phy·​lac·​tery | \fə-ˈlak-t(ə-)rē \
plural phylacteries

Definition of phylactery 

1 : either of two small square leather boxes containing slips inscribed with scriptural passages and traditionally worn on the left arm and on the head by observant Jewish men and especially adherents of Orthodox Judaism during morning weekday prayers

2 : amulet

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Illustration of phylactery

phylactery 1

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Synonyms & Antonyms for phylactery


amulet, charm, fetish (also fetich), mascot, mojo, periapt, talisman


hoodoo, jinx

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Examples of phylactery in a Sentence

he wore a small phylactery on a cord around his neck

Recent Examples on the Web

Popular images of Jewish men worshiping at the wall in prayer shawls and phylacteries show only a small stretch of the ancient retaining wall for the Temple Mount. David M. Halbfinger, New York Times, "Jews of the Diaspora Bring Their Cause to the Israeli Public," 30 Oct. 2017 Beit El’s other concerns are small-scale by comparison: a factory for tefillin, or phylacteries; a bakeshop called Herby’s; and some workshops for aluminum and carpentry. Isabel Kershner, New York Times, "Israeli Settlement Sees Friendly Faces in Trump Administration," 15 Feb. 2017

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

First Known Use of phylactery

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for phylactery

Middle English philaterie, from Medieval Latin philaterium, alteration of Late Latin phylacterium, from Greek phylaktērion amulet, phylactery, from phylassein to guard, from phylak-, phylax guard

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

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to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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