[pyoo r-i-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
Related formspu·ri·tan·like, adjectivepu·ri·tan·ly, adverban·ti·pu·ri·tan, noun, adjectivean·ti-Pu·ri·tan, noun, adjectiveun·pu·ri·tan, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for puritans

Contemporary Examples of puritans

Historical Examples of puritans

  • On his return, he married "Lydia Tindall, of the denomination of Puritans."

  • The true history of the Puritans of New England is yet to be written.

  • The religion and philosophy of the Puritans were in this respect at one with the gospel of the frontier.

  • Plato, like the Puritans, is too much afraid of poetic and artistic influences.



  • But the shout set up by the Puritans announced to them that their movement had been detected.

    The Tavern Knight

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for puritans



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


characteristic of a puritan
Derived Formspuritanism, noun

Word Origin for puritan

C16: from Late Latin pūritās purity



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 FormsPuritanism, 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

Word Origin and History for puritans



1560s, "opponent of Anglican hierarchy," later applied opprobriously to "person in Church of England who seeks further reformation" (1570s), probably from purity. Largely historical from 19c. in literal sense. After c.1590s, applied to anyone deemed overly strict in matters of religion and morals.

What [William] Perkins, and the whole Puritan movement after him, sought was to replace the personal pride of birth and status with the professional's or craftsman's pride of doing one's best in one's particular calling. The good Christian society needs the best of kings, magistrates, and citizens. Perkins most emphasized the work ethic from Genesis: "In the swaete of thy browe shalt thou eate thy breade." [E. Digby Baltzell, "Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia," 1979]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

puritans in Culture


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.


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.)


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.