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[chan-suh l, chahn-] /ˈtʃæn səl, ˈtʃɑn-/
the space about the altar of a church, usually enclosed, for the clergy and other officials.
Origin of chancel
1275-1325; Middle English < Middle French < Late Latin cancellus lattice, railing or screen before the altar of a church, Latin cancell(ī) (plural) lattice, railing, grating; see cancel
Related forms
chanceled, chancelled, adjective
subchancel, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for chancel
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The nave, then as now, was the charge of the parish; the chancel, of the rector.

  • Saxon arches separating the nave from the aisles and chancel are plain.

    English Villages P. H. Ditchfield
  • Many were cruciform, and consisted of nave, transepts, and chancel.

    English Villages P. H. Ditchfield
  • She saw them sitting in their pew far down toward the chancel.

    Bride of the Mistletoe James Lane Allen
  • The old place was dimly lighted, but the brothers occupied the chancel only.

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • Brother Paul was sitting in the chancel with a lamp on the stall by his side.

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • It was evening service, and the nave was thronged from chancel to porch.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine
  • Simultaneously from the chancel came a great cry: "Libera nos, Domine!"

    The Snare Rafael Sabatini
British Dictionary definitions for chancel


the part of a church containing the altar, sanctuary, and choir, usually separated from the nave and transepts by a screen
Word Origin
C14: from Old French, from Latin cancellī (plural) lattice
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for chancel

c.1300, "part of the church around the altar," from Old French chancel, from Late Latin cancellus "lattice," from Latin cancelli (plural) "grating, bars" (see cancel); sense extended in Late Latin from the lattice-work that separated the choir from the nave in a church to the space itself.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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