sec·​tar·​i·​an | \ sek-ˈter-ē-ən How to pronounce sectarian (audio) \

Definition of sectarian

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or characteristic of a sect or sectarian
2 : limited in character or scope : parochial



Definition of sectarian (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an adherent of a sect
2 : a narrow or bigoted person

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Other Words from sectarian


sectarianism \ sek-​ˈter-​ē-​ə-​ˌni-​zəm How to pronounce sectarianism (audio) \ noun

Examples of sectarian in a Sentence


The country was split along sectarian lines. there are people on both the left and the right who have staked out unyielding sectarian positions in this debate


charged that the work of Congress has been stymied by sectarians who are indifferent to reason and intolerant of compromise
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

For places such as Palu, which has a bloody history of sectarian violence, that has provided an opening for hard-liners and their message that religion, not government is the answer. Washington Post, "When disaster hits, Indonesia’s Islamists are first to help," 11 June 2019 For more than a decade, Sistan and Baluchistan has been the source of sectarian unrest, with militants drawing on discontent over economic hardship and perceived discrimination against the area’s Sunni Muslims in a predominantly Shiite nation. Sune Engel Rasmussen, WSJ, "Suicide Bombing Kills Revolutionary Guards in Restive Iranian Province," 13 Feb. 2019 Some efforts are being made to quell sectarian unrest. Hollie Mckay, Fox News, "Iran, in shadow proxy war with Saudis, expands its Pakistan influence," 12 Sep. 2018 He surprised Iraqis by forming a cross-sectarian, non-Islamist electoral coalition for Saturday's vote that includes Iraq's communist party., "Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr takes surprise lead in Iraq's election as prime minister falters," 14 May 2018 Checkpoints there were a source of tension and a target during the decades of sectarian violence before Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord. Lorne Cook, The Seattle Times, "UK lawmakers seize Brexit agenda in bid to break deadlock," 26 Mar. 2019 In a region beset by national, sectarian and tribal conflicts, the treaty between the two nations has endured since its signing on March 26, 1979. Dennis Ross And David Makovsky, WSJ, "40 Years of Peace Between Israel and Egypt," 25 Mar. 2019 Related The study also provides an unvarnished account of how the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011 was followed by a rise in violence, sectarian tensions and, eventually, the rise of Islamic State. Michael R. Gordon, WSJ, "Army Releases a Critical History of the War in Iraq," 17 Jan. 2019 The law has instead fueled sectarian violence within Egypt. Marlo Safi, WSJ, "Is Sisi Good for Egypt’s Christians?," 10 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Lebanon’s unique sectarian make up and place in the region make its politics about local issues like jobs, infrastructure, and garbage collection as well as about regional rivalries and alliances. Ben Hubbard,, "Elections in Lebanon boost Hezbollah’s clout," 7 May 2018 And so, there was the odd spectacle of the Irish Times religion reporter, Patsy McGarry, ringing in the 2016 with an editorial suggesting that Rising leaders Patrick Pearse and James Connolly were poisonous Catholic sectarians. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "The Next Lost Cause," 1 Nov. 2017 As a result, Sunni sectarians across the region concluded that Obama’s United States was on the side of the Shia. Graeme Wood, The Atlantic, "Trump Complies Perfectly With the Saudi Line," 21 May 2017

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


1649, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1819, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for sectarian

Last Updated

16 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for sectarian

The first known use of sectarian was in 1649

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English Language Learners Definition of sectarian

: relating to religious or political sects and the differences between them

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Comments on sectarian

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


to take the place or position of

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