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 For Jews, immersing ourselves in the mikvah – a ritual bath or natural body of water – is a practice that goes hand in hand with personal transformation. Sergio Carmona, sun-sentinel.com, "Beach setting to offer mikvah experience," 25 Sep. 2019 At one moment, one among those dancers, his face wearing dramatic ritual makeup, strikes a ferocious warrior pose. Harish Pullanoor, Quartz India, "How the Indian icon Nataraja danced his way from ancient history to modern physics," 18 Dec. 2019 The new session opened with a ritual mix of ceremony and political heckling. BostonGlobe.com, "You're using a browser set to private or incognito mode.," 18 Dec. 2019 LiveScience reports that hundreds of Maya artifacts that may have been used in ritual animal sacrifices have also been discovered at the bottom of a Guatemalan lake. Fox News, "Grisly ancient skeletons may be dismembered prisoners of war, experts reveal," 12 Dec. 2019 It’s like seeing members of a cult gyrating around a ritual circle before the Kool-Aid drops them. Robbie Daw, Billboard, "'The Masked Singer' Recap: Tree Gets Chopped," 11 Dec. 2019 Joyce’s Gabriel stands, wonderfully, for anyone who at this time of year has partaken of a ritual meal with unbearably mixed feelings. The Economist, "Few tidings of comfort and joy Forget “A Christmas Carol”—“The Dead” is the greatest Christmas story," 2 Dec. 2019 The Star Wars universe also has a mixed track record with its ritual infusions of cuteness. Wired, "Love Baby Yoda, You Must," 22 Nov. 2019 In a cave in France Neandertals erected semicircular walls of stalagmites, possibly for some ritual purpose. Kate Wong, Scientific American, "Ancient Cave Paintings Clinch the Case for Neandertal Symbolism," 23 Feb. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Johnson on Friday went to Buckingham Palace to meet with Queen Elizabeth II as part of the constitutional ritual of forming a new government. Arkansas Online, "Brexit mandate clear in U.K. vote; Johnson gets royal order after Conservatives win 365 seats," 14 Dec. 2019 Another less likely explanation identifies the children as victims of a ritual designed to quiet the volcano. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Archaeologists Unearth Remains of Infants Wearing ‘Helmets’ Made from the Skulls of Other Children," 20 Nov. 2019 The queen, having gone through the entire exercise 60 days earlier, was not keen to repeat every aspect of the ritual. BostonGlobe.com, "At the time, Johnson’s Conservative Party had no majority in Parliament and was essentially powerless to push any contentious legislation. The queen’s speech essentially amounted to a political pitch by Johnson to voters before a general election.," 20 Dec. 2019 Nataraja: Dance as part of a divine ritual may have its base in the Indus Valley. Harish Pullanoor, Quartz India, "How the Indian icon Nataraja danced his way from ancient history to modern physics," 18 Dec. 2019 Others insisted the cones were part of a burial ritual, entombed with their wearers to confer fortune or fertility in the afterlife. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "Ancient Egyptian Head Cones Were Real, Grave Excavations Suggest," 11 Dec. 2019 The roots of this ritual is contested, according to Christopher Pellegrini, a Swallows fan, and co-founder of the Tokyo Swallows Podcast. Coy Wire And Vivien Jones, CNN, "The surprising experience of a Tokyo baseball game," 25 Oct. 2019 Shirley Jackson tells the story of a peculiar ritual that takes place each year in a small New England village. The New Yorker, "Sunday Reading: Spooky Stories," 20 Oct. 2019 One attorney also said the scrutiny of the prayer ritual performed over the sick child had resulted in the group’s faith being used against them. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Judge orders New Mexico compound suspect hospitalized," 18 Oct. 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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Time Traveler for ritual

Time Traveler

The first known use of ritual was in 1570

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Statistics for ritual

Last Updated

14 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ritual.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ritual. Accessed 17 January 2020.

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More Definitions for ritual


How to pronounce ritual (audio)

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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a plan in which a last survivor takes all

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