noun, plural cer·e·mo·nies.

the formal activities conducted on some solemn or important public or state occasion: the coronation ceremony.
a formal religious or sacred observance; a solemn rite: a marriage ceremony.
formal observances or gestures collectively; ceremonial observances: The breathless messenger had no time for ceremony.
any formal act or observance, especially a meaningless one: His low bow was mere ceremony.
a gesture or act of politeness or civility: the ceremony of a handshake.
strict adherence to conventional forms; formality: to leave a room without ceremony.


    stand on ceremony, to behave in a formal or ceremonious manner.

Origin of ceremony

1350–1400; Middle English ceremonie < Medieval Latin cēremōnia, Latin caerimōnia sacred rite; replacing Middle English cerymonye < Middle French cerimonie < Latin, as above
Related formspre·cer·e·mo·ny, noun, plural pre·cer·e·mo·nies.

Synonym study

1, 2. Ceremony, rite, ritual refer to set observances and acts traditional in religious services or on public occasions. Ceremony applies to more or less formal dignified acts on religious or public occasions: a marriage ceremony; an inaugural ceremony. A rite is an established, prescribed, or customary form of religious or other solemn practice: the rite of baptism. Ritual refers to the form of conducting worship or to a code of ceremonies in general: Masonic rituals.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ceremony

Contemporary Examples of ceremony

Historical Examples of ceremony

  • Then there was the ceremony of the Corn to learn, the prayers and the dances.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • I was certainly present at the ceremony, but I have utterly forgotten her name.

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

  • The ceremony is gone through for the sake of pleasing a deity.

  • Peter knew he was experiencing a ceremony of some kind, the significance of which he must learn.

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

  • In this ceremony it was known that John Castell had been doomed to play a leading part.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

British Dictionary definitions for ceremony


noun plural -nies

a formal act or ritual, often set by custom or tradition, performed in observation of an event or anniversarya ceremony commemorating Shakespeare's birth
a religious rite or series of rites
a courteous gesture or actthe ceremony of toasting the Queen
ceremonial observances or gestures collectivelythe ceremony of a monarchy
stand on ceremony to insist on or act with excessive formality
without ceremony in a casual or informal manner

Word Origin for ceremony

C14: from Medieval Latin cēremōnia, from Latin caerimōnia what is sacred, a religious rite
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 ceremony

late 14c., cerymonye, from Old French ceremonie and directly from Medieval Latin ceremonia, from Latin caerimonia "holiness, sacredness; awe; reverent rite, sacred ceremony," an obscure word, possibly of Etruscan origin, or a reference to the ancient rites performed by the Etruscan pontiffs at Caere, near Rome. Introduced in English by Wyclif.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with ceremony


see stand on (ceremony).

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.