, a senior cardinal, Peter Turkson, has called for just war teaching to be abolished and has said the pope could write an encyclical letter, a major papal document, reorienting the church’s position on the matter. Christopher Lamb, USA TODAY, "Pope Francis is reshaping what it means to be 'pro-life'," 14 Oct. 2017 Catholic teaching has also sometimes endorsed a right to medical care, as in the 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris. Ramesh Ponnuru, Twin Cities, "Ramesh Ponnuru: ‘Right to health care’ is wrong argument," 4 June 2017 The environment and caring for the Earth are key issues for the Pope, who penned an encyclical on climate change in 2015. Maya Rhodan, Time, "Pope Francis: Protecting the Environment Is the ‘Responsibility of Everyone’," 5 June 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 So much enthusiasm followed the Pope’s encyclical, with parish communities really personalizing the mission to care for creation. Chuck Gibson, Cincinnati.com, "Catholic communities honored for ‘Care of Our Common Home’," 21 June 2018 Cardinal Peter Turkson , who spearheaded the encyclical, set up the June 8-9 conference with the executives. Nicole Winfield And Seth Borenstein, chicagotribune.com, "Pope summons oil executives to Vatican to talk climate change," 2 June 2018 Morlino said, pointing to Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humane Vitae, which addressed the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality and contraception. Caleb Parke, Fox News, "Speaker urges graduates to be 'politically incorrect' in era of cry closets and safe spaces," 29 May 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

Statistics for encyclical

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for encyclical

The first known use of encyclical was in 1647

See more words from the same year

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).


ancient or antiquated

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Word Puzzles

  • alt 57589b2b4c6a3
  • Which answer pairs best with each of the following words? living, estate, club, music, road, mile
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!