From Middle English *chirchely, *chirchelich, from Old English ċiriclīċ (ecclesiastical), equivalent to church +‎ -ly. Cognate with Scots kirkly (ecclesiastical), Dutch kerkelijk (ecclesiastic, ecclesiastical), German kirchlich (ecclesiastical, religious, ecclesiastic), Swedish kyrklig (ecclesiastical). Compare also churchlike.


churchly (comparative churchlier, superlative churchliest)

  1. Pertaining to or relating to the church, its government, forms, or ceremonies; ecclesiastical.
    Synonyms: churchical, churchlike
    • 1890, Jens Christian Jensson, American Lutheran biographies:
      [...] upon getting their hearts right in the sight of God, confident, meanwhile, that then all churchly things would not only be conserved, but gathered into right form.
  2. Devoted to, or inclined to attach great importance to, the order and ritual of a particular section of the Christian church.
    • 1890, Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, East Anglian:
      And in the Smiths of Stratford, in Suffolk, of whom we would now discourse, a middle class family of no great opulence, we have signs of the churchly instinct passing down from generation to generation, [...]
  3. In accordance with ecclesiastical standards or ceremonies; appropriate for or befitting a church.
    churchly music
    • 1865, Samuel Philips, The Christian Home:
      The church was in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, in the tent of Abraham, and in the palace of David. It must be in every Christian home, and every Christian home must be in the church. In a word, our families must be churchly.
  4. Characteristic of a church; churchy.

Derived termsEdit