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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. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for sexton
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • “No, old chap,” cried North, slapping the sexton on the shoulder in a jocular way.

    The Man with a Shadow George Manville Fenn
  • Why, here in Denmark: I have been sexton here, man and boy, thirty years.

    Hamlet William Shakespeare
  • As I was going through the churchyard, the sexton poked up his head from an open grave to stare at me.

    Story of My Life, volumes 1-3 Augustus J. C. Hare
  • And Luke glared at the sexton as if he would have penetrated his secret soul.

    Rookwood William Harrison Ainsworth
  • He pushed the empty chest into the river and then went home with the sexton to get his bushelful of money.

    Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales Hans Christian Andersen
  • "Could the dead hear thee, thy mother might do so," returned the sexton.

    Rookwood William Harrison Ainsworth
  • It appeared that the sexton of St. Matthew's was growing old.

    Samuel the Seeker Upton Sinclair
  • "It was not my intention to have done so," answered the sexton, suspending his occupation.

    Rookwood William Harrison Ainsworth
  • If two farmers had their goolthise on the same day the parson and sexton favoured one and the clerk the other.

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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