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[chan-suh l, chahn-]
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  1. the space about the altar of a church, usually enclosed, for the clergy and other officials.
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Origin of chancel

1275–1325; Middle English < Middle French < Late Latin cancellus lattice, railing or screen before the altar of a church, Latin cancell(ī) (plural) lattice, railing, grating; see cancel
Related formschan·celed, chan·celled, adjectivesub·chan·cel, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

altar, shrine, temple, sanctuary, synagogue, parish, mosque, chapel, sanctum, chancel, basilica, minster, oratory, mission, abbey, fold, cathedral, tabernacle, bethel, chantry

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British Dictionary definitions for chancel


  1. the part of a church containing the altar, sanctuary, and choir, usually separated from the nave and transepts by a screen
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Word Origin

C14: from Old French, from Latin cancellī (plural) lattice
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 chancel


c.1300, "part of the church around the altar," from Old French chancel, from Late Latin cancellus "lattice," from Latin cancelli (plural) "grating, bars" (see cancel); sense extended in Late Latin from the lattice-work that separated the choir from the nave in a church to the space itself.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper