: a priest in ancient Greece
specifically : the chief priest of the Eleusinian mysteries
ˌhī-(ə-)rə-ˈfan-tik How to pronounce hierophant (audio)

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Hierophant, hieroglyphics, and hierarch have a common root: hieros, a Greek word meaning "sacred." Hieroglyphics joins hieros with a derivative of glyphein, the Greek verb for "to carve." Hierarch, a word that can refer to a religious leader in a position of authority, joins hieros with a derivative of archein, meaning "to rule." Hierophant itself joins the root with a derivative of phainein, which means "to show." The original hierophants were priests of the ancient Greek city of Eleusis who performed sacred rites. In the 17th century, when the word was first documented in English, it referred to these priests. By the 19th century, English speakers were using the term in a broader sense. A hierophant can now be a spokesperson, a commentator, an interpreter, or a leading advocate.

Examples of hierophant in a Sentence

as an early hierophant of birth control, Margaret Sanger had to face down often vehement opposition
Recent Examples on the Web The number five also equates to the hierophant card in tarot, which is associated with spiritual guidance and learning. Olivia Munson, USA TODAY, 13 Jan. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hierophant.' 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 hierophanta, from Greek hierophantēs, from hieros + phainein to show — more at fancy

First Known Use

1677, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of hierophant was in 1677


Dictionary Entries Near hierophant

Cite this Entry

“Hierophant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hierophant. Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

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