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From Middle English ablucioun (cleansing of impurities), from Old French ablution, and its source, Late Latin ablūtiō (a washing away), from abluō (wash away), from ab- (away) +‎ lavō (wash)[1].



ablution (countable and uncountable, plural ablutions)

  1. The act of washing something.
    1. (chemistry) Originally, the purifying of oils and other substances by emulsification with hot water; now more generally, a thorough cleansing of a precipitate or other non-dissolved substance. [First attested from around 1350 to 1470.][2]
    2. The act of washing or cleansing the body, or some part of it, as a religious rite. [From mid 16th century.][2]
      • 1786, William Beckford, Vathek; an Arabian Tale:
        Let water be brought to perform my ablutions, and let the pious Fakreddin be called to offer up his prayers with mine.
    3. (literary or humorous, usually in the plural) Washing oneself; bathing, cleaning oneself up. [From mid 18th century.][2]
      • 1835, William Gilmore Simms, The Partisan, Harper, Chapter II, page 25:
        He followed the steps of Bella, who soon conducted him to his chamber, and left him to those ablutions which a long ride along a sandy road had rendered particularly necessary.
      • 2005, J. M. Coetzee, “Four”, in Slow Man, New York: Viking, →ISBN, page 28:
        She treats him not as a doddering old fool but as a man hampered in his movements by injury. Patiently, without baby-talk, she helps him through his ablutions.
      • 2021 May 6, Maria Cramer, “See Fewer People. Take Fewer Showers.”, in The New York Times[1], ISSN 0362-4331:
        There are now indications that it has caused some Americans to become more spartan when it comes to ablutions.
    4. (Western Christianity) The rinsing of the priest's hand and the sacred vessel following the Communion with, depending on rite, water or a mix of it and wine, which may then be drunk by the priest. [from 17th c.]
  2. The liquid used in the cleansing or ablution. [From early 18th century.][2]
  3. (Eastern Orthodoxy) The ritual consumption by the deacon or priest of leftover sacred wine of host after the Communion.
  4. (plural only, UK, military) The location or building where the showers and basins are located. [From mid 20th century.][2]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


  1. ^ Elliott K. Dobbie, C. William Dunmore, Robert K. Barnhart, et al. (editors), Chambers Dictionary of Etymology (Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, 2004 [1998], →ISBN), page 3
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors (2002), “ablution”, in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 5-6.




Learned borrowing from Latin ablūtiō.



ablution f (plural ablutions)

  1. (Western Christianity) Ritual rinsing of the priest's hand; ablution
  2. (rare) a washing, especially ritual

Usage notes[edit]

  • The various other meanings of the word are usually only used in the plural.

Derived terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]