noun, plural sanc·tu·ar·ies.

Origin of sanctuary

1300–50; Middle English < Late Latin sānctuārium, equivalent to sānctu- (replacing Latin sānct-), combining form of sanctus (see Sanctus) + -ārium -ary
Related formssanc·tu·ar·ied, adjective

Synonyms for sanctuary Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sanctuary

Contemporary Examples of sanctuary

Historical Examples of sanctuary

  • Soon Biddy and I had—or seemed to have—the sanctuary to ourselves.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • She said she'd 'see what mood she was in,' after the others had finished with the sanctuary.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • Her portrait is sold, but it is hung no where, in no sanctuary.

  • He could tolerate no irreverent spirits in the sanctuary of the mountain.

    Mountain Meditations

    L. Lind-af-Hageby

  • Proverbs, like the sacred books of each nation, are the sanctuary of the intuitions.

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

British Dictionary definitions for sanctuary


noun plural -aries

a holy place
a consecrated building or shrine
Old Testament
  1. the Israelite temple at Jerusalem, esp the holy of holies
  2. the tabernacle in which the Ark was enshrined during the wanderings of the Israelites
the chancel, or that part of a sacred building surrounding the main altar
  1. a sacred building where fugitives were formerly entitled to immunity from arrest or execution
  2. the immunity so afforded
a place of refuge; asylum
a place, protected by law, where animals, esp birds, can live and breed without interference

Word Origin for sanctuary

C14: from Old French sainctuarie, from Late Latin sanctuārium repository for holy things, from Latin sanctus holy
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 sanctuary

early 14c., "building set apart for holy worship," from Anglo-French sentuarie, Old French saintuaire "sacred relic, holy thing; reliquary, sanctuary," from Late Latin sanctuarium "a sacred place, shrine" (especially the Hebrew Holy of Holies; see sanctum), also "a private room," from Latin sanctus "holy" (see saint (n.)).

Since the time of Constantine and by medieval Church law, fugitives or debtors enjoyed immunity from arrest in certain churches, hence transferred sense of "immunity from punishment" (late 14c.). Exceptions were made in England in cases of treason and sacrilege. General (non-ecclesiastical) sense of "place of refuge or protection" is attested from 1560s; as "land set aside for wild plants or animals to breed and live" it is recorded from 1879.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper