Definition of ritual in US English:



  • 1A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.

    ‘the role of ritual in religion’
    ‘the ancient rituals of Christian worship’
    • ‘While performing the ritual, the shaman (witch doctor) dances and enters into a trance.’
    • ‘He was happy to talk at length about ‘traditional times’, about the ancient rituals, the marriage system, the taboos.’
    • ‘The Shakers were a unique Christian sect who valued dance and song as part of their religious ritual.’
    • ‘They bring in priests and religious officials to perform rituals over the garrison, hoping it will drive me away.’
    • ‘Information on matters such as celebration of births, the coming of age and marriage and ceremonial rituals at funerals were shared.’
    • ‘The healing and inspiring power of music has always been as vital to Christian rituals as its celebratory character and overt physicality.’
    • ‘More important than language are nonverbal communication patterns - modes of greeting, social customs and religious rituals.’
    • ‘So instead John started performing the baptismal ritual.’
    • ‘They cheer US forces for bringing down a despised regime and delight in their newfound freedom to talk frankly or celebrate long-forbidden religious rituals.’
    • ‘As soon as he took the castle, he performed an ancient ritual which gave him the power of a king.’
    • ‘For example, three Balinese texts discuss an ancient ritual called the Crow Ceremony that precedes an attack on another region.’
    • ‘The prominent role played by singing in the religious rituals of many cultures is exemplified in the central position of the early Christian Church in the development of the Western singing tradition.’
    • ‘The couple begins their wedding day with a religious ritual in the early morning and by receiving blessings from monks.’
    • ‘Funerals were the most persistent religious ritual during the socialist era.’
    • ‘The ancient religious traditions still have something to contribute to this search because many religious rituals are closely connected to the seasons and to the natural world.’
    • ‘Many parts of this ceremony evolved from much older, even ancient, rituals conducted for those facing imminent death, the gravely ill as well the criminal or the martyr.’
    • ‘In 492, the year following the construction of the mingtang at the Northern Wei capital, rituals of worship and sacrifice to the legendary Chinese emperors of antiquity were initiated.’
    • ‘Most Catalans mark major events such as baptism and marriage with the appropriate religious ritual.’
    • ‘Such imposing classical receptacles are associated with pagan temples, worship and libations, and they thus introduce a sense of solemn ritual and ceremony.’
    • ‘Many native peoples believed that tobacco was a gift from powerful deities who would respond whenever humans burned or smoked it in religious rituals.’
    formalities, proceedings, business, rigmarole, ado, ceremony, rite, celebration, festivity
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    1. 1.1 The prescribed order of performing a ceremony, especially one characteristic of a particular religion or church.
      • ‘The liturgicals saw the road to salvation in joining the particular church, obeying its rituals, and making use of its sacraments; the individual was not alone with only his emotions and the state to protect him.’
      • ‘A woman who decides not to observe the rituals and customs dictated by religion has always been seen as a harbinger of conflict, disorder and pain within a family.’
      • ‘There were no clan leaders to begin the deliberations with the customary religious rituals.’
      • ‘For Catholics the ‘works’ of the sacraments necessarily involved the physical rituals prescribed by the Church.’
      • ‘The main Muslim religious ritual is prayer five times a day.’
      • ‘What did the local people believe would happen if people failed to observe the rituals in the ceremony?’
      ceremony, rite, ceremonial, observance
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    2. 1.2 A series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.
      ‘her visits to Joy became a ritual’
      • ‘She likes everything to be in the right place at the right time, and she has these rituals which she always follows.’
      • ‘Indonesians expect foreign executives to act out elaborate rituals of etiquette as a precondition for establishing a good working relationship.’
      • ‘There I washed my face, a morning and nightly ritual, to wake me up.’
      • ‘The nightly washings were a ritual for them both.’
      • ‘Completing my nightly ritual, I kissed the paper twice, and then tucked it under my pillow to aide in good dreams.’
      • ‘Dinner at his place became a nightly ritual, one that I looked forward to more and more the longer we did it.’
      • ‘The night tennis was getting to be a nightly ritual.’
      • ‘There was no elaborate ritual to follow, no waiting by the phone until Wednesday for a Saturday night date, no guessing whether he'd call at all.’
      • ‘Each of these chapters has been designed and written as a specific entity following a ritual combining chronological and thematic approaches.’
      • ‘Checking the soccer results was a ritual they followed most Saturday evenings during the soccer season.’
      • ‘On holiday here - and it's more than simply being on holiday - there are certain rituals that have to be followed.’
      • ‘On a weekend trip to Seattle in January 2002, my friends and I delight in noticing the peculiarities of American behaviour and ritual.’
      • ‘She began her normal ritual of making dinner, followed by a soothing bubble bath.’
      • ‘I climb into bed after my nightly rituals and set my alarm for 9: 30 AM.’
      • ‘He finished his other routine hygiene rituals, meticulously following some unwritten agenda.’
      • ‘It was time for their bedtime snack: cheese, crackers and tea; a nightly ritual for as long as Sarah remembered.’
      • ‘My grandmother screamed at them in Italian while they were cleaning their guns, a nightly ritual.’
      • ‘I liked the fact that you invariably showed up at our Friday afternoon Happy Hour ritual in the courtyard when we all unwound after an intense week of studies.’
      • ‘My parents had both given me puzzled look but proceeded to do their nightly rituals of either going over their case, or reading over a new fashion magazine.’
      • ‘Standing up from the table where the teens had been playing a board game, a regular ritual at the Easter banquet, she stretched her arms out and yawned.’


  • 1attributive Relating to or done as a religious or solemn rite.

    ‘ritual burial’
    • ‘After the ritual blessing, the relic was replaced in its casket.’
    • ‘When writers referred to ritual dance around the turn of the century, they introduced ideas of religious activities into the discussion.’
    • ‘The defendant was accused of murder, a ritual killing.’
    • ‘Food consumption is a vital part of ritual celebrations.’
    • ‘Contemporary concerns with cleanliness and purity are bound up with religious and ritual uses of water in the past.’
    • ‘Tantra set out ritual practices, religious proscriptions, yogic techniques, and philosophical doctrine.’
    • ‘His duties are to lead prayers and to perform ritual sacrifices on religious holidays and special occasions.’
    • ‘There are wedding songs, ritual songs, cult songs, lullabies, healing songs, and work songs.’
    • ‘Even in ancient times, spas were highly technical buildings with practical and ritual traditions.’
    • ‘During this period, there are dances, and ritual sacrifices of animals.’
    • ‘In ritual life, the arts, such as dance and body painting, serve as a counterforce to evil and generate energy.’
    • ‘During the ritual ceremonies and dances, Hopi men wear elaborate costumes that include special headdresses, masks, and body paints.’
    • ‘The slain bodies of the townspeople had been given the ritual burial, cremated in the fire, their souls sent to the afterlife to live in peace.’
    • ‘The island's men perform ritual dances to attract wives in this matriarchal society.’
    • ‘It was a place of ritual burial from c. 2000 BC, long before the arrival of the Celts in Ireland.’
    • ‘At the centre of religious and ritual practice is a division between ‘this’ and ‘the other’ world.’
    • ‘In Gypsy custom, ritual purification is the road to health.’
    • ‘After death, the family performs rites for the benefit of the departed and undertakes a ritual purification of the home.’
    • ‘Other studies have, however, documented the richness of religious and ritual practice in contemporary Vietnam.’
    • ‘She realized they were dancing a ritual dance, a dance to an unknown deity.’
    formal, official, state, public
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    1. 1.1 (of an action) arising from convention or habit.
      ‘the players gathered for the ritual pregame huddle’
      • ‘My uncle's invitations grew more frequent, and we went through the same ritual many times.’
      • ‘The ritual humiliation and abuse begin immediately and rapidly threaten to spiral out of control.’
      • ‘He is unflinching in his descriptions of the ritual humiliations of a writer in Hollywood.’
      • ‘The surreal ritual humiliation endured as he denounced me while completing my $31 purchase.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, the girls were having their own little ritual opening night chat.’
      • ‘As I grew, the dream seemed to come every month or so, like a ritual meeting, I later found that every full moon I would have the dream.’
      ceremonial, ritualistic, prescribed, set, formal, stately, solemn, dignified, celebratory, sacramental, liturgical
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Late 16th century (as an adjective): from Latin ritualis, from ritus (see rite).