secular

1 of 2

adjective

sec·​u·​lar ˈse-kyə-lər How to pronounce secular (audio)
1
a
: 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
3
a
: 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
secularity noun
secularly adverb

secular

2 of 2

noun

sec·​u·​lar ˈse-kyə-lər How to pronounce secular (audio)
plural seculars or secular
1
: an ecclesiastic (such as a diocesan priest) not bound by monastic vows or rules : a member of the secular clergy
2
: layman

Frequently Asked Questions

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 it 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
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
India’s Hindu majority is a key constituency for Mr. Modi, who has been criticized for normalizing Hindu-nationalist policies in a country born as a secular republic. John Yoon, New York Times, 30 May 2024 As Sawyer enters the assembly hall with hundreds of period panties in hand, Muslim, Christian and secular girls cheer for her. Diane Farr, Peoplemag, 21 May 2024
Noun
There was a change of heart among the secular nationalists during the second intifada—which started in 2000 and ended in 2005—in which seculars also joined forces. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 10 Mar. 2023 Once the dominant force in Israeli politics, the Israeli secular left has been in decline for decades. Patrick Kingsley, New York Times, 2 Nov. 2022 See all Example Sentences for secular 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'secular.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Adjective

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

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

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Dictionary Entries Near secular

Cite this Entry

“Secular.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/secular. Accessed 15 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

secular

adjective
sec·​u·​lar
ˈsek-yə-lər
1
a
: not spiritual : worldly
secular concerns
b
: not religious
secular music
c
: of, relating to, or regulated by the state rather than the church
secular courts
2
: of or relating to members of the clergy who do not belong to a religious community
a secular priest
secularly adverb

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