hom·​i·​ly ˈhä-mə-lē How to pronounce homily (audio)
plural homilies
: a usually short sermon
a priest delivering his homily
: a lecture or discourse on or of a moral theme
: an inspirational catchphrase
also : platitude

Did you know?

Homily Has Greek Roots

Gather round for a succinct history of homily. The story starts with the ancient Greek word homilos, meaning "crowd" or "assembly," and travels through related Greek words homilein, "to address," and homilia, "conversation, discourse." Homilia eventually takes on the "usually short sermon" meaning in our modern homily, and then is incorporated into the Latin used by writers of the early first millennium. It reaches English speakers of the 14th century by way of Anglo-French, but when it arrives it's spelled omelie. By the mid-16th century the "h" is back, and the "y" of the modern spelling has found its place. A side note to our tale is this: be careful not to confuse homily with hominy, a 17th century word of Virginia Algonquian origin denoting a key ingredient in the Mexican soup posole (which, if we may be so corny, is a dish worth preaching about).

Examples of homily in a Sentence

The priest gave a brief homily on forgiveness. We had to listen to another one of his homilies about the value of public service. a politician with a fondness for homily
Recent Examples on the Web Archbishop of Baltimore William Lori gave a homily before Walker introduced the six minutes of silence. Dillon Mullan, Baltimore Sun, 9 Apr. 2024 An announcer then said on Vatican Radio that Francis decided not to read the homily. Greg Wehner, Fox News, 25 Mar. 2024 An announcer on Vatican Radio then said the pope had decided to not read the homily. Philip Pullella, USA TODAY, 24 Mar. 2024 On Palm Sunday — a week before Easter — millions around the globe watched as Francis, at the last minute, decided to forgo delivery of his homily. Anthony Faiola, Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2024 The Vatican gave no immediate explanation for why the pope skipped the homily. Philip Pullella, USA TODAY, 24 Mar. 2024 As tens of thousands of faithful holding palm fronds in St. Peter’s Square looked on, the moment arrived in the Palm Sunday Mass for Pope Francis to deliver his homily in a service marking the beginning of Holy Week, one of the most demanding and significant on the Christian calendar. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, 24 Mar. 2024 His weekly homilies nearly always begin with relevant anecdotes, some of which are fun, others sad, and others thought-provoking. Sarah Schutte, National Review, 5 Nov. 2023 Scattered through the homilies are other tales, some of which involve his family members, and not long ago, one of these highlighted his sister, his nephew, and the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Sarah Schutte, National Review, 5 Nov. 2023

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

Word History


Middle English omelie, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin homilia, from Late Greek, from Greek, conversation, discourse, from homilein to consort with, address, from homilos crowd, assembly; akin to Greek homos same — more at same

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of homily was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near homily

Cite this Entry

“Homily.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homily. Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


hom·​i·​ly ˈhäm-ə-lē How to pronounce homily (audio)
plural homilies

More from Merriam-Webster on homily

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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