Definition of oracle in English:



  • 1A priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from the gods in classical antiquity.

    • ‘As Plutarch, who wrote a treatise on it early in the second century AD, was priest of a Delphi that was still busy with private and ritual enquiries, it is clear that the real subject was the oracle's loss of authority in political affairs.’
    • ‘The oracle's prophesy declares that Athens will one day conquer Thebes.’
    • ‘The Oedipus story's, I think, the grimmest of all oracle stories and it's the one where the freedom of the person consulting the oracle seems at its lowest degree.’
    • ‘Instead of the physicist, they consult an oracle.’
    • ‘The oracle told that the cure would come to Telephos by means of rust from the sword of the very Achilles who had wounded him.’
    • ‘Poseidon and Athena were vying for control of Athens, and having consulted an oracle he advised that every Athenian should vote for their preference.’
    • ‘Her priests and oracles are all being kept in the tower.’
    • ‘Then I got interested in the history of oracles, how they actually worked in Ancient Greece and in different cultures.’
    • ‘But I think more important than the oracle at Delphi is Socrates' conviction that there is an inner prophetic voice speaking to him.’
    • ‘In the trial of Socrates, as described by Plato, the oracle at Delphi proclaimed that there is no one wiser than Socrates.’
    • ‘However, I consulted the oracles and stars, and I am certain that you are the one I need.’
    • ‘Here, finally, we come to the heart of the difference between the oracles of the pagan Greeks of the classical period and the revelations of the prophets of the People of the Book.’
    • ‘The first day saw the swearing-in of athletes, trainers and judges, after which athletes would make sacrifices to the gods and, if they wished, seek advice from oracles.’
    • ‘Another time Rutilianus consulted the oracle on the choice of a wife.’
    • ‘The oracle was consulted by Achilles, Heracles and other mythological heroes.’
    • ‘It was through clever interpretation of these signs that these oracles and prophets were able to frequently predict future events.’
    • ‘He had no other choice now but to consult the oracles.’
    • ‘Convinced, the Chorus of women advises that the oracle of Apollo is the only person who can help Orestes.’
    • ‘This is not to say that I rely solely on the oracle's advice.’
    • ‘Legend holds that he was the son of Apollo, the Hellenic god of music and learning, and his birth was foretold by the oracle at Delphi.’
    1. 1.1 A place at which divine advice or prophecy was sought.
      • ‘Over the portal at the oracle in Delphi, Apollo's temple, there were two sayings - ‘Know thyself’ and ‘Nothing too much’.’
      • ‘He is represented with a bow, and is linked to the laurel tree, the leaves of which were used by his priestess at the oracle of Delphi.’
      • ‘They were believed to communicate with priests and priestesses at shrines called oracles.’
      • ‘An oracle is a shrine or temple sanctuary consecrated to the worship and consultation of a prophetic god.’
      prophet, prophetess, sibyl, seer, augur, prognosticator, diviner, soothsayer, wise man, wise woman, sage, fortune teller
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    2. 1.2 A person or thing regarded as an infallible authority on something.
      ‘he reigned supreme as the Colonial Office's oracle on Africa’
      • ‘The mass media had appropriated the role of the historian as the oracle of the nation.’
      • ‘My friendly handyman said no problem with that either, agreed on a price for both and said he'd probably be over on Tuesday but he'd phone and confirm that once he'd consulted his oracle, namely his work book.’
      • ‘Alternately, I might just do whatever it told me to do, perhaps on the grounds that, since an infallible oracle has told me that I will do this, I should resign myself to the inevitable.’
      • ‘The oracle who is always consulted and cited on this subject is the celebrated Montesquieu.’
      • ‘I decided to consult the oracle of all things, the industry expert that is not me.’
      authority, expert, specialist, pundit, guru, mentor, adviser, mastermind, connoisseur
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  • 2archaic A response or message given by an oracle, especially an ambiguous one.


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin oraculum, from orare ‘speak’.