rit·u·al | \ˈri-chə-wəl, -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


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

Melissa Cradic, an excavation team member and expert on ancient funerary rites in the region, explains that two phases of ritual activity had occurred in the tomb. National Geographic, "Exclusive: Royal Burial in Ancient Canaan May Shed New Light on Biblical City," 13 Mar. 2018 The findings raise the possibility that the plants grown for ritual use might have played an important role in the region’s early forays into agriculture. Michael Price, Science | AAAS, "Americans have been lighting up for more than 3000 years, ancient pipe reveals," 15 June 2018 The ritual use of the site and its dates connect it to Stonehenge and other Neolithic circles in Britain, like the country’s own Woodhenge. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Germany’s “Stonehenge” Reveals Evidence of Human Sacrifice," 30 June 2018 The show will feature terracotta figures of warriors, arms and armor, ritual bronze vessels, works in gold and silver, jade ornaments, precious jewelry and ceramics. Carol Motsinger, Cincinnati.com, "Forbes.com writers are looking through our calendars. And like what they see.," 23 Mar. 2018 The Broncos took turned the customary fast start of Manning-quarterbacked teams to ritual level, scoring on the first drive in most games. David J. Neal, miamiherald, "Super Bowl history game-by-game, from Packers to Patriots | Miami Herald," 30 Jan. 2018 After 39 years in business, the ritual roles of diner and restaurateur here have blurred into something more significant. Jonathan Kauffman, SFChronicle.com, "Upon retiring, the story of the couple behind the Tenderloin’s most-loved deli," 28 June 2018 Downstream at the waterfall where the ritual combat took place, see the run-of-the-river hydropower plant, which is like the Gouina Hydroelectric Plant in Mali. New York Times, "What’s It Like to Visit Wakanda? You Had Some (Great) Ideas," 3 Apr. 2018 During Palm Sunday Mass, palms are distributed to parishioners who carry them in a ritual procession into church. David Grunfeld, NOLA.com, "Celebrating Palm Sunday at Mary Queen of Peace in Mandeville," 26 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That dichotomy is essential to sustaining the mystical omniscience of a play that draws heavily from biblical scripture and Jewish ritual. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ Is a Transfixing Epic of Riches and Ruin," 13 July 2018 To remove iron from the subterranean realms was to tempt the spirit world, so the first miners conducted rituals to placate the higher powers before digging out the ore, according to the 1956 book The Forge and the Crucible. Jonathan Schifman, Popular Mechanics, "The Entire History of Steel," 9 July 2018 Many have marked this transition with coming-of-age rituals — bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras, debutante balls — after which each gender faced specific expectations. Linda Rodriguez Mcrobbie, BostonGlobe.com, "The triumph of gender-neutral ‘adulting’," 7 July 2018 Another popular All Hallows' Eve ritual was mirror-gazing, as people hoped to catch a vision of their future by looking into the mirror. Marissa Gold, Country Living, "Everything You Need to Know About the History of Halloween and Why We Celebrate It," 6 July 2018 This alleged pattern included invasive physical inspections and body shaming rituals. Michael Mccann, SI.com, "NFL Teams Previously Have Settled in Cheerleader Lawsuits. Will Texans' Ex-Cheerleaders Set Different Precedent?," 25 June 2018 In Greece, an ancient ritual called Klidonas coincides with the Summer Solstice. Caroline Simon, USA TODAY, "The Summer Solstice isn't just about weather - it's also about romance," 21 June 2018 The members of the Waterford household separate into different rooms as the strange, humiliating birth ritual commences (Fun fact: Public births used to be common, especially among royalty. refinery29.com, "The Handmaid's Tale Season 2, Episode 10 Recap: This One Hits Too Close To Home, You Guys," 20 June 2018 The episode opens with Emily walking to the bed for the ceremony, soundtracked by a monologue about how to deal with the monthly ritual rape. Rena Gross, Billboard, "14 Significant Moments From 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 2, Episode 10 'The Last Ceremony'," 20 June 2018

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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Statistics for ritual

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for ritual

The first known use of ritual was in 1570

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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 \

Kids Definition of ritual

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


rit·u·al | \ˈrich-(ə-)wəl \

Medical Definition of ritual 

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

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Comments on ritual

What made you want to look up ritual? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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