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

And Stonehenge was significant enough to draw people from far away to its rituals. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Germany’s “Stonehenge” Reveals Evidence of Human Sacrifice," 30 June 2018 More: Johnson followed that up with asking what his pregame ritual is, and without hesitation, Drummond recited his whole routine. George Stoia, Detroit Free Press, "Pistons Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson show funny sides in game show," 19 June 2018 Have their traditions, their secret words, their private rituals, their triumphs, their, well, family life. Mark Curnutte, Cincinnati.com, "He was Daddy: How his eldest daughter remembers Bobby Kennedy," 14 June 2018 For many of us, coffee is an essential part of our daily ritual. Jenny Splitter, SELF, "How Worried Do You Need to Be About Those Cancer Warnings for Your Coffee?," 13 June 2018 The actor, who has no fewer that five films in the works, gave us an exclusive look at her getting-ready ritual with none other than Daniel Martin, who recently gained international acclaim as Meghan Markle's wedding-day makeup artist. Marci Robin, Allure, "Nina Dobrev Gave Allure a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Her Beauty Prep for the Dior Backstage Party," 10 June 2018 In their first season in the NHL, the Vegas Golden Knights have become known for their incredible pre-game rituals as much as their standout hockey, which propelled them into the Stanley Cup Final. Michelle R. Martinelli, For The Win, "Capitals' pregame festivities include Shaggy, Sting and Pat Sajak for Game 3 vs. Vegas," 1 June 2018 From only stepping onto the pitch with a certain foot to spitting gum into the opposition's half, many have their own individual pre-match rituals. CNN, "'Touching the trophy' curse strikes again in Europa League final?," 17 May 2018 Sage grouse are famous for their mating ritual, which plays out each spring on dancing grounds called leks. Chadd Cripe, idahostatesman, "Watch sage grouse strut: 'All they know is I have to dance. I've got to get these girls.' | Idaho Statesman," 25 Apr. 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

Look-up Popularity

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).


obstinately defiant of authority

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