neo·​phyte | \ ˈnē-ə-ˌfīt How to pronounce neophyte (audio) \

Definition of neophyte

1 : a new convert : proselyte
3 : tyro, beginner a neophyte when it comes to computers neophytes fresh from graduate schools of business

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Neophyte is hardly a new addition to the English language (it's been part of the English vocabulary since the 1300s), but it wasn't in general use before the 19th century. When it was used in a 16th-century translation of the Bible, some folks derided it as pretentious and Latinate. One critic lumped it with other "ridiculous inkhorn terms" and another went as far as to write, "Neophyte, to a bare Englishman is nothing at all." The criticisms of "neophyte" weren't entirely justified, given the word's long history in English, but it is true that "neophyte" has classical roots. It traces back through Late Latin to the Greek neophytes, meaning "newly planted or "newly converted."

Examples of neophyte in a Sentence

neophytes are assigned an experienced church member to guide them through their first year
Recent Examples on the Web Buttigieg, who has said there's more risk in turning to veterans of Washington than to a neophyte, may need to recalibrate a bit. NBC News, "Buttigieg flaws show under spotlight of New Hampshire debate," 8 Feb. 2020 Warren entered the race against Brown as a political neophyte but a national figure in her own right. Stephanie Ebbert,, "In Warren’s first electric campaign, glimpses of the future," 25 Jan. 2020 Yang, a political neophyte, has created a national conversation around giving $1,000 a month to every U.S. citizen over age 18. Joe Garofoli,, "So many questions remain about Democrats, and voting is about to begin," 14 Jan. 2020 But when Zelensky — a comedian and political neophyte — trounced Poroshenko in the final round of Ukraine’s presidential election in late April, Giuliani’s project was thrown into doubt. Anchorage Daily News, "Parnas ties Pence’s snub of Ukraine to Giuliani’s efforts," 17 Jan. 2020 The rebuff was seen as damaging to the political neophyte and a brave stance by McCain against fringe elements within the GOP’s evangelical base. Sarah Posner, The New Republic, "The Evangelicals Who Pray for War With Iran," 9 Jan. 2020 The news came on the same day the national political neophyte became unemployed — his term as South Bend, Indiana, mayor expired at noon on Wednesday. NBC News, "Buttigieg raises almost $25 million in 4th quarter," 1 Jan. 2020 Beyond that, Trump was a dangerous and greedy Washington neophyte, whose imbecility made him a sitting duck for political vultures like Russia, which identified him immediately as someone who might easily be manipulated. Dahleen Glanton, Twin Cities, "Dahleen Glanton: Republicans are right. Democrats wanted to impeach Donald Trump from the start.," 18 Dec. 2019 Still, what's remarkable is that a neophyte like me can create fairly convincing video so quickly and for so little money. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "I created my own deepfake—it took two weeks and cost $552," 16 Dec. 2019

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

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First Known Use of neophyte

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for neophyte

Middle English neophite, borrowed from Late Latin neophytus, borrowed from Greek neóphytos "newly planted" (in New Testament and patristic Greek, "newly converted, new convert"), from neo- neo- + -phytos, verbal adjective of phýein "to bring forth, produce" — more at be

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The first known use of neophyte was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

21 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Neophyte.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce neophyte (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of neophyte

: a person who has just started learning or doing something
: a person who has recently joined a religious group


neo·​phyte | \ ˈnē-ə-ˌfīt How to pronounce neophyte (audio) \

Kids Definition of neophyte

2 : a new convert

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