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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective In fact, Jewish law calls for new communities to build ritual baths before a synagogue — and amid the coronavirus pandemic many communities have kept mikvahs open for monthly immersions even as synagogues remained closed. Josefin Dolsten, sun-sentinel.com, "Some queer Jews are finding meaning in the laws of family purity, traditionally observed by married Orthodox couples," 21 Oct. 2020 The mythology and language QAnon uses — from claims of ritual child murder to revenge fantasies against liberal elites — conjure ancient anti-Semitic tropes and putsch fantasies that have long animated Germany’s far-right fringe. Katrin Bennhold, New York Times, "QAnon Is Thriving in Germany. The Extreme Right Is Delighted.," 11 Oct. 2020 The panel scene in Group IV in which people dance around a woman giving birth is believed to represent a ritual dance carried out during a birth in order to obtain protection from the gods. National Geographic, "Shamans, sun gods, warriors: Thousands of Bronze Age petroglyphs mark this ancient site," 8 Oct. 2020 The ritual involves flying back and forth, up and down the street, in search of the nicest car on the block. Colin Stokes, The New Yorker, "What I Like to Imagine the Construction Noise Next Door Actually Is," 7 Oct. 2020 The Talai, in turn, are a small subset of the Nandi — an extended family that traces its roots back to a powerful orkoiyot, or ritual expert, who came to prominence in the mid-19th century. Jonathan W. Rosen, New York Times, "Eliud Kipchoge Emerges as the Philosopher-King of Running," 2 Oct. 2020 There are riots in this book, a few murders and much attention to chowders (usually codfish), which were frequently consumed by the early baseball clubs as postgame repast and ritual. Paul Dickson, WSJ, "An Essential Sport: Two Books on Baseball," 2 Oct. 2020 In 2017, archaeologists discovered a Bronze Age cemetery at a ritual site on the Welsh island of Anglesey. Chris Ciaccia, Fox News, "Jupiter, Saturn spotted over legendary Bronze Age structure," 30 Sep. 2020 Over the centuries the accusation of ritual murder became more baroque and more codified. Talia Lavin, The New Republic, "QAnon, Blood Libel, and the Satanic Panic," 29 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Spinks was furloughed the week of high school graduation — a ritual that is reliably a big story for small-town papers. Washington Post, "This journalist was her paper’s only full-time reporter — until they fired her. Her small town wonders: Now what?," 23 Oct. 2020 Justice Sandee Bryan Marion smiled through a red face mask Thursday at San Fernando Cathedral as groups of lawyers chatted after attending the Red Mass, a ritual celebrated each year to bless the judiciary. Elizabeth Zavala, ExpressNews.com, "Red masks at Red Mass — even in a pandemic, annual Catholic rite blesses the legal community," 23 Oct. 2020 Amid all the restrictions, fraternities and sororities pushed forward with fall rush — a recruitment ritual typically full of pomp and circumstance where chapters hold social events such as house tours and meet-and-greets. Ryan Faircloth, Star Tribune, "Virtual rush, no parties: University of Minnesota fraternities and sororities navigate pandemic life," 17 Oct. 2020 This affection for civic ritual, in norms-trampling Trumpian times, now seems star-crossed and naïve. James Poniewozik, New York Times, "‘The West Wing’ and David Byrne Stage America," 16 Oct. 2020 The moment seemed fitting for a race unlike any other, as yet another campaign ritual was changed by the pandemic that has rewritten the norms of society. Anchorage Daily News, "Trump, Biden sharply criticize each other — from a distance — in dueling town halls," 16 Oct. 2020 The physical image of a cold beer or an immaculate martini can wield power in the mind as a bookend to a stressful day, a symbol of enjoying friends’ company or a gentle domestic ritual with a partner. Eleanor Morgan, refinery29.com, "Even Moderate Drinking Is Damaging Our Health, So Why Do We Do It?," 11 Oct. 2020 In a weekly ritual that’s become numbingly familiar during the pandemic, the government said another 840,000 Americans filed for unemployment last week — a number that would have been unimaginably high in February and now is the new normal. Carolyn Said, SFChronicle.com, "Another 840,000 claim unemployment nationwide as California resumes taking applications," 8 Oct. 2020 City officials have also fought against a Jewish ritual in which a man sucks the blood from an infant’s circumcision wound. Paul Berger And Katie Honan, WSJ, "Religious Groups Sue to Block New Lockdown Restrictions in Parts of New York Seeing Covid-19 Surges," 8 Oct. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ritual

Time Traveler for ritual

Time Traveler

The first known use of ritual was in 1570

See more words from the same year

Statistics for ritual

Last Updated

26 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ritual.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ritual. Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz

  • monster werewolf photo
  • Which is a synonym of werewolf?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!