Definition of abbey in English:



  • 1The building or buildings occupied by a community of monks or nuns.

    • ‘He has attended several retreats at the abbey, run by the Catholic order of Benedictine monks.’
    • ‘The abbey was founded in 1132 and monks lived in it for 400 years until Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries.’
    • ‘And so it came about that it was Norman monks who established the abbey.’
    • ‘He has traveled around the world recruiting for his abbey's Catholic seminary.’
    • ‘They prayed for everyone in the abbey and the community at large.’
    • ‘A few years after, and probably in response to, the foundation of the abbey, this church became an Augustinian priory.’
    • ‘He gained greater freedom in 1867 when the monastery was made an abbey and he was appointed abbot as well as a local bishop.’
    • ‘Aelred, a friend and follower of St. Bernard, defined holy friendship for the monks of his abbey.’
    • ‘The monasteries and abbeys were the basis of church life.’
    • ‘The abbey and college are also Ryedale's second largest employer and trustees are asking planners to consider the benefits to the local economy.’
    • ‘The Benedictine abbey is long gone but the eleventh-century church remains, and is one of the finest survivors of the Romanesque in France.’
    • ‘It has a long and glorious history - the earliest chandeliers date to before the Reformation, when they could be found in the cavernous interiors of medieval churches and abbeys across Europe.’
    • ‘Some of the monks leave the abbey to serve mass, speak at other religious communities, and to collect materials for the workshops.’
    • ‘Friaries were occupied by friars, abbeys were headed by abbots, priories by priors.’
    • ‘Whether they were to serve the purposes of missionaries, monks, or emperors these manuscripts were mostly produced in the scriptoria or cloisters of abbeys and monasteries.’
    • ‘Æthelbald, king of Mercia, had a church built over his tomb, which later became the abbey of Crowland.’
    • ‘Before it was a cathedral, back in medieval times, it was an abbey, Gerrie explains.’
    • ‘There was a boom in the building of castles, abbeys, and priories.’
    • ‘A native and monk of Sherborne, Stephen joined the abbey of Molesme near Dijon.’
    • ‘Iona, and its subordinate abbeys, accepted the Roman Church early in the eighth century, but the Scottish Church did not conform entirely.’
    monastery, convent, priory, cloister, friary, nunnery, religious house, religious community
    charterhouse, cell
    coenobium, coenoby
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A church that was formerly an abbey.
      • ‘We do not have a cathedral or abbey and appear to be unable to look after the few historic and protected buildings that we have in the town, a town which most people seem to like and are proud of.’
      • ‘There is no finer example of the medieval reuse of Roman spolia than in the abbey church at Hexham in Northumberland.’
      • ‘On one of our last days we found ourselves in a church we'd never heard of, the abbey of Mozac near Clermont-Ferrand.’
      • ‘The places chosen for these unorthodox interments were often sites of ancient churches or graveyards, or of ruined abbeys etc.’
      • ‘Inside the abbey people sat quietly in the choir stalls or on chairs in front of lit candles, absorbed in prayer or contemplation.’
      • ‘William was crowned by Archbishop Ealdred on Christmas Day, in Edward's new abbey cathedral at Westminster.’
      • ‘He pointed to the space between the two towers of the abbey church.’
      • ‘Her designs can be seen in the cathedrals of St Albans, Exeter, Salisbury and Wells, Bath and Sherborne abbeys, and many churches around the country as well as two venues in America.’
      • ‘The annual service is held at a different abbey or cathedral in the UK every year.’
      • ‘The abbey church still stands and is the burial place of Robert the Bruce.’
      • ‘Internally the decoration is of a type and standard more usually encountered in abbeys and cathedrals.’
      • ‘Among all the great places of worship in London - St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Southwark Cathedral - one of the best known is St. Martin-in-the-Fields.’
      • ‘Our cathedrals and abbeys are better looked after than ever.’
      • ‘The great church doors at the very end of the abbey were opened, and Evangelina Stiles was coming in on the hand of her father, the Stiles cigarette baron himself.’
      • ‘After his official welcome, both at the old abbey and the cathedral, he received the freedom of the city at the Town Hall.’


Middle English: from Old French abbeie, from medieval Latin abbatia abbacy, from abbas, abbat- (see abbot).