From Middle English seyntuarie, from Old French saintuaire, from Late Latin sanctuarium (a sacred place, a shrine, a private cabinet, in Medieval Latin also temple, church, churchyard, cemetery, right of asylum), from Latin sanctus (holy, sacred); see saint.



sanctuary (plural sanctuaries)

  1. A place of safety, refuge, or protection.
    • 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], OCLC 21345056, page 315:
      She saw him, even as she had last gazed upon him, pale, cold, and awful; but still he was there. The coffin was to her like a shrine; all that she held most dear and most precious was within its dark and silent sanctuary.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, “Foreword”, in The China Governess[1]:
      ‘I understand that the district was considered a sort of sanctuary,’ the Chief was saying. ‘An Alsatia like the ancient one behind the Strand, or the Saffron Hill before the First World War. […]’
    My car is a sanctuary, where none can disturb me except for people who cut me off.
  2. An area set aside for protection.
    The bird sanctuary has strict restrictions on visitors so the birds aren't disturbed.
  3. A state of being protected, asylum.
    The government granted sanctuary to the defector, protecting him from his former government.
  4. The consecrated (or sacred) area of a church or temple around its tabernacle or altar.


Synonyms of sanctuary


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