(usually initial capital letter) Also called Holy Grail. a cup or chalice that in medieval legend was associated with unusual powers, especially the regeneration of life and, later, Christian purity, and was much sought after by medieval knights: identified with the cup used at the Last Supper and given to Joseph of Arimathea.
(sometimes initial capital letter) Informal. any greatly desired and sought-after objective; ultimate ideal or reward.

Origin of grail

1300–50; Middle English graiel, graile, etc. < Anglo-French grahel, grayel, Old French gräel, grel < Medieval Latin gradālis platter, of uncertain origin Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for grail

chalice, cup

Examples from the Web for grail

Contemporary Examples of grail

Historical Examples of grail

  • So in Parsifal the white dove descends, overshadowing the Grail.

    Bride of the Mistletoe

    James Lane Allen

  • The Grail vision had, then, taught the "guileless one" nothing.


    H. R. Haweis

  • Is the Grail, too, then turned into a mocking spirit to the unhappy Amfortas?


    H. R. Haweis

  • In these modern days he rides abroad, seeking the Graft instead of the Grail.

  • It complimentarily introduces a hint or two of Wagner's Grail motif.

British Dictionary definitions for grail



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 grail

c.1300, "the Holy Grail," from Old French graal "Holy Grail, cup," earlier "large shallow dish," from Medieval Latin gradalis "a flat dish or shallow vessel," perhaps ultimately from Latin crater "bowl," from Greek krater "bowl, especially for mixing wine with water."

Holy Grail is anglicized from Middle English Sangreal (Saint graal), grafted awkwardly onto the Celtic Arthurian legends 12c. by Church scribes probably in place of some pagan otherworldly object. It was said to be the cup into which Joseph of Arimathea received the last drops of blood of Christ (according to the writers who picked up the thread of Chrétien de Troyes' "Perceval") or the dish from which Christ ate the Last Supper (Robert de Boron), and ultimately was identified as both (e.g. "þe dische wiþ þe blode," 14c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper