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[sat-er-ney-lee-uh, -neyl-yuh] /ˌsæt ərˈneɪ li ə, -ˈneɪl yə/
noun, plural Saturnalia, Saturnalias.
(sometimes used with a plural verb) the festival of Saturn, celebrated in December in ancient Rome as a time of unrestrained merrymaking.
(lowercase) unrestrained revelry; orgy.
Origin of Saturnalia
1585-95; < Latin Sāturnālia, equivalent to Sāturn(us) Saturn + -ālia, neuter plural of -ālis -al1
Related forms
Saturnalian, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for Saturnalia
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • At the return of the sun the feast of the Saturnalia was celebrated at Rome.

  • They were like the Roman slaves who, during the Saturnalia, played at being free.

  • The sacea were a festival at Babylon similar to the Saturnalia.


    William Graham Sumner
  • The Saturnalia that succeeded the capture of the castaway had come to a close.

    The Boy Slaves Mayne Reid
  • And I remember that she seemed to describe afterwards a sort of Saturnalia.

    The Good Soldier Ford Madox Ford
  • The holydays are made a jubilee, or rather resemble the Saturnalia.

  • But for the present they were absolute, and the Saturnalia of blood went on.

  • The week of the rule of Saturn, the Saturnalia, was a time of revelry and riot.

    St. Nicholas George H. McKnight
  • As at the Saturnalia, masters drank and gambled with slaves.

    St. Nicholas George H. McKnight
British Dictionary definitions for Saturnalia


noun (pl) -lia, -lias
an ancient Roman festival celebrated in December: renowned for its general merrymaking
(sometimes not capital) a period or occasion of wild revelry
Derived Forms
Saturnalian, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Latin Sāturnālis relating to Saturn1
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 Saturnalia



time of merrymaking, 1590s, from Latin Saturnalia, ancient Roman festivals of Saturn (held in December), a time of merrymaking for all, from neuter plural of adjective Saturnalis "pertaining to Saturn," from Saturnus (see Saturn). They correspond to the Greek Kronia. The extended sense of "period of unrestrained revelry" is first attested 1782. Related: Saturnalian.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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