Definition of oracle in US English:



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

    • ‘Instead of the physicist, they consult an oracle.’
    • ‘Poseidon and Athena were vying for control of Athens, and having consulted an oracle he advised that every Athenian should vote for their preference.’
    • ‘But I think more important than the oracle at Delphi is Socrates' conviction that there is an inner prophetic voice speaking to him.’
    • ‘He had no other choice now but to consult the oracles.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the trial of Socrates, as described by Plato, the oracle at Delphi proclaimed that there is no one wiser than Socrates.’
    • ‘Another time Rutilianus consulted the oracle on the choice of a wife.’
    • ‘However, I consulted the oracles and stars, and I am certain that you are the one I need.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This is not to say that I rely solely on the oracle's advice.’
    • ‘Her priests and oracles are all being kept in the tower.’
    • ‘It was through clever interpretation of these signs that these oracles and prophets were able to frequently predict future events.’
    • ‘The oracle's prophesy declares that Athens will one day conquer Thebes.’
    • ‘The oracle was consulted by Achilles, Heracles and other mythological heroes.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Convinced, the Chorus of women advises that the oracle of Apollo is the only person who can help Orestes.’
    • ‘Then I got interested in the history of oracles, how they actually worked in Ancient Greece and in different cultures.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1 A place at which divine advice or prophecy was sought.
      • ‘An oracle is a shrine or temple sanctuary consecrated to the worship and consultation of a prophetic god.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Over the portal at the oracle in Delphi, Apollo's temple, there were two sayings - ‘Know thyself’ and ‘Nothing too much’.’
      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 or guide on something.
      ‘casting the attorney general as the oracle for and guardian of the public interest is simply impossible’
      • ‘The mass media had appropriated the role of the historian as the oracle of the nation.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      authority, expert, specialist, pundit, guru, mentor, adviser, mastermind, connoisseur
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  • 2archaic A response or message given by an oracle, typically one that is ambiguous or obscure.


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