Definition of celibate in US English:



  • 1Abstaining from marriage and sexual relations, typically for religious reasons.

    ‘a celibate priest’
    • ‘And it includes persons who were celibate and still champions of marriage, such as Paul and our Lord.’
    • ‘Large numbers did not marry at all, deciding to remain celibate, some for religious reasons, others, it has been suggested, due to a certain embarrassment about sex.’
    • ‘He was to become a priest and lead the celibate life.’
    • ‘Among the Armenians there are celibate and married priests.’
    • ‘He said the priesthood should be open to both married and celibate priests and urged a full debate within the Church on what he described as a ‘very serious question’.’
    • ‘But they dismissed questions about whether married priests were an option, saying a celibate priesthood was not the reason for the shortage.’
    • ‘What is more important, to allow people a better chance of getting to mass on Sunday or to keep priests celibate?’
    • ‘Religious dress and grave goods were used to differentiate celibate priests and monks from ordinary secular men.’
    • ‘The origins of this celibate American religious movement can be traced to Sayville, Long Island, New York, where Father Divine came to public attention in the 1920s.’
    • ‘The archbishop has said priests need not be celibate and that God's blessings were meant to be given through the family.’
    • ‘Living a simple life, being vegetarian, abstaining from cigarettes and alcohol, being celibate, and dedicating his actions to the welfare of all beings are ways in which a Buddhist monk tries to improve the world.’
    • ‘Since priests are celibate, what does their sexual orientation have to do with it anyway?’
    • ‘He astonished his friends and family by attempting to become a celibate priest but two years of seminary studies persuaded him he lacked a vocation.’
    • ‘A few celibate members live with their families for personal or professional reasons and are known as ‘associates’.’
    • ‘The Shakers, for example, is one religious group that required its members to be celibate: the only new Shakers came from recruitment.’
    • ‘Sonflowers says women from north of the Border have contacted them for support after having children with Scottish priests or long-term affairs with supposedly celibate clergymen.’
    • ‘This may stem from the Roman Catholic view, where intimacy, even within the context of marriage, is considered a concession to base instincts, while sacred priests and nuns are celibate.’
    • ‘In the east, the upper ecclesiastical echelons - patriarchs in particular - were recruited from monasteries and therefore were celibate, but ordinary priests were allowed to marry.’
    • ‘The Boston archdiocese's official newspaper said this week the Roman Catholic Church must face the question of whether to continue to require priests to be celibate.’
    • ‘Last night, in an address to bishops in Nigeria, Pope John Paul II insisted that priests must live celibate lives and avoid scandalous behaviour.’
    virginal, virgin, intact, maidenly, maiden, unmarried, unwed
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    1. 1.1 Having or involving no sexual relations.
      ‘I'd rather stay single and celibate’
      • ‘Single men were 20 times more likely to be celibate than married men.’
      • ‘There is no agreement about the town he came from, his age at the time of the apparitions, whether he was married or a widower, or whether he and his wife had children or lived in a celibate marriage.’
      • ‘Clearly this person is celibate or single, because there is no way anyone could get intimate with her without losing an eye.’
      • ‘This is one example of the way technology has been harnessed to ensure that if a woman didn't want to get pregnant, she could take steps to ensure that this didn't happen, without opting for a celibate lifestyle.’
      • ‘Single rats have been known to lead celibate lives in the comfort of domestic house attics for several months while the house occupants are unaware of their existence.’
      • ‘Single women in this context were assumed to be celibate.’
      • ‘I hope for his sake he's single, or in a celibate relationship, or he'll be building up quite an audience soon.’
      • ‘These broads have been forcibly celibate for decades after their husbands dump them.’
      • ‘This annoys me no end, especially considering the piles of people I know who are perfectly desirable but single or celibate or virgins because of random situations.’
      • ‘Mitropoulos, who appears to have led a largely celibate lifestyle, nevertheless seems to have known enough about love and lust to portray them unforgettably in music.’
      • ‘A wholly celibate marriage is thus in principle quite conceivable, as is some variation of marriage between those more at home physically with those of their own gender.’
      • ‘Maude Guérin plays a lone wolf detective in the Prime Suspect mold - a single woman on the Quebec City homicide squad whose celibate lifestyle is legendary.’
      • ‘Single and celibate for 17 years, she loved her husband, but says she doesn't miss him.’
      • ‘You do need to look at the underlying reasons for your celibate marriage and how you want to proceed with your husband.’
      • ‘Yet, extant research suggests that a significant minority of these individuals may choose to discontinue all sexual relations and become celibate for at least some period following their diagnosis.’
      • ‘However, I did not force my husband to remain as celibate as I had to be.’
      • ‘I know what it is like to be heterosexual, single, and celibate and it is tough.’
      • ‘If you're single, or have made a conscious decision to be celibate, you may be quite happy without having sex for a while.’
      • ‘Due to a personal spiritual quest, Radha's husband has remained celibate for 13 years.’
      • ‘I'm seeing more and more celibate relationships within marriage.’
      unmarried, single, unwed, spouseless, wifeless, husbandless
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  • A person who abstains from marriage and sexual relations.

    • ‘The celibates, when they did consider beginning a relationship, were the most cautious.’
    • ‘On the other hand, early Christian male celibates come in for rough treatment for their hatred of the body and ‘misogyny.’’
    • ‘And it seems odd for celibates, of all people, to instruct the rest of us about the relations of the sexes.’
    • ‘But, as anyone trying to become informed about the matter knows, there is no sociological evidence suggesting that celibates are more likely to abuse children than are married men.’
    • ‘To test the ludicrousness of that line of thinking, imagine what it would be like if we were all God-fearing celibates.’
    • ‘I think what we might call the mystical strain in Christianity has always been extraordinarily important to me, and I think that's probably why this life suits me because I suspect I am probably a born celibate.’
    • ‘He says at one point, for example, that it would have been highly unusual for a Jewish man in the 1st century to have been a celibate.’
    • ‘The leaves are said to be invigorating and an aphrodisiac and, therefore, not to be used by celibates and ascetics.’
    • ‘Most current priests, he claims, aren't miserable as celibates, and they're no more emotionally immature than most men.’
    • ‘People over 60 are expected to be sexless creatures or, at any rate, celibates.’
    • ‘Among the Milanese aristocracy in the years 1600-49, for instance, the percentage of celibates, men and women, is stunning: 49 per cent of the men, 75 per cent of the women.’
    • ‘Thirty-five percent of celibates expressed dissatisfaction, frustration, or anger about their lack of sexual relationships, and this was true regardless of their partnership status.’
    • ‘In any event, no one could accuse him of being a remote celibate who did not know what he was talking about.’
    • ‘This example is to be contrasted with that of the celibate who decides that the most fulfilling life for him will be one of abstinence.’
    • ‘So common was lifelong celibacy and so little accepted were Freudian theories about the dominance of the sexual impulse, that nobody questioned these celibates or looked at them askance.’
    • ‘In September 1998, one of the members of an on-line discussion group for involuntary celibates approached the first author via e-mail to ask about current research on involuntary celibacy.’
    • ‘For the first six centuries of its existence, Cambridge, like Oxford, was a seminary, and until 1871 fellows were required to be celibates in holy orders.’
    • ‘The majority of partnered celibates started out having satisfactory relationships, but slowly stopped having sex as time went on.’
    • ‘While celibates, particularly females, were equally fearful, personal and religious morality were their main reasons for this lifestyle choice; HIV / AIDS concern was secondary.’
    • ‘As all celibates do, they sometimes struggle with the vowed life, but if they find themselves too much at odds with chastity, they leave the order.’
    abstainer, recluse, hermit, solitary, anchorite, anchoress, desert saint, celibate, puritan, nun, monk
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Early 19th century (earlier ( mid 17th century) as celibacy): from French célibat or Latin caelibatus ‘unmarried state’ + -ate.