• synonyms


[en-sik-li-kuh l, -sahy-kli-]
  1. Roman Catholic Church. a letter addressed by the pope to all the bishops of the church.
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  1. (of a letter) intended for wide or general circulation; general.
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Also en·cyc·lic.

Origin of encyclical

1610–20; < Late Latin encyclicus (< Greek enkýklios, with -icus -ic for -ios, equivalent to en- en-2 + kýkl(os) circle, cycle + -ios adj. suffix) + -al1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for encyclical


  1. a letter sent by the pope to all Roman Catholic bishops throughout the world
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adjective Also: encyclic
  1. (of letters) intended for general or wide circulation
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Word Origin

C17: from Late Latin encyclicus, from Greek enkuklios general, from kuklos circle
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 encyclical


in reference to a letter sent by the Pope to all the bishops, 1640s, from Late Latin encyclicus, from Latin encyclius, from Greek enkyklios "in a circle, circular" (see encyclopedia). As a noun, from 1837.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

encyclical in Culture



A letter from the pope to the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, in which he lays down policy on religious, moral, or political issues.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.