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

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective These distinctives are a challenge for leftish admiration of the secular, peaceable welfare states of Northern Europe. Samuel Goldman, The Week, 22 Sep. 2021 Our final finding revealed that, compared to those of newcomer firms, the survivors’ businesses were less exposed to the secular, transformative themes that will shape tomorrow’s economies. Peter Zangari, Forbes, 9 Sep. 2021 And while the singer is vilified by some due to the more secular nature of his new artistic chapter, Fish says the transformation was guided by prayer. Neena Rouhani, Billboard, 25 July 2022 For evidence that the United States was founded as a secular nation, look no further than the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, an agreement the US negotiated with a country in present-day Libya to end the practice of pirates attacking American ships. John Blake, CNN, 24 July 2022 Elsewhere in the movement, there was open talk of moving past him for more secular reasons. New York Times, 19 July 2022 The pope has been hesitant to directly meddle in politics since the beginning of his papacy — afraid to devolve the Holy See into a normal, secular world power. Fox News, 13 July 2022 Staton was startled; crossing over to secular music had long been considered too risky, personally and professionally, to even attempt. David Gambacorta, Longreads, 13 July 2022 If Shawn was like a secular Grand Rebbe, brilliant and inscrutable, Martin was his nondenominational Talmudist, seeking deeper meanings in the aspects of large or small facts in a reporting piece. Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, 12 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Smith Pegues is known for impacting the lives of both secular and faith-based audiences and demographics. Lynnette Nicholas, Essence, 26 July 2022 Both men, who were about the same age, had grown up as working-class secular Jews in New York. Clay Risen,, 5 July 2022 So how does McBride see himself and his old musical pals Stephens and Yates in this explosion of ideas that connect the dots between the sacred and the secular in a fresh way? A.d. Amorosi, Variety, 22 June 2022 Both men, who were about the same age, had grown up as working-class secular Jews in New York. Clay Risen,, 5 July 2022 Both men, who were about the same age, had grown up as working-class secular Jews in New York. New York Times, 4 July 2022 Mixed feelings about the sacred and the secular are hardly unique to this musician. John Defore, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 May 2022 But the ideological incompatibility of the coalition’s eight constituent parties — an alliance of right-wing, left-wing, secular, religious, and Arab groups — left it fragile from the start. Patrick Kingsley,, 19 May 2022 At that time, the secular was much more elevated, and was much more prominent. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 9 Mar. 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.

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

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secular arm

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Last Updated

9 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Secular.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for secular


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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