Definition of sacrifice in English:



  • 1An act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to a deity.

    ‘they offer sacrifices to the spirits’
    mass noun ‘the ancient laws of animal sacrifice’
    • ‘Along with animal sacrifices, and offerings from other crops, libations of wine were poured out to the gods by Italians and Greeks, and there were similar practices in the Levant.’
    • ‘During this period, there are dances, and ritual sacrifices of animals.’
    • ‘She gives daily discourses emphasizing that the ritual sacrifice of animals or birds is a crime.’
    • ‘Their activities included group prayers and animal sacrifices for various spirits.’
    • ‘In fact they expurgated any reference to animal sacrifices from their liturgy.’
    • ‘When the Jews made ritual sacrifices of food and animals, they often burned incense along with it.’
    • ‘Relations with the ancestors and respect for Nyamwezi traditions are maintained through ritual activity such as animal sacrifices and other ceremonies.’
    • ‘It spells out proper procedures for construction of the altar for ceremonial sacrifices and other rituals.’
    • ‘All libations denote a sacrifice to the deity, but the one in the meal-context denotes a sharing with the god as all partake of the same drinking of wine.’
    • ‘They would use up excess grain and other food and slaughter old animals - not as sacrifices, but because they were not expected to survive the winter.’
    • ‘Among the expressions of this religion are fire walking, animal sacrifices, and rituals of possession by a deity or ancestor.’
    • ‘In the case of animal sacrifices, the animal took the sinner's place and died as a substitute.’
    • ‘If the intent is spiritually sound, most breaches of ritual formality can be corrected via additional animal sacrifices in Mecca or special acts of charity and fasting after returning home.’
    • ‘Of course God does not need offerings from humans; the entire process of animal sacrifices and offerings is about using the physical to access the spiritual.’
    • ‘Animal sacrifice was at the heart of Ugaritic ritual.’
    • ‘The practice of santeria involves healing rituals, spirit possession, and animal sacrifice.’
    • ‘Animal sacrifice accompanies almost every ritual and ceremonial event in Nepali life.’
    • ‘Churches that have not been abandoned entirely are used for occult rites, animal sacrifices, and Black Masses.’
    • ‘But, in precise religious terminology, the word was later confined to the sacrifice of an animal slaughtered for the sake of Allah.’
    • ‘Their fathers may ‘buy them back’ by offering an animal sacrifice in their son's stead.’
    ritual slaughter, hecatomb, immolation, offering, oblation
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    1. 1.1 An animal, person, or object offered in the act of sacrifice.
      ‘a flat cake offered by the Romans as a sacrifice to their gods’
      • ‘And when Aslan rises, the ancient stone altar on which the sacrifice was offered cracks and crumbles in pieces, never to be used again.’
      • ‘This is where Abraham went up to offer Isaac as a sacrifice and later remarked as the Bible records.’
      • ‘He finds true peace and redemption for himself and those who love him only when he is able to give his work up as a sacrifice to God.’
      • ‘Yield your understanding to be taught of God, yield your heart to be purified and educated for God, yield your life (to be) a sacrifice to God.’
      • ‘Perhaps they themselves offered the innocent beast as a sacrifice to God.’
      • ‘Not being on very good terms with the Lord just then, Jonah offered an alternative: throw me overboard as a sacrifice to appease God, and you will be spared.’
      • ‘For example, built into the pagan ritual are demands for parents to burn their children as a sacrifice to the gods.’
      • ‘Well, I'll just be patient and hope and pray and offer up sacrifices to whatever god is willing to help us out.’
      • ‘Stassen observes that pigs were used as a sacrifice to Roman gods.’
      • ‘In 7th century India members of the Thug cult would ritually strangle passers-by as sacrifices to the Hindu deity, Kali.’
      • ‘And the Greeks believed in their gods, they worshipped their gods, they offered up sacrifices, and they were very real to the Greeks.’
      • ‘They will have him as priest - to offer himself a sacrifice for their sins and then to intercede for them.’
      • ‘He doesn't worship the idols of the Israelites or eat the sacrifices offered at forbidden shrines.’
      • ‘The Priest offers himself as a sacrifice to make peace with God.’
      • ‘Abraham is commanded to take his son Isaac on a journey to a mount in the land of Moriah and there offer him as a sacrifice to God.’
      offering, votive offering, gift, oblation, victim, burnt offering
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  • 2Christian Church
    Christ's offering of himself in the Crucifixion.

    • ‘Mrs James, whose parish includes Minety, Leigh and Ashton Keynes, has even gone as far as to try and change the shape of the crucifix a symbol of Jesus's ultimate sacrifice.’
    • ‘Did he die as the Lamb of God - an atoning sacrifice to bear away our sins?’
    • ‘Christ was a man of peace who gave himself as a sacrifice for the world's sins - let himself be crucified rather than offer violence.’
    • ‘Is Jesus Christ our High Priest Who sat down at the right hand of God after His sacrifice as the Messiah?’
    • ‘The bread and wine are symbols of the work of Christ on the cross, saving us by the sacrifice of His body and blood.’
    • ‘The clusters of white and purple grapes and red cherries recall Christ's sacrifice and the Eucharistic sacrament, which open the way to redemption.’
    • ‘God provided a second Adam - a perfect Adam who could be the perfect sacrifice… God himself came to earth as a man.’
    • ‘He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness.’
    • ‘There He offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, and allowed the wrath of God which we deserved, to fall on His own head.’
    • ‘Christ's oblation, his total gift by the sacrifice on the cross, is the act of initiation for himself definitively, and it is valid with regard to all human beings.’
    • ‘When Jesus Christ died on the cross as your supreme sin sacrifice, His blood didn't just seep into the ground and return to dust.’
    • ‘Christians can only be saved by the grace of God, through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ.’
    • ‘He came to die for the ungodly and offer Himself as a sacrifice to God for their salvation.’
    • ‘Christ never so eminently appeared for divine justice, and yet never suffered so much from divine Justice, as when he offered up himself a sacrifice for our sins.’
    • ‘Jesus Christ was offered as a sacrifice for our sins, once and for all, to do away with sin for all those who will believe in Him.’
    • ‘But, more than that, His death was a sacrifice offered to the Father in payment for our sins.’
    • ‘This has been accomplished in the faithful obedience of the Lord Christ Jesus and His propitiatory sacrifice.’
    • ‘Thus, within this horizon of understanding, Jesus and Jesus alone was capable of offering an acceptable sacrifice to God.’
    1. 2.1 The Eucharist regarded either (in Catholic terms) as a propitiatory offering of the body and blood of Christ or (in Protestant terms) as an act of thanksgiving.
      • ‘A Jesuit priest of the party offered the sacrifice of the mass, which in that region of the world had never been celebrated before.’
      • ‘We are committed by that Baptism to share in the celebration of this faith in a common sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.’
      • ‘Debate also began in the late Middle Ages, developed in the Reformation, and continues to this day on the extent to which the Eucharist is a sacrifice.’
      • ‘The point is what God has done, and is doing in the Mass, reconciling the world to Himself through the sacrifice of Christ.’
      • ‘This sacrament is called the Eucharist because it is the Church's sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.’
      • ‘The Sacrifice of the Mass in no way detracts from the sacrifice which Christ offered on the Cross.’
  • 3An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.

    ‘we must all be prepared to make sacrifices’
    • ‘Lex's quite excellent regard for the incredible sacrifices of the Russians during the war is a perspective we need to take.’
    • ‘For its part, Britain has to demonstrate that it considers the project so important that it, too, is prepared to make sacrifices.’
    • ‘The community can be proud of this dedicated group of helping people who train constantly and make real sacrifices in terms of time and commitment to make our home town a safer place to live in.’
    • ‘An entrepreneur must be prepared to make a sacrifice in terms of finances and overall quality of life.’
    • ‘The losses and sacrifices suffered in terms of academic advancement had been construed to be the destiny of life.’
    • ‘The couple appeared on the Channel Four series No Going Back, which shows real-life stories of people who have been brave enough to make sacrifices to turn their dreams into reality.’
    • ‘Westminster knew that we had made short-term sacrifices in terms of profit and that we had specifically engaged staff and moulded our practice for the purposes of performing the contract.’
    • ‘More often than not, they are also forced by their tight economic situation into making sacrifices with regard to environmental quality.’
    • ‘And we should realize that while this would involve material sacrifices, in terms of quality it would actually make our lives more happy and meaningful.’
    • ‘Sometimes we have to make sacrifices, in order to continue with more important things.’
    • ‘Maybe she really wants to stay with the company long term, and the sacrifice of doing reports for a few months is a small one compared to her career with the company.’
    • ‘It means you have to leave home and that requires a big sacrifice in terms of leaving your family behind.’
    • ‘That dynamic is important because it spurs the individuals to make sacrifices for the good of the team.’
    • ‘Other veterans spoke about serving our country during peacetime and how important it is for citizens to make sacrifices for their freedom.’
    • ‘The actions that Miss Agate carries out are done with the deepest belief that what she is doing will bring about a more peaceful world and she has obviously decided to make sacrifices, including that of her own freedom.’
    • ‘We are willing to make a sacrifice for the long-term good.’
    • ‘After all, both in reality and cinema, heroism consists of self-sacrifice: the sacrifice of life and freedom.’
    • ‘As a person who's more willing than most people to make sacrifices for the environment, I'd be happy if we match or exceed the adjustments required by Kyoto.’
    • ‘Judith Sischy, the director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said she believed most parents would make sacrifices to keep their children at private schools.’
    • ‘Who understands that sometimes you have to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains?’
    giving up, abandonment, surrender, foregoing, renouncing, renunciation, renouncement, forfeiture, loss, relinquishment, resignation, abdication, signing away, yielding, ceding, waiving
    renunciation, relinquishment, loss, self-sacrifice
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    1. 3.1Chess A move intended to allow the opponent to win a pawn or piece, for strategic or tactical reasons.
      • ‘Piece sacrifices of dubious merit are not a very good way to play against computers.’
      • ‘Isn't the sacrifice of a pawn a bit extreme, though?’
      • ‘He followed up blundering a pawn with a piece sacrifice of the desperate sort.’
      • ‘The pawn sacrifice throws the black pieces off guard and the white rooks are ready for an invasion.’
      • ‘Watson spends a chapter looking at positional pawn sacrifices, with particular attention given to its handling by Kasparov.’
    2. 3.2Baseball A bunted or fly ball which puts the batter out but allows a base runner to advance.
      • ‘The next batter, pitcher Don Wilson advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt.’
      • ‘Bob Bartum then pinch-hit for center fielder Don Landrum and hit a sacrifice fly to bring home the winning run.’
      • ‘Stacey Nuveman started the eighth inning with a sacrifice bunt to push designated runner Amanda Freed to third base.’
      • ‘I hit a long fly ball to left for a sacrifice fly to make the score 2-0.’
      • ‘In 1926, the rule was changed, giving a batter credit for a sacrifice fly if any base runner advances on the catch.’
    3. 3.3Bridge A bid made in the belief that it will be less costly to be defeated in the contract than to allow the opponents to make a contract.
      • ‘Expert players are often able to judge exactly when to make a sacrifice bid.’
      • ‘Sometimes, a player will make a sacrifice bid and the leader will ‘meld out’ anyway.’
      • ‘We have constructively bid in a game-forcing auction, when an opponent makes a sacrifice bid that forces us to bid our suit at the 5-level.’
      • ‘The Jack is your Knight and as such can always be played from a target player's hand as a sacrifice defender.’
      • ‘The ‘guillotine card’ is to be used when your crazy partner makes a vulnerable sacrifice against non-vulnerable opponents.’


[with object]
  • 1Offer or kill as a religious sacrifice.

    ‘the goat was sacrificed at the shrine’
    • ‘Five full-grown male bulls were killed and sacrificed to the gods and goddesses.’
    • ‘A chicken was sacrificed to safeguard them and to ensure their good behavior.’
    • ‘Then there is the Dakshinkhali Temple, where goats and chickens are sacrificed to a hungry goddess.’
    • ‘Certain cattle-herding tribes in the south place great symbolic and spiritual value on cows, which sometimes are sacrificed in religious rituals.’
    • ‘Iphigenia was sacrificed to the goddess Artemis by Agamemnon so that the Greek fleet could sail away to Troy.’
    • ‘People making a pilgrimage (religious journey) are expected to sacrifice a goat or sheep and offer the meat to the poor.’
    • ‘He brings with him their Queen Tamora and her three sons, the eldest of whom, Alarbus, is sacrificed to avenge his own sons' deaths.’
    • ‘The Bible warns against idol worship, of Moloch, for example, in which human beings, especially children, are sacrificed to appease or please a god.’
    • ‘Muslims may not eat any food that has been sacrificed to idols, but kosher is fine.’
    • ‘In their homelands a horse would have been sacrificed to the old gods.’
    • ‘When the Temple at Jerusalem was the centre of Jewish life, Jews would go there at Pilgrim Festivals to sacrifice a lamb or goat.’
    • ‘Were it not for his impeccable service record, he might have been sacrificed to the god, but he was too good a soldier simply to waste on a pointless ritual.’
    offer up, immolate, slaughter
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  • 2Give up (something valued) for the sake of other considerations.

    ‘working hard doesn't mean sacrificing your social life’
    • ‘Agriculture must not, under any circumstances, be sacrificed for the sake of an overall trade agreement.’
    • ‘We can never sacrifice democracy and the values of liberty in favour of social change.’
    • ‘Salem has made it clear that it won't sacrifice its values for profit, even stating so in its annual report.’
    • ‘Expertise was sacrificed for the sake of political expediency, with unfortunate results.’
    • ‘Is housing in such desperately short supply that a historic building must be sacrificed for the sake of five flats?’
    • ‘Sadly this is a show whose theory has more to offer than its substance; in which aesthetics have been sacrificed to rhetoric.’
    • ‘Fortunately, the band doesn't sacrifice quality for the sake of variety.’
    • ‘Today, the privatisation of social services means that children are sacrificed for the sake of profit more than ever.’
    • ‘Characterisation has been sacrificed for the sake of spectacle.’
    • ‘But the good of the sport and the enjoyment of the fans should not be sacrificed for the sake of money or petty politics.’
    • ‘It's interesting how he notes when and where the comedy was severely sacrificed for the sake of the message.’
    • ‘Under the pressure of tight margins, hostile takeovers and cutthroat rivalry, air safety has been increasingly sacrificed to the requirements of profit and the markets.’
    • ‘Gordon Brown has wiped out Labour's image of economic incompetence without sacrificing its social - democratic values.’
    • ‘Animal welfare should not, it said, be sacrificed to religious freedom.’
    • ‘‘I would hope that the Province of Alberta is not sacrificing safety for the sake of politics,’ says Szarko.’
    • ‘It is not appropriate to completely sacrifice economic considerations for the sake of politics.’
    • ‘The commitments made to Italian workers on employment creation were increasingly sacrificed to meet targets on reduced public expenditure.’
    • ‘Other democratic states, faced with terrorism, have sacrificed liberty for the sake of order and come to regret it.’
    • ‘Quality of life in this world should not have to be sacrificed for the sake of some hypothetical compensation in the world to come.’
    • ‘In accepting money from Washington, religious groups will inevitably sacrifice a degree of independence.’
    give up, abandon, surrender, forgo, renounce, forfeit, relinquish, resign, abdicate, sign away, yield, cede, waive
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1Chess Deliberately allow one's opponent to win (a pawn or piece)
      ‘he sacrificed his queen on the 34th move’
      • ‘Black is sacrificing a piece, it is true, but all the rest of his pieces become active while white's king is still sitting in the center of the board.’
      • ‘White sacrifices a pawn in order to open the opponent's castled position.’
      • ‘His weak bottom line became troublesome, and rather than lose a pawn with a passive position, white sacrificed a piece.’
      • ‘Maybe this explains why Kasparov sacrificed two pawns straight out of the opening - he probably felt he could do anything and still beat this guy!’
      • ‘The Bulgarian got the party going at an early stage by sacrificing a pawn for central domination, and Kasparov had to play very accurately to maintain his balance.’
    2. 2.2Baseball Advance (a base runner) by a sacrifice.
      ‘Doyle was sacrificed to second’
      • ‘Luis Aparicio then sacrificed runners to second and third followed by a Nellie Fox intentional walk.’
      • ‘Paul Simes and Andrew Hunter then singled to load the bases and Brad Daly sacrificed Robb home for a 2-0 lead.’
      • ‘He learned from his father, Sandy, a player who made a career out of doing little things like sacrificing runners and stealing bases.’
      • ‘The Yanks sacrificed him into home on Randy Velarde's bunt and Derek Jeter's fly ball.’
      • ‘Lee led off with a single, and after Gonzalez struck out, Penny sacrificed the runner to second.’
    3. 2.3Bridge no object Make a sacrifice bid.
      ‘in that event East–West would sacrifice in six spades’
      • ‘You may raise to put pressure on the opponents, to compete for the contract or to sacrifice.’
      • ‘And when he sacrificed in four spades on the next round, he made it much easier for the opponents to judge whether to bid higher or, as here, to double for penalties.’


Middle English: from Old French, from Latin sacrificium; related to sacrificus ‘sacrificial’, from sacer ‘holy’.