rit·​u·​al | \ ˈri-chə-wəl How to pronounce ritual (audio) , -chəl; ˈrich-wəl \

Definition of ritual

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : of or relating to rites or a ritual : ceremonial a ritual dance
2 : according to religious law ritual purity
3 : done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol ritual handshakes ritual background checks



Definition of ritual (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the established form for a ceremony specifically : the order of words prescribed for a religious ceremony
2a : ritual observance specifically : a system of rites
b : a ceremonial act or action
c : an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner

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Other Words from ritual


ritually adverb

Examples of ritual in a Sentence

Noun The priest will perform the ritual. He was buried simply, without ceremony or ritual. the daily ritual of preparing breakfast His day-to-day life is based on ritual.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The process requires patience and precision, and is known to have been used in Mayan ritual cooking. Shelby Knick, Forbes, 13 Oct. 2021 In July, two ritual baths used by congregations at the Great Synagogue in Vilna were discovered. Keira Wingate, USA TODAY, 12 Oct. 2021 Democratic Senator Chris Murphy also has concerns about normalizing the use of reconciliation to perform this debt ceiling ritual. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 5 Oct. 2021 Jordanians of a certain age kiss bread that has fallen to the ground and press it to their forehead as if asking for divine forgiveness for being careless with a key life source – a ritual some trace back to the Roman period. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, 4 Oct. 2021 Blending elements of Western kitsch, traditional Latin American handicrafts and pre-Columbian burial customs, the piece somehow invoked both ritual solemnity and carefree, even erotic pleasure. Aileen Kwun, New York Times, 4 Oct. 2021 These days Budapest is largely retired from ritual work, but still invites controversy and criticism, sometimes from fellow feminists. Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times, 18 Sep. 2021 But that is really what Kulturkampf politics is all about: fortifying one’s own social status by exercising ritual domination over cultural rivals. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, 16 Sep. 2021 Established in 1989, Mezquita as-Salaam today is open daily for ritual prayers and hosts all Islamic events including nightly feasts during Ramadan and communal meals for the festival of Eid. Matthew Ingalls, The Conversation, 14 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In Sicily, the harvest is a ritual that lasts more than one season. Lauren Mowery, Forbes, 21 Sep. 2021 The claim that the viral Milk Crate Challenge is a satanic ritual is FALSE, based on our research. Nayeli Lomeli, USA TODAY, 1 Sep. 2021 The next part of the ceremony happens to be a cleansing ritual in the pool. Maggie Fremont, Vulture, 11 Aug. 2021 Eating pan dulce is a ritual that many Mexican and Mexican-American families have. Ferron Salniker, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 July 2021 In the Hmong culture, a khi tes is a ritual of celebration. Rachel Blount, Star Tribune, 23 July 2021 For some, checking in on the apps and reading into their suggestions has long been a ritual and, at times, a daily necessity. Raisa Bruner, Time, 23 July 2021 One of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, the Eucharist is a ritual in which, according to Catholic theology, bread and wine blessed by a priest really become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Timothy Gabrielli, The Conversation, 2 July 2021 My favorite is the old ritual of picking seven flowers in silence and placing them under your pillow, then you are supposed to dream about your true love. Vogue, 28 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ritual.' 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 ritual


1570, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1620, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ritual


Latin ritualis, from ritus rite

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Last Updated

15 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ritual.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ritual. Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for ritual



English Language Learners Definition of ritual

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: done as part of a ceremony or ritual
: always done in a particular situation and in the same way each time



English Language Learners Definition of ritual (Entry 2 of 2)

: a formal ceremony or series of acts that is always performed in the same way
: an act or series of acts done in a particular situation and in the same way each time


rit·​u·​al | \ ˈri-chə-wəl How to pronounce ritual (audio) \

Kids Definition of ritual

: a ceremony or series of acts that is always performed the same way


rit·​u·​al | \ ˈrich-(ə-)wəl How to pronounce ritual (audio) \

Medical Definition of ritual

: any act or practice regularly repeated in a set precise manner for relief of anxiety obsessive-compulsive rituals

More from Merriam-Webster on ritual

Nglish: Translation of ritual for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ritual for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ritual


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