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 The university, a prominent Modern Orthodox institution, has grappled with how to reconcile a traditional interpretation of Jewish law, which does not allow homosexual relations, with its engagement with the secular world. Simone Somekh,, "LGBTQ students sue Yeshiva University for discrimination," 28 Apr. 2021 California limited all small in-home gatherings -- religious or secular -- to three households, Kagan noted. Ariane De Vogue, CNN, "Justice Amy Coney Barrett finally meets the other 8 Supreme Court justices for a class photo," 23 Apr. 2021 Rather, the State limited all gatherings, both religious and secular, in homes to three households. Evan Gerstmann, Forbes, "Why The Supreme Court Struck Down California’s Limits On Private Worship (And Why It Is A Big Deal)," 10 Apr. 2021 In her dissent, with which Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer joined, Justice Elena Kagan argued that California’s restrictions do not amount to disparate treatment between religious and secular activities. Jeremy Beaman, Washington Examiner, "Supreme Court pauses California restrictions on in-home religious gatherings," 10 Apr. 2021 Most Israeli Jews — religious and secular alike — spend the Seder with extended family. Ilan Ben Zion, The Christian Science Monitor, "Passover in Israel: Celebrating pandemic progress and freedom," 28 Mar. 2021 While most religious and secular celebrations in Greece involve traditional meats, vegetables and sweets, March 25 is a bit of an outlier. Kathy Stephenson, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Hundreds of blue and white flags wave in Utah for Greece’s bicentennial. Why it’s also a religious occasion.," 24 Mar. 2021 Yeshiva University doesn’t offer scholarships and has a dual curriculum of religious and secular studies. Los Angeles Times, "Next ‘Jewish Jordan’? Can L.A.’s Ryan Turell be the first Orthodox Jewish NBA player?," 17 Mar. 2021 This bloc is secular in outlook, ranging from bourgeois liberal to social democratic, and all the constituent parties, right and left, are led by people who abhor either Netanyahu’s politics or his character. Bernard Avishai, The New Yorker, "Netanyahu—on Trial and Trying to Form a Government—Is Promoting His Own Big Lie," 20 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Each piece explores an aspect of love from the religious to the secular. oregonlive, "Portland spring arts guide: 10 opportunities to experience classical music online," 22 Mar. 2021 This included not only the Gulf monarchies but the secular (albeit brutal) regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Michael Lynch, Forbes, "Dollars Or Barrels: The OPEC+ Challenge," 11 Mar. 2021 Over the years, Robinson has expanded his live and recorded repertoire to include the secular along with the sacred. Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune, "30 essential Black musicians who defined Minnesota's sound," 27 Feb. 2021 The conversation Raphael creates across the room bridges the two worlds of the sacred and the secular, part of the larger effort advanced by Julius’s papacy. Cammy Brothers, WSJ, "Abroad at Home: Virtual Vatican," 20 Jan. 2021 The anti-Erdogan camp used to be composed of disparate groups, including Turkish and Kurdish nationalists, seculars and even some Islamists. Soner Cagaptay, Time, "Four Things to Watch in Turkey's Elections," 21 June 2018 In the secular, bottom-line world Byrne inhabits, patience is in short supply and results are demanded. Rainer Sabin,, "Greg Goff believes Alabama will be better in 2018," 18 May 2017

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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Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Secular.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 May. 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


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

Comments on secular

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