ho·​ly ˈhō-lē How to pronounce holy (audio)
holier; holiest
: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness
: divine
for the Lord our God is holyPsalms 99:9 (King James Version)
: devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity
a holy temple
holy prophets
: having a divine quality
holy love
: venerated as or as if sacred
holy scripture
a holy relic
used as an intensive
this is a holy messhe was a holy terror when he drankThomas Wolfe
often used in combination as a mild oath
holy smoke
holily adverb

Example Sentences

a holy relic worn by one of the saints the holy monk spent many hours on his knees in prayer
Recent Examples on the Web Some rabbis now permit visits as long as Jews immerse in a ritual bath beforehand and avoid areas considered too holy. Shayndi Raice, WSJ, 11 Jan. 2023 Countering a slingshot with a howitzer, though, is insecurity rolled into holy contradiction. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 10 Jan. 2023 Or, the holy grail pocket, a liner pouch that will keep your phone securely in place. Heath Owens, Men's Health, 7 Jan. 2023 But what’s indisputable is that, in the ancient story, the holy is made manifest in openness to others. Time, 6 Jan. 2023 The sources also said a notebook was found in the suspect's backpack with writings about wanting to go to Afghanistan and train to become a holy warrior. CBS News, 6 Jan. 2023 Teaching the body’s immune cells to recognize and fight cancer is one of the holy grails in medicine. Gregory Allen, The Conversation, 15 Dec. 2022 From this point forward, Lynch, Cruise and Badalamenti became a team, existential doom-pop’s holy trinity. A.d. Amorosi, Variety, 12 Dec. 2022 This holy trinity, lionized by the GOP, are all helping to Make Antisemitism Great Again. Globe Columnist, BostonGlobe.com, 3 Dec. 2022 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Old English hālig; akin to Old English hāl whole — more at whole

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near holy

Cite this Entry

“Holy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/holy. Accessed 28 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


ho·​ly ˈhō-lē How to pronounce holy (audio)
holier; holiest
: worthy of complete devotion and trust
: divine
: set apart to the service of God or a god : sacred
: respected as sacred
: complete, utter
he is a holy terror
used in combination as a mild oath
holy cow

More from Merriam-Webster on holy

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