Definition of abbey in US English:



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

    • ‘Friaries were occupied by friars, abbeys were headed by abbots, priories by priors.’
    • ‘He has attended several retreats at the abbey, run by the Catholic order of Benedictine monks.’
    • ‘The monasteries and abbeys were the basis of church life.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The abbey was founded in 1132 and monks lived in it for 400 years until Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries.’
    • ‘A few years after, and probably in response to, the foundation of the abbey, this church became an Augustinian priory.’
    • ‘Some of the monks leave the abbey to serve mass, speak at other religious communities, and to collect materials for the workshops.’
    • ‘Æthelbald, king of Mercia, had a church built over his tomb, which later became the abbey of Crowland.’
    • ‘A native and monk of Sherborne, Stephen joined the abbey of Molesme near Dijon.’
    • ‘The Benedictine abbey is long gone but the eleventh-century church remains, and is one of the finest survivors of the Romanesque in France.’
    • ‘Aelred, a friend and follower of St. Bernard, defined holy friendship for the monks of his abbey.’
    • ‘Before it was a cathedral, back in medieval times, it was an abbey, Gerrie explains.’
    • ‘He has traveled around the world recruiting for his abbey's Catholic seminary.’
    • ‘The abbey and college are also Ryedale's second largest employer and trustees are asking planners to consider the benefits to the local economy.’
    • ‘There was a boom in the building of castles, abbeys, and priories.’
    • ‘He gained greater freedom in 1867 when the monastery was made an abbey and he was appointed abbot as well as a local bishop.’
    • ‘Iona, and its subordinate abbeys, accepted the Roman Church early in the eighth century, but the Scottish Church did not conform entirely.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They prayed for everyone in the abbey and the community at large.’
    • ‘And so it came about that it was Norman monks who established the abbey.’
    monastery, convent, priory, cloister, friary, nunnery, religious house, religious community
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A church or house that was formerly an abbey.
      • ‘Inside the abbey people sat quietly in the choir stalls or on chairs in front of lit candles, absorbed in prayer or contemplation.’
      • ‘There is no finer example of the medieval reuse of Roman spolia than in the abbey church at Hexham in Northumberland.’
      • ‘Our cathedrals and abbeys are better looked after than ever.’
      • ‘The abbey church still stands and is the burial place of Robert the Bruce.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He pointed to the space between the two towers of the abbey church.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Internally the decoration is of a type and standard more usually encountered in abbeys and cathedrals.’
      • ‘The places chosen for these unorthodox interments were often sites of ancient churches or graveyards, or of ruined abbeys etc.’
      • ‘On one of our last days we found ourselves in a church we'd never heard of, the abbey of Mozac near Clermont-Ferrand.’
      • ‘After his official welcome, both at the old abbey and the cathedral, he received the freedom of the city at the Town Hall.’
      • ‘William was crowned by Archbishop Ealdred on Christmas Day, in Edward's new abbey cathedral at Westminster.’
      • ‘The annual service is held at a different abbey or cathedral in the UK every year.’
      • ‘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.’


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