phylactery

noun

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

Illustration of phylactery

Illustration of phylactery
  • phylactery 1

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

Word History

Etymology

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.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near phylactery

Cite this Entry

“Phylactery.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phylactery. Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

phylactery

noun
phy·​lac·​tery fə-ˈlak-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce phylactery (audio)
plural phylacteries
1
: either of two small square leather boxes containing scripture passages on slips of paper that are traditionally worn on the left arm and the head by Jewish men during morning prayers
2
: amulet

More from Merriam-Webster on phylactery

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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