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[sat-er-ney-lee-uh, -neyl-yuh]
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noun, plural Sat·ur·na·li·a, Sat·ur·na·li·as.
  1. (sometimes used with a plural verb) the festival of Saturn, celebrated in December in ancient Rome as a time of unrestrained merrymaking.
  2. (lowercase) unrestrained revelry; orgy.
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Origin of Saturnalia

1585–95; < Latin Sāturnālia, equivalent to Sāturn(us) Saturn + -ālia, neuter plural of -ālis -al1
Related formsSat·ur·na·li·an, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for saturnalia

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • At the return of the sun the feast of the Saturnalia was celebrated at Rome.

  • They were like the Roman slaves who, during the Saturnalia, played at being free.

  • The sacea were a festival at Babylon similar to the saturnalia.


    William Graham Sumner

  • The saturnalia that succeeded the capture of the castaway had come to a close.

    The Boy Slaves

    Mayne Reid

  • And I remember that she seemed to describe afterwards a sort of saturnalia.

    The Good Soldier

    Ford Madox Ford

British Dictionary definitions for saturnalia


noun plural -lia or -lias
  1. an ancient Roman festival celebrated in December: renowned for its general merrymaking
  2. (sometimes not capital) a period or occasion of wild revelry
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Derived FormsSaturnalian, adjective

Word Origin

C16: from Latin Sāturnālis relating to Saturn 1
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 saturnalia


time of merrymaking, 1590s, from Latin Saturnalia, ancient Roman festivals of Saturn (held in December), a time of merrymaking for all, from neuter plural of adjective Saturnalis "pertaining to Saturn," from Saturnus (see Saturn). They correspond to the Greek Kronia. The extended sense of "period of unrestrained revelry" is first attested 1782. Related: Saturnalian.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper