[ pyoo r-i-tn ]
/ ˈpyʊər ɪ tn /


a member of a group of Protestants that arose in the 16th century within the Church of England, demanding the simplification of doctrine and worship, and greater strictness in religious discipline: during part of the 17th century the Puritans became a powerful political party.
(lowercase) a person who is strict in moral or religious matters, often excessively so.


of or relating to the Puritans.
(lowercase) of, relating to, or characteristic of a moral puritan; puritanical.

Origin of Puritan

1540–50; < Late Latin pūrit(ās) purity + -an


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Examples from the Web for puritans

British Dictionary definitions for puritans (1 of 2)

/ (ˈpjʊərɪtən) /


a person who adheres to strict moral or religious principles, esp one opposed to luxury and sensual enjoyment


characteristic of a puritan

Derived forms of puritan

puritanism, noun

Word Origin for puritan

C16: from Late Latin pūritās purity

British Dictionary definitions for puritans (2 of 2)

/ (in the late 16th and 17th centuries ˈpjʊərɪtən) /


any of the more extreme English Protestants, most of whom were Calvinists, who wished to purify the Church of England of most of its ceremony and other aspects that they deemed to be Catholic


of, characteristic of, or relating to the Puritans

Derived forms of Puritan

Puritanism, noun
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

Cultural definitions for puritans


A group of radical English Protestants that arose in the late sixteenth century and became a major force in England during the seventeenth century. Puritans wanted to “purify” the Church of England by eliminating traces of its origins in the Roman Catholic Church. In addition, they urged a strict moral code and placed a high value on hard work (see work ethic). After the execution of King Charles I in 1649, they controlled the new government, the Commonwealth. Oliver Cromwell, who became leader of the Commonwealth, is the best-known Puritan.

notes for Puritans

Many Puritans, persecuted in their homeland, came to America in the 1620s and 1630s, settling colonies that eventually became Massachusetts. (See Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony.)

notes for Puritans

The words puritan and puritanical have come to suggest a zeal for keeping people from enjoying themselves.
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.