Definition of sacrifice in US English:



  • 1An act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure.

    ‘they offer sacrifices to the spirits’
    ‘the ancient laws of animal sacrifice’
    • ‘She gives daily discourses emphasizing that the ritual sacrifice of animals or birds is a crime.’
    • ‘Relations with the ancestors and respect for Nyamwezi traditions are maintained through ritual activity such as animal sacrifices and other ceremonies.’
    • ‘Churches that have not been abandoned entirely are used for occult rites, animal sacrifices, and Black Masses.’
    • ‘Animal sacrifice was at the heart of Ugaritic ritual.’
    • ‘Animal sacrifice accompanies almost every ritual and ceremonial event in Nepali life.’
    • ‘Their fathers may ‘buy them back’ by offering an animal sacrifice in their son's stead.’
    • ‘Their activities included group prayers and animal sacrifices for various spirits.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In fact they expurgated any reference to animal sacrifices from their liturgy.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It spells out proper procedures for construction of the altar for ceremonial sacrifices and other rituals.’
    • ‘The practice of santeria involves healing rituals, spirit possession, and animal sacrifice.’
    • ‘In the case of animal sacrifices, the animal took the sinner's place and died as a substitute.’
    • ‘During this period, there are dances, and ritual sacrifices of animals.’
    • ‘But, in precise religious terminology, the word was later confined to the sacrifice of an animal slaughtered for the sake of Allah.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘When the Jews made ritual sacrifices of food and animals, they often burned incense along with it.’
    • ‘Among the expressions of this religion are fire walking, animal sacrifices, and rituals of possession by a deity or ancestor.’
    ritual slaughter, hecatomb, immolation, offering, oblation
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    1. 1.1 An animal, person, or object offered in a sacrifice.
      • ‘And when Aslan rises, the ancient stone altar on which the sacrifice was offered cracks and crumbles in pieces, never to be used again.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This is where Abraham went up to offer Isaac as a sacrifice and later remarked as the Bible records.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Perhaps they themselves offered the innocent beast as a sacrifice to God.’
      • ‘In 7th century India members of the Thug cult would ritually strangle passers-by as sacrifices to the Hindu deity, Kali.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Stassen observes that pigs were used as a sacrifice to Roman gods.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      offering, votive offering, gift, oblation, victim, burnt offering
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    2. 1.2 An 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’
      • ‘More often than not, they are also forced by their tight economic situation into making sacrifices with regard to environmental quality.’
      • ‘It means you have to leave home and that requires a big sacrifice in terms of leaving your family behind.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Sometimes we have to make sacrifices, in order to continue with more important things.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The losses and sacrifices suffered in terms of academic advancement had been construed to be the destiny of life.’
      • ‘That dynamic is important because it spurs the individuals to make sacrifices for the good of the team.’
      • ‘After all, both in reality and cinema, heroism consists of self-sacrifice: the sacrifice of life and freedom.’
      • ‘Lex's quite excellent regard for the incredible sacrifices of the Russians during the war is a perspective we need to take.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Other veterans spoke about serving our country during peacetime and how important it is for citizens to make sacrifices for their freedom.’
      • ‘For its part, Britain has to demonstrate that it considers the project so important that it, too, is prepared to make sacrifices.’
      • ‘An entrepreneur must be prepared to make a sacrifice in terms of finances and overall quality 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.’
      • ‘Who understands that sometimes you have to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      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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    3. 1.3Christian Church Christ's offering of himself in the Crucifixion.
      • ‘Did he die as the Lamb of God - an atoning sacrifice to bear away our sins?’
      • ‘But, more than that, His death was a sacrifice offered to the Father in payment for our sins.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The bread and wine are symbols of the work of Christ on the cross, saving us by the sacrifice of His body and blood.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Is Jesus Christ our High Priest Who sat down at the right hand of God after His sacrifice as the Messiah?’
      • ‘This has been accomplished in the faithful obedience of the Lord Christ Jesus and His propitiatory sacrifice.’
      • ‘God provided a second Adam - a perfect Adam who could be the perfect sacrifice… God himself came to earth as a man.’
      • ‘There He offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, and allowed the wrath of God which we deserved, to fall on His own head.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He came to die for the ungodly and offer Himself as a sacrifice to God for their salvation.’
      • ‘Thus, within this horizon of understanding, Jesus and Jesus alone was capable of offering an acceptable sacrifice to God.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Christians can only be saved by the grace of God, through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The clusters of white and purple grapes and red cherries recall Christ's sacrifice and the Eucharistic sacrament, which open the way to redemption.’
    4. 1.4Christian Church 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.
      • ‘We are committed by that Baptism to share in the celebration of this faith in a common sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.’
      • ‘This sacrament is called the Eucharist because it is the Church's sacrifice of praise and 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.’
      • ‘The Sacrifice of the Mass in no way detracts from the sacrifice which Christ offered on the Cross.’
      • ‘The point is what God has done, and is doing in the Mass, reconciling the world to Himself through the sacrifice of Christ.’
      • ‘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.’
    5. 1.5Chess A move intended to allow the opponent to win a pawn or piece, for strategic or tactical reasons.
      • ‘Isn't the sacrifice of a pawn a bit extreme, though?’
      • ‘Piece sacrifices of dubious merit are not a very good way to play against computers.’
      • ‘The pawn sacrifice throws the black pieces off guard and the white rooks are ready for an invasion.’
      • ‘He followed up blundering a pawn with a piece sacrifice of the desperate sort.’
      • ‘Watson spends a chapter looking at positional pawn sacrifices, with particular attention given to its handling by Kasparov.’
    6. 1.6Baseball A bunted ball that puts the batter out but allows a base runner or runners to advance.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The next batter, pitcher Don Wilson advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt.’
    7. 1.7Bridge 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.
      • ‘The ‘guillotine card’ is to be used when your crazy partner makes a vulnerable sacrifice against non-vulnerable opponents.’
      • ‘Expert players are often able to judge exactly when to make a sacrifice bid.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Sometimes, a player will make a sacrifice bid and the leader will ‘meld out’ anyway.’
      • ‘The Jack is your Knight and as such can always be played from a target player's hand as a sacrifice defender.’


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

    ‘the goat was sacrificed at the shrine’
    • ‘When the Temple at Jerusalem was the centre of Jewish life, Jews would go there at Pilgrim Festivals to sacrifice a lamb or goat.’
    • ‘He brings with him their Queen Tamora and her three sons, the eldest of whom, Alarbus, is sacrificed to avenge his own sons' deaths.’
    • ‘Then there is the Dakshinkhali Temple, where goats and chickens are sacrificed to a hungry goddess.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Certain cattle-herding tribes in the south place great symbolic and spiritual value on cows, which sometimes are sacrificed in religious rituals.’
    • ‘Muslims may not eat any food that has been sacrificed to idols, but kosher is fine.’
    • ‘People making a pilgrimage (religious journey) are expected to sacrifice a goat or sheep and offer the meat to the poor.’
    • ‘A chicken was sacrificed to safeguard them and to ensure their good behavior.’
    • ‘Five full-grown male bulls were killed and sacrificed to the gods and goddesses.’
    • ‘The Bible warns against idol worship, of Moloch, for example, in which human beings, especially children, are sacrificed to appease or please a god.’
    • ‘Iphigenia was sacrificed to the goddess Artemis by Agamemnon so that the Greek fleet could sail away to Troy.’
    • ‘In their homelands a horse would have been sacrificed to the old gods.’
    offer up, immolate, slaughter
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    1. 1.1 Give up (something important or valued) for the sake of other considerations.
      ‘working hard doesn't mean sacrificing your social life’
      • ‘We can never sacrifice democracy and the values of liberty in favour of social change.’
      • ‘The commitments made to Italian workers on employment creation were increasingly sacrificed to meet targets on reduced public expenditure.’
      • ‘Is housing in such desperately short supply that a historic building must be sacrificed for the sake of five flats?’
      • ‘Other democratic states, faced with terrorism, have sacrificed liberty for the sake of order and come to regret it.’
      • ‘But the good of the sport and the enjoyment of the fans should not be sacrificed for the sake of money or petty politics.’
      • ‘Sadly this is a show whose theory has more to offer than its substance; in which aesthetics have been sacrificed to rhetoric.’
      • ‘Animal welfare should not, it said, be sacrificed to religious freedom.’
      • ‘Agriculture must not, under any circumstances, be sacrificed for the sake of an overall trade agreement.’
      • ‘Expertise was sacrificed for the sake of political expediency, with unfortunate results.’
      • ‘Salem has made it clear that it won't sacrifice its values for profit, even stating so in its annual report.’
      • ‘In accepting money from Washington, religious groups will inevitably sacrifice a degree of independence.’
      • ‘Characterisation has been sacrificed for the sake of spectacle.’
      • ‘Quality of life in this world should not have to be sacrificed for the sake of some hypothetical compensation in the world to come.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Today, the privatisation of social services means that children are sacrificed for the sake of profit more than ever.’
      • ‘‘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.’
      • ‘Fortunately, the band doesn't sacrifice quality for the sake of variety.’
      • ‘It's interesting how he notes when and where the comedy was severely sacrificed for the sake of the message.’
      give up, abandon, surrender, forgo, renounce, forfeit, relinquish, resign, abdicate, sign away, yield, cede, waive
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    2. 1.2Chess Deliberately allow one's opponent to win (a pawn or piece).
      • ‘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!’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
    3. 1.3Baseball Advance (a base runner) by a sacrifice.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Paul Simes and Andrew Hunter then singled to load the bases and Brad Daly sacrificed Robb home for a 2-0 lead.’
      • ‘Lee led off with a single, and after Gonzalez struck out, Penny sacrificed the runner to second.’
      • ‘Luis Aparicio then sacrificed runners to second and third followed by a Nellie Fox intentional walk.’
    4. 1.4Bridge no object Make a sacrifice bid.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘You may raise to put pressure on the opponents, to compete for the contract or to sacrifice.’


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