an elevated place or structure, as a mound or platform, at which religious rites are performed or on which sacrifices are offered to gods, ancestors, etc.
Ecclesiastical. communion table.
(initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Ara.
(in a dry dock) a ledge for supporting the feet of shorings.


    lead to the altar, to marry: After a five-year courtship, he led her to the altar.

Origin of altar

before 1000; Middle English alter, altar (influenced by L), auter (< Old French aut(i)er), Old English alter (OE also altar; compare Middle Dutch outaer, Old Saxon, Old Norse altari, Old High German altāri) < Latin altāria (plural), of disputed origin and formation, but probably akin to Latin adolēre to ritually burn, Umbrian uřetu let it burn
Can be confusedaltar alter Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for altar

Contemporary Examples of altar

Historical Examples of altar

  • In the midst of the barrier stood an altar, on the top of which was a brazen eagle.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • The service for him was Sidney, rather awed and very serious, beside the altar.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • He was of the first that were baptized by Father Letrado, and served the altar.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • The Abbe Cornille, having mounted to the altar, had just come down again.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • They signed some papers, there by the light of the altar candles.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

British Dictionary definitions for altar



a raised place or structure where sacrifices are offered and religious rites performed
(in Christian churches) the communion table
a step in the wall of a dry dock upon which structures supporting a vessel can stand
lead to the altar informal to marry

Word Origin for altar

Old English, from Latin altāria (plural) altar, from altus high
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

Word Origin and History for altar

Old English alter, altar, from Latin altare (plural altaria) "high altar, altar for sacrifice to the great gods," perhaps originally meaning "burnt offerings" (cf. Latin adolere "to worship, to offer sacrifice, to honor by burning sacrifices to"), but influenced by Latin altus "high." In Middle English, often auter, from Old French auter. Reintroduced from Latin 1500s. As a symbol of marriage, by 1820.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper