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[sek-stuh n] /ˈsɛk stən/
an official of a church charged with taking care of the edifice and its contents, ringing the bell, etc., and sometimes with burying the dead.
an official who maintains a synagogue and its religious articles, chants the designated portion of the Torah on prescribed days, and assists the cantor in conducting services on festivals.
Origin of sexton
1275-1325; Middle English sexteyn, sekesteyn, syncopated variant of segerstane, secristeyn < Anglo-French segerstaine sacristan
Related forms
sextonship, noun
undersexton, noun
Can be confused
sextant, sextet, sexton.


[sek-stuh n] /ˈsɛk stən/
Anne (Harvey) 1928–74, U.S. poet. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for sexton
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Scarcely was it safe, when the sexton buried the old man and his secret with him.

    Other Tales and Sketches Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The sexton started up, in a state of the most amazed consternation.

    The Channings Mrs. Henry Wood
  • Is he in need of the small salary your church must give its sexton?

  • The sexton and his man had lowered the coffin to its last home, and then stepped aside.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine
  • One of the three was the sexton of the church, another was the curate, the third was a policeman.

    The Manxman Hall Caine
  • The sexton and the policeman carried the coffin to the church-door, which the curate opened.

    The Manxman Hall Caine
  • He beckoned the sexton and the sexton's daughter to draw near and stand as witnesses.

    Victor's Triumph Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth
  • "Yes, Hester, and I have brought company with me," said the sexton.

    Paul Prescott's Charge Horatio Alger
  • "And you opened your eyes and saw me," said the sexton, finishing out his narrative.

    Paul Prescott's Charge Horatio Alger
British Dictionary definitions for sexton


a person employed to act as caretaker of a church and its contents and graveyard, and often also as bell-ringer, gravedigger, etc
another name for the burying beetle
Word Origin
C14: from Old French secrestein, from Medieval Latin sacristānussacristan
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 sexton

c.1300, sekesteyn, "person in charge of the sacred objects of a church," from Old French segrestien, from Medieval Latin sacristanus (see sacristan). Sense of "custodian of a church" first recorded 1580s. Fem. forms sextress, sextrice are recorded 15c., but the usual form is sextoness (early 15c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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