phy·​lac·​tery | \ fə-ˈlak-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce phylactery (audio) \
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

Synonyms & Antonyms for phylactery



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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, 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, 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 filaterie, philacterie, borrowed from Late Latin filactērium, phylactērium "amulet, tefellin," borrowed from Greek phylaktḗrion "guarded place, outpost, safeguard, amulet, tefellin," from phylaktḗr "guard, guardian" (from phylak-, stem of phylássein "to keep watch on, guard, preserve" —derivative of phylak-, phýlax "guard, guardian, protector," of obscure origin— + -tēr, agent suffix) + -ion, noun suffix

Note: Greek phýlax has no generally accepted Indo-European etymology, and is probably of pre-Greek substratal origin, as other words with the suffix -ak-, according to R. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2010.

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

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Cite this Entry

“Phylactery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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