noun sanc·tu·ary \ˈsaŋ(k)-chə-ˌwer-ē\

Definition of sanctuary



  1. 1 :  a consecrated place: such asa :  the ancient Hebrew temple at Jerusalem or its holy of holiesb (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

  2. 2a (1) :  a place of refuge and protection (2) :  a refuge for wildlife where predators are controlled and hunting is illegalb :  the immunity from law attached to a sanctuary

Examples of sanctuary in a sentence

  1. The house was a sanctuary for runaway teens.

  2. The refugees found sanctuary when they crossed the border.

  3. The sanctuary contains the altar of sacrifice.

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.

Origin and Etymology of sanctuary

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

First Known Use: 14th century

SANCTUARY Defined for English Language Learners


noun sanc·tu·ary \ˈsaŋ(k)-chə-ˌwer-ē\

Definition of sanctuary for English Language Learners

  • : a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter

  • : the protection that is provided by a safe place

  • : the room inside a church, synagogue, etc., where religious services are held

SANCTUARY Defined for Kids


noun sanc·tu·ary \ˈsaŋk-chə-ˌwer-ē\

Definition of sanctuary for Students



  1. 1 :  a holy or sacred place

  2. 2 :  a building or room for religious worship

  3. 3 :  a place that provides safety or protection a wildlife sanctuary

  4. 4 :  the protection from danger or a difficult situation that is provided by a safe place

Word Root of sanctuary

The Latin word sacer, meaning “holy,” and the related word sānctus, also meaning “holy,” give us the roots sacr and sanct. Words from the Latin sacer or sānctus have something to do with holiness. A sanctuary is a holy place. Anything sacred is holy. To sacrifice is to dedicate as a holy offering to a god.

Seen and Heard

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


feeling or affected by lethargy

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