Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An elevated place or structure before which religious ceremonies may be enacted or upon which sacrifices may be offered.
  • n. A structure, typically a table, before which the divine offices are recited and upon which the Eucharist is celebrated in Christian churches.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A table or similar flat-topped structure used for religious rites.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A raised structure (as a square or oblong erection of stone or wood) on which sacrifices are offered or incense burned to a deity.
  • n. In the Christian church, a construction of stone, wood, or other material for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist; the communion table.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An elevated place or structure, a block of stone, or any object of appropriate form, on which sacrifices are offered or incense is burned to a deity.
  • n. In most Christian churches, the communion-table.
  • n. The steps at the sides of a graving-dock.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the table in Christian churches where communion is given
  • n. a raised structure on which gifts or sacrifices to a god are made

Etymologies

Middle English auter, from Old English altar and Old French auter, both from Latin altāre.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin altare ("altar"), probably related to adolere ("burn"); thus "burning place", influenced by a false connection with altus ("high"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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