sec·​u·​lar | \ ˈse-kyə-lər How to pronounce secular (audio) \

Definition of secular

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of or relating to the worldly or temporal secular concerns
b : not overtly or specifically religious secular music
c : not ecclesiastical or clerical secular courts secular landowners
2 : not bound by monastic vows or rules specifically : of, relating to, or forming clergy not belonging to a religious order or congregation a secular priest
3a : occurring once in an age or a century
b : existing or continuing through ages or centuries
c : of or relating to a long term of indefinite duration secular inflation


sec·​u·​lar | \ ˈse-kyə-lər How to pronounce secular (audio) \
plural seculars or secular

Definition of secular (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an ecclesiastic (such as a diocesan priest) not bound by monastic vows or rules : a member of the secular clergy
2 : layman

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Other Words from secular


secularity \ ˌse-​kyə-​ˈler-​ə-​tē How to pronounce secular (audio) , -​ˈla-​rə-​ \ noun
secularly \ ˈse-​kyə-​lər-​lē How to pronounce secular (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for secular

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Frequently Asked Questions About secular

Are secular and atheist synonyms?

Although they may often come up in similar contexts, secular and atheist are not synonyms. Secular is most often used as an adjective (although is is also a noun), while atheist is mostly found as a noun (atheistic and atheistical are the common adjective forms). Additionally, atheist means "a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods," whereas secular has a number of meanings, including "not overtly or specifically religious," "not bound by monastic vows or rules," and "occurring once in an age or a century."

Is secular always related to religion?

"In contemporary English, secular is primarily used to distinguish something (such as an attitude, belief, or position) that is not specifically religious or sectarian in nature (for example, music with no religious connection or affiliation might be described as ""secular""). However, certain meanings of secular do have some basis in religion, such as ""not bound by monastic vows or rules,"" and ""of, relating to, or forming clergy not belonging to a religious order or congregation."" "

Can secular be a noun?

Secular does have some meanings as a noun, including "an ecclesiastic (such as a diocesan priest) not bound by monastic vows or rules; a member of the secular clergy." However, the word meaning "indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations" is secularism rather than secular.

Examples of secular in a Sentence

Adjective Bloomberg, by contrast, would be the most pro-immigration, pro-free trade, pro-Wall Street candidate in the race. The third-party candidate he would most resemble is John Anderson, the fiscally responsible, culturally liberal Republican who ran as an Independent in 1980. Anderson won 7% of the vote, mostly among the young, educated and secular. But today those people are partisan Democrats. — Peter Beinart, Time, 11 Feb. 2008 In the early twentieth century, priests and religious built centers for Catholic study and worship on secular campuses. — Maurice Timothy Reidy, Commonweal, 7 Apr. 2006 Some women, indeed, achieved great renown for their religious scholarship, becoming role models for their peers and silently challenging men, who for so long had held a monopoly in this area. Though they never carried the title of "rabbi" and in many cases eschewed the controversial "f-word" (feminism) altogether, these Orthodox women produced no less a revolution in the late twentieth century than women did in so many other realms, religious and secular alike. By challenging Judaism, they ended up strengthening Judaism. — Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism, 2004 The reforms of the nineteenth century and the needs of commercial and other contacts with Europe led to the enactment of new laws, modeled on those of Europe—commercial, civil, criminal, and finally constitutional. In the traditional order the only lawyers were the ulema, the doctors of the Holy Law, at once jurists and theologians. The secular lawyer, pleading in courts administering secular law, represented a new and influential element in society. — Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong?, 2002 Both secular and religious institutions can apply for the funds. that's an issue for the secular authorities, not the church
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective My husband, Dave, has had a secular but religious experience queuing from midnight to dawn to get a tee time at the cathedral of golf, St. Andrews, in Scotland. Washington Post, 12 Aug. 2021 Aside from the country’s usual tensions between secular and religious, right-wing and left-wing, and Jewish and Arab, Israelis have become increasingly divided about Mr. Netanyahu himself. New York Times, 4 May 2021 Although strictly a gospel singer during her time, Mahalia Jackson set the tone for gospel music and paved the way— in some instances providing literal mentorship— for household names and modern-day artists, who sing both secular and gospel songs. Meagan Jordan, Essence, 2 Apr. 2021 His artistic enshrinement of the notion of one true love transformed the monogamous ideal from a rule of religious faith to a secular and aestheticized substitute for it. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 24 Mar. 2021 Even Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the country’s first Orthodox leader, is open to reducing the Chief Rabbinate’s power, and sees himself as a bridge between religious and secular Israelis. Ben Sales,, 5 Aug. 2021 Those include tensions between Jews and Arabs, and within the Jewish majority between his religious and nationalist base and his more secular and dovish opponents. Josef Federman,, 13 June 2021 But his teflon cannot hold out much longer as the failing economy and other disasters continue to batter the populace, secular and religious alike. Melik Kaylan, Forbes, 8 June 2021 Tension between secular and ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews, especially amid Covid-19, is an overlooked factor working against Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 31 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun At various intervals throughout his career, Kanye has tried (and, for the most part, failed) to reconcile the secular and the sanctified. Sheldon Pearce, The New Yorker, 7 Sep. 2021 Locke’s modern interpreters — from both the secular left and the religious right — often appear ignorant of his scriptural references. Joseph Loconte, National Review, 4 July 2021 The secular, Westernizing, staunchly anti-Soviet Turkey of the Cold War years is now led by a populist Islamist. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, 7 June 2021 That’s enough for a pair of elementary schools, one religious, the other secular. Washington Post, 5 June 2021 And each ended in deadlock, with both Netanyahu’s supporters as well as his secular, Arab and dovish opponents falling short of a majority. Time, 3 June 2021 There are small touches played almost as throwaways that solidify the balance between the sacred and the secular — the band members on prayer rugs after a practice session, for instance. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 3 June 2021 Although white nationalism, draped in Christian symbolism, is a problem, the much greater threat comes from the secular Left. Joseph Loconte, National Review, 30 May 2021 Each piece explores an aspect of love from the religious to the secular. oregonlive, 22 Mar. 2021

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for secular

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French seculer, from Late Latin saecularis, from saeculum the present world, from Latin, generation, age, century, world; akin to Welsh hoedl lifetime

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Time Traveler for secular

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

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secular arm

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Last Updated

14 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Secular.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for secular



English Language Learners Definition of secular

: not spiritual : of or relating to the physical world and not the spiritual world
: not religious
: of, relating to, or controlled by the government rather than by the church : civil


sec·​u·​lar | \ ˈse-kyə-lər How to pronounce secular (audio) \

Kids Definition of secular

1 : not concerned with religion or the church secular society secular music
2 : not belonging to a religious order a secular priest

More from Merriam-Webster on secular

Nglish: Translation of secular for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of secular for Arabic Speakers


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