[sek-stuh n]


an official of a church charged with taking care of the edifice and its contents, ringing the bell, etc., and sometimes with burying the dead.
an official who maintains a synagogue and its religious articles, chants the designated portion of the Torah on prescribed days, and assists the cantor in conducting services on festivals.

Origin of sexton

1275–1325; Middle English sexteyn, sekesteyn, syncopated variant of segerstane, secristeyn < Anglo-French segerstaine sacristan
Related formssex·ton·ship, nounun·der·sex·ton, noun
Can be confusedsextant sextet sexton


[sek-stuh n]


Anne (Harvey),1928–74, U.S. poet. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sexton

Contemporary Examples of sexton

Historical Examples of sexton

  • Scarcely was it safe, when the sexton buried the old man and his secret with him.

    Other Tales and Sketches

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • The sexton started up, in a state of the most amazed consternation.

    The Channings

    Mrs. Henry Wood

  • Is he in need of the small salary your church must give its sexton?

  • The sexton and his man had lowered the coffin to its last home, and then stepped aside.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

  • The sexton and the policeman carried the coffin to the church-door, which the curate opened.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for sexton



a person employed to act as caretaker of a church and its contents and graveyard, and often also as bell-ringer, gravedigger, etc
another name for the burying beetle

Word Origin for sexton

C14: from Old French secrestein, from Medieval Latin sacristānus sacristan
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 sexton

c.1300, sekesteyn, "person in charge of the sacred objects of a church," from Old French segrestien, from Medieval Latin sacristanus (see sacristan). Sense of "custodian of a church" first recorded 1580s. Fem. forms sextress, sextrice are recorded 15c., but the usual form is sextoness (early 15c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper