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 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.

Example Sentences

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
In the decade after the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish zealot, Medan worked on a covenant for coexistence between religious and secular Jews in Israel. Isabel Kershner, BostonGlobe.com, 13 Nov. 2022 That is why early last year Mr. Summers switched from warning about secular stagnation to warning that fiscal and monetary stimulus threatened to send inflation sharply higher. Greg Ip, WSJ, 14 Jan. 2022 In one, German SS soldiers can be seen confiscating piles of secular and religious books — presumably, according to the memorial’s archivists, to be burnt. Leo Sands, Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2022 Lapid, popular with secular, urban voters, has built up a formidable army of volunteers and party activists across the country. Josef Federman, ajc, 31 Oct. 2022 By the end of the 1800s, more communities were partaking in a more secular (and safer) set of rituals. Lizz Schumer, Good Housekeeping, 28 Oct. 2022 While Roe was in effect, many hospitals—not only Catholic and Protestant but secular and public as well—denied pregnant women abortions and miscarriage treatments that were permitted under the law. Charlotte Shane, Harper’s Magazine , 28 Sep. 2022 Similarly, church leaders since the 19th century have been convinced that their youths were threatened with corruption at the hands of a secular and anti-religious society. The Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Sep. 2022 Pope Francis was in Kazakhstan for a three-day tour of the country, meeting with both secular and religious leaders. Ronn Blitzer, Fox News, 19 Sep. 2022
Noun
The concert will contain secular and Christmas Carol holiday music. Melanie Savage, Hartford Courant, 22 Nov. 2022 Gilbert presents us with a sharp distinction between the religious and the secular in the United States today. The Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Sep. 2022 On the Hebrew calendar, the 10th of Tishri marks Yom Kippur year after year, but the date differs annually for the secular (or Gregorian) calendar. Skyler Caruso, Peoplemag, 3 Oct. 2022 And, though Mormonism is not formally divided like Jews into ultra-Orthodox, modern Orthodox, secular and nonbelieving factions, many members do informally organize themselves along lines of belief and practice. The Salt Lake Tribune, 16 Sep. 2022 There can be no separation of the secular and the sacred. Harrison Smith, BostonGlobe.com, 17 Aug. 2022 During the next six months, MacAskill and Ord enjoined their friends and other moral philosophers to pledge a secular tithe. Gideon Lewis-kraus, The New Yorker, 8 Aug. 2022 Both men, who were about the same age, had grown up as working-class secular Jews in New York. Clay Risen, BostonGlobe.com, 5 July 2022 That Rushdie was raised a Muslim, albeit a secular, alcohol-loving Muslim who soon would declare his atheism, made his descriptions of the Prophet even more troubling than if some outsider had ignorantly portrayed the same. Siva Vaidhyanathan, The New Republic, 16 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

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 6 Dec. 2022.

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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