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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 saturnalian

Historical Examples

  • The solitary example of a Saturnalian victim in Msia did not fulfil these conditions.

    Magic and Religion

    Andrew Lang

  • The Saturnalian spirit has not been extinct even in our days.

  • It was found necessary to suggest that originally the Saturnalian victim died in February-March, but this was not proved.

  • On holidays and fair-days these Saturnalian proceedings grew more outrageous than ever.

  • However, this Saturnalian court has done our business; and a glorious batch of claret we had afterwards at Walker's.

British Dictionary definitions for saturnalian


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 saturnalian



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