sanctuary

noun
sanc·​tu·​ary | \ ˈsaŋ(k)-chə-ˌwer-ē How to pronounce sanctuary (audio) \
plural sanctuaries

Definition of sanctuary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a consecrated place: such as
a : the ancient Hebrew temple at Jerusalem or its holy of holies
b(1) : the most sacred part of a religious building (such as the part of a Christian church in which the altar is placed)
(2) : the room in which general worship services are held
(3) : a place (such as a church or a temple) for worship
2a(1) : a place of refuge and protection
(2) : a refuge for wildlife where predators are controlled and hunting is illegal
b : the immunity from law attached to a sanctuary

sanctuary

adjective

Definition of sanctuary (Entry 2 of 2)

US
: relating to or being a locality that provides limited cooperation to federal officials in the enforcement of immigration laws or policies a sanctuary jurisdiction sanctuary policies … the executive order … designed to crack down on so-called "sanctuary cities," municipalities that do not comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement … requests for assistance with identifying and deporting undocumented immigrants.— Euan McKirdy

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for sanctuary

Synonyms: Noun

sanctum, shrine

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did You Know?

Historically, churches have been places where fugitives could seek at least temporary protection from the law. In Anglo-Saxon England, churches and churchyards generally provided 40 days of immunity, and neither the sheriffs nor the army would enter to seize the outlaw. But gradually the right of sanctuary was eroded. In 1486 sanctuary for the crime of treason was disallowed, and sanctuary for most other crimes was severely restricted by Henry VIII and later abolished. In the 1980s many U.S. churches provided sanctuary to political refugees from Central America, and the U.S. government mostly chose not to interfere. Today, wildlife sanctuaries provide protection for the species within its boundaries, and farm-animal sanctuaries now rescue livestock from abuse and starvation.

Examples of sanctuary in a Sentence

Noun

The house was a sanctuary for runaway teens. The refugees found sanctuary when they crossed the border. The sanctuary contains the altar of sacrifice.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Despite his Irish father, Lafcadio finds no sanctuary in Ireland where he is bullied and beaten. Diana Abu-jaber, Washington Post, "In Monique Truong’s ‘The Sweetest Fruits,’ 19th-century writer Lafcadio Hearn comes to life," 29 Aug. 2019 TWO YEARS ago ethnic cleansing by the army forced 700,000 Muslim Rohingyas to flee Rakhine state, in western Myanmar, and seek sanctuary across the border in Bangladesh. The Economist, "A Chinese development scheme complicates Myanmar’s ethnic conflicts," 29 Aug. 2019 This Is Not Berlin A misfit teen in 1980s Mexico City finds sanctuary in the city’s underground club scene. Los Angeles Times, "‘Brittany Runs a Marathon,’ ‘Angel Has Fallen’ and more new movies in L.A. this week," 18 Aug. 2019 According to legend, the Bell family was tormented by a witch who found sanctuary in the cave after killing John. National Geographic, "Take an epic road trip to Tennessee’s coolest caverns," 16 Aug. 2019 That's a sign that traders have sought the sanctuary of U.S. government bonds amid concerns of an economic slowdown. chicagotribune.com, "Recession fears stalk foreign markets as stocks fall again," 15 Aug. 2019 The declaration was symbolic, since churches have no legal standing to provide sanctuary. Mario Garcia, The Conversation, "More Central American migrants take shelter in churches, recalling 1980s sanctuary movement," 30 July 2019 An increasing number have sought sanctuary in the United States, overwhelming the American asylum system and infuriating Mr. Trump, who has tried to limit their ability to win American protection. New York Times, "The U.S. and Guatemala Reached an Asylum Deal: Here’s What It Means," 28 July 2019 Contrarian conservatives repudiate it and find sanctuary in the Republican Club. Sahil Handa, National Review, "What Conservatives Get Wrong about the Campus Wars," 4 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sanctuary.' 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 sanctuary

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1985, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sanctuary

Noun

Middle English seintuarie, sanctuarie, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin sanctuarium, from Latin sanctus

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sanctuary

Statistics for sanctuary

Last Updated

3 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sanctuary

The first known use of sanctuary was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for sanctuary

sanctuary

noun

English Language Learners Definition of sanctuary

: a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter
: the protection that is provided by a safe place
US : the room inside a church, synagogue, etc., where religious services are held

sanctuary

noun
sanc·​tu·​ary | \ ˈsaŋk-chə-ˌwer-ē How to pronounce sanctuary (audio) \
plural sanctuaries

Kids Definition of sanctuary

1 : a holy or sacred place
2 : a building or room for religious worship
3 : a place that provides safety or protection a wildlife sanctuary
4 : the protection from danger or a difficult situation that is provided by a safe place

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on sanctuary

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

WORD OF THE DAY

one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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