from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Christianity A rite believed to be a means of or visible form of grace, especially.
  • noun In the Eastern, Roman Catholic, and some other Western Christian churches, any of the traditional seven rites that were instituted by Jesus and recorded in the New Testament and that confer sanctifying grace.
  • noun In most other Western Christian churches, the two rites, Baptism and the Eucharist, that were instituted by Jesus to confer sanctifying grace.
  • noun A religious rite similar to a Christian sacrament, as in character or meaning.
  • noun The Eucharist.
  • noun The consecrated elements of the Eucharist, especially the bread or host.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To bind by an oath.
  • noun An oath of obedience and fidelity taken by Roman soldiers on enlistment; hence, any oath, solemn engagement, or obligation, or ceremony that binds or imposes obligation.
  • noun In theology, an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace; more particularly, a solemn religious ceremony enjoined by Christ, or by the church, for the spiritual benefit of the church or of individual Christians, by which their special relation to him is created or freshly recognized, or their obligations to him are renewed and ratified.
  • noun The eucharist, or Lord's Supper: used with the definite article, and without any qualifying word.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun obsolete The oath of allegiance taken by Roman soldiers; hence, a sacred ceremony used to impress an obligation; a solemn oath-taking; an oath.
  • noun obsolete The pledge or token of an oath or solemn covenant; a sacred thing; a mystery.
  • noun (Theol.) One of the solemn religious ordinances enjoined by Christ, the head of the Christian church, to be observed by his followers; hence, specifically, the eucharist; the Lord's Supper.
  • transitive verb obsolete To bind by an oath.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Christianity A sacred act or ceremony in Christianity. In Roman Catholic theology, a sacrament is defined as "an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace."

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

  • noun a formal religious ceremony conferring a specific grace on those who receive it; the two Protestant ceremonies are baptism and the Lord's Supper; in the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church there are seven traditional rites accepted as instituted by Jesus: baptism and confirmation and Holy Eucharist and penance and holy orders and matrimony and extreme unction


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

[Middle English, from Old French sacrement, from Late Latin sacrāmentum, from Latin, oath, from sacrāre, to consecrate, from sacer, sacr-, sacred; see sacred.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin sacrāmentum ("sacrament"), from sacrō ("hallow, consecrate"), from sacer ("sacred, holy"), originally sum deposited by parties to a suit.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word sacrament.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • "... not only spices but many other Mediterranean aromatics served as sacraments before they were seasonings. Saffron, fennel, and coriander all appear in a sacred setting long before there are records of their secular use. Thyme takes its name from the Greek verb 'to sacrifice' or 'to make a burnt offering.' Writing in the fourth century B.C., Theophrastus believed that spices followed incense and locally available herbs to the altar and censer, and no one has been able to come up with a better explanation since. The Egyptians and other cultures of the ancient Near East made use of Arabian and Levantine aromatics such as frankincense, myrrh, balsam, and terebinth* since at least the third millennium B.C. The name of the principal Phoenician deity, Baal Hammon, means 'lord of the perfume altar'; a Sumerian incense stand dating to about 2500 B.C. is shaped in the form of a priest with incense on his head. Throughout the temples and shrines of the ancient Mediterranean the effect of smell was understood more in spiritual than in aesthetic terms. A sweet smell was a form of 'inarticulate prayer.'

    * Terebinth is obtained from Pistacia terebinthus, a tree widespread in the Near East, and the source of Chian turpentine."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 233-34

    December 6, 2016