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


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

Until recently, women ate separately from men during ritual feasts in traditional communities. Benjamin Kemper, Smithsonian, "Raising a Glass to Armenia’s Elaborate Toasting Tradition," 13 July 2018 Fish bones have turned up in middens and as ritual items at other inland cities in Maya territory, as well, suggesting a strong link between coastal and inland markets. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Small Mayan saltworks could have supplied thousands, preserved food," 9 Oct. 2018 In Judaism, the mikveh, a ritual bath, is used by Jewish women to achieve ritual purity after finishing menstruation or giving birth. Christina Cacouris, Marie Claire, "This Artist Uses Gold and Glitter to Destigmatize Period Blood," 11 Sep. 2018 The charter insists that freedom of religion and conscience protects more than the inner beliefs of individuals and the ritual practices of communities. William A. Galston, WSJ, "Freedom of Belief Bridges America’s Divides," 11 Dec. 2018 Here, the officer has become a species of super villain with a connection to some mysterious, ritual power. Sharon Mizota, latimes.com, "Review: Police, violence and an artist who paints to provoke," 9 July 2018 Nothing quite ups the tawdry factor in an already seamy situation than these ritual apologies. Marcia Desanctis, Town & Country, "Mark Sanford, Act II," 14 Feb. 2013 This is ritual music, rewarding of patience and offering slowly unfolding and unexpected revelations. Larry Blumenfeld, WSJ, "‘Igbó Alákorin (The Singer’s Grove), Vol. I & II’ by David Virelles and ‘Pillars’ by Tyshawn Sorey Reviews," 29 Oct. 2018 Rather, her name seems to have become a punchline: an inside joke for a group of men whose bonds with one another were fostered by her ritual humiliation. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "Brett Kavanaugh and the hidden cost of male bonding," 26 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

When her 6-year-old daughter died in 1970, photographer Graciela Iturbide dove into art, pursuing images steeped in ritual, dignity, and the mysteries of being. William Meyers, WSJ, "‘Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico’ Review: Life and Death South of the Border," 29 Jan. 2019 Led by Manari Ushigua, an indigenous leader and shaman, the five- or- seven-day programs focus on meditation, traditional healing rituals, botany, dream interpretation, jungle treks, and river swims. Alex Postman, Condé Nast Traveler, "28 Places Our Travel Specialists Say You Should Go in 2019," 17 Dec. 2018 One of the first events was their puja, a Hindu prayer ritual, which took place yesterday. Mekita Rivas, Teen Vogue, "Everything Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas Wore During Their Wedding Celebrations," 29 Nov. 2018 The 9/11 commemorations are by now familiar rituals, centered on reading the names of the dead. Jennifer Peltz And Karen Matthews, Fox News, "US marks 9/11 with somber tributes; Trump speaks at PA site," 12 Sep. 2018 Gordon, describing the ritual (whose other members are their respective partners, Reinaldo Herrera and Paul Arnhold), beams. Erik Maza, Town & Country, "Meet Wes Gordon, the Young Man Leading the Next Chapter of Carolina Herrera," 8 Aug. 2018 This has become a summertime ritual, the highest-profile celebrity golf event in the land. Ron Kroichick, SFChronicle.com, "Stephen Curry, Mark Mulder and celebrity wagers highlight celebrity tournament," 12 July 2018 Given that pigs aren't exactly easy to herd, this also means that there probably was some ritual aspect to the pig feasts, important enough to drive early Welsh and Scottish settlers back to the south of modern-day England. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "Study: Ancient Stonehenge Pig Roasts Brought in People From All Over Britain," 13 Mar. 2019 Most holidays that have rituals associated with them inspire people to buy some products, even if those products are just a large turkey. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why You Should Celebrate Valentine's Day—Even If You Don't Want To," 13 Feb. 2019

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

25 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for ritual

The first known use of ritual was in 1570

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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

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Comments on ritual

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likely to have or produce good results

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