[kong-gri-gey-shuh n]
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  1. an assembly of persons brought together for common religious worship.
  2. the act of congregating or the state of being congregated.
  3. a gathered or assembled body; assemblage.
  4. an organization formed for the purpose of providing for worship of God, for religious education, and for other church activities; a local church society.
  5. the people of Israel. Ex. 12:3,6; Lev. 4:13.
  6. New Testament. the Christian church in general.
  7. Roman Catholic Church.
    1. a committee of cardinals or other ecclesiastics.
    2. a community of men or women, either with or without vows, observing a common rule.
  8. (at English universities) the general assembly of the doctors, fellows, etc.
  9. (in colonial North America) a parish, town, plantation, or other settlement.

Origin of congregation

1300–50; Middle English congregacio(u)n (< Anglo-French) < Latin congregātiōn- (stem of congregātiō); see congregate, -ion Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for congregation


  1. a group of persons gathered for worship, prayer, etc, esp in a church or chapel
  2. the act of congregating or collecting together
  3. a group of people, objects, etc, collected together; assemblage
  4. the group of persons habitually attending a given church, chapel, etc
  5. RC Church
    1. a society of persons who follow a common rule of life but who are bound only by simple vows
    2. Also called: dicasteryan administrative subdivision of the papal curia
    3. an administrative committee of bishops for arranging the business of a general council
  6. mainly British an assembly of senior members of a university
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 congregation

mid-14c., "a gathering, assembly," from Old French congregacion (12c., Modern French congrégation), from Latin congregationem (nominative congregatio), noun of action from congregare (see congregate).

Used by Tyndale to translate Greek ekklesia in New Testament and by some Old Testament translators in place of synagoge. (Vulgate uses a variety of words in these cases, including congregatio but also ecclesia, vulgus, synagoga, populus.) Protestant reformers in 16c. used it in place of church; hence the word's main modern sense of "local society of believers" (1520s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper