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The adytum (sense 1) of Temple E at Selinunte in Sicily, Italy, is the walled-off room to the left of the people in the photograph

Borrowed from Latin adytum, from Ancient Greek ἄδυτον (áduton, innermost sanctuary; shrine).



adytum (plural adytums or adyta)

  1. (Ancient Greece, religion) The innermost sanctuary or shrine in a temple, from where oracles were given.
    Synonyms: (archaic, poetic) adyt, adyton
    • 1740, William Stukeley, “Of the Cell or Adytum of Stonehenge. Of the Surgeons Amphitheater, London.”, in Stonehenge: A Temple Restor’d to the British Druids, London: Printed for W. Innys and R. Manby, [], OCLC 1074660329, page 23:
      Let us now with minds free of paſſion, enter the adytum with an intent to find out its true figure, to examine what it really was, and what it is. [] This point is properly the door-way or entrance into the adytum, as a wicket or little door, whilſt the jambs of the hithermoſt trilithons preſent themſelves, as the greater door, of about 40 feet wide, 25 cubits. [] [T]he more ſacred part of the temple at Hierapolis anſwering to our Adytum, had no door, tho' none enter'd therein but the chief prieſts.
    • 1794, Pausanias, chapter XXXII, in [Thomas Taylor], transl., The Description of Greece, by Pausanias. Translated from the Greek. [] In Three Volumes, volume III, London: Printed for R. Faulder, [], OCLC 745286353, book X (Phocics), pages 195–196:
      At the diſtance of about forty ſtadia from this temple of Æſculapius, there is an incloſure; and in it there is an adytum ſacred to Iſis. This is the moſt holy of every thing which the Greeks conſecrate to this goddeſs. For the Tithoreans neither think it proper to take up their reſidence there, nor to ſuffer any to enter the adytum, except ſuch as the goddeſs Iſis informs them by a dream ſhe thinks proper to admit.
  2. (by extension) A private chamber; a sanctum.
    • 1829, Godfrey Higgins, chapter I, in The Celtic Druids; or, An Attempt to Shew, that the Druids were the Priests of Oriental Colonies who Emigrated from India, [], London: Rowland Hunter, []; Hurst & Chance []; and Ridgway and Sons, [], OCLC 682024750, section XXVI (Holy Fury), page 31:
      Although it was the custom for the priestesses to affect a holy fury, a species of temporary insanity, in the delivering of their oracles, yet it was also the custom to write them on the leaves of trees, and to deposit them at the entrances of their caves, or the adyta of their temples; and it was the object of the devotee to secure them before they were dispersed by the winds; []
    • 1846, G[eorge] Oliver, “Lecture XV. On the Number and Classification of the Workmen at the Building of King Solomon’s Temple.”, in The Historical Landmarks and Other Evidences of Freemasonry, Explained; [] In Two Volumes, volume I, London: Richard Spencer, [], OCLC 978086794, footnote 16, page 411:
      The adytums or inner circles of Abury and Stonehenge bear such an analogy to the holy of holies in Solomon's temple, as to induce the belief that they were formed subsequently to the temple of Jerusalem, with which the Tyrian workmen were quite familiar.
    • 1853 July, “Sketches on the Upper Mississippi”, in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, volume VII, number XXXVIII, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, publishers, [], OCLC 924884025, pages 185 and 186:
      [page 185] Before ascending the river to the Falls, I went up a beautiful clear stream that enters the Mississippi two miles above the capital, to visit Fountain Cave, a remarkable cavern out of which this tiny river flows. [] [page 186] The scene in the interior, illuminated by torches, and contemplated by an excited imagination, was truly enchanting; and I was anxious to penetrate the gloomy adytum still further.
    • 1864 April 14, A[lexander] Kinloch Forbes, “Art. II.—Puttun Somnath.”, in Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, volume VIII, number XXIII, Bombay: [Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic] Society’s Library, []; London: Trübner & Co., [], published January 1865, OCLC 17950940, page 54:
      The ground plan, which I now lay before the Society, shows all that is left of the temple of Somnath, the astytar mundup, namely, and the adytum. The building adheres very nearly to the usual form of a Goozerat temple, as above described, but is larger than most examples, and contains some interesting "episodes of plan," as they have been termed. The most happy of these occurs in the prudukshunâ or aisle for circumambulation around the adytum.
    • 1913 January, G[eorge] R[obert] S[towe] Mead, “Mystical Experiments on the Frontiers of Early Christendom”, in The Nineteenth Century and After: A Monthly Review, volume LXXIII, number CCCCXXXI, New York, N.Y.: Leonard Scott Publication Co.; London: Spottiswoode & Co. Ltd., printers, OCLC 1038091401, page 179:
      They [the Hermetists] met for instruction in a sacred place, an adytum or shrine, which was apparently set apart solely for this purpose, and where they believed they could create conditions suitable for the reception of the inspiration of the Divine Mind by the instructor and for the handing of it on to the pupils— []

Coordinate terms[edit]


Further reading[edit]



Etymology 1[edit]

From the Ancient Greek ἄδῠτον (áduton, innermost sanctuary”, “shrine), a substantivisation of the neuter forms of the adjective ἄδῠτος (ádutos, not to be entered).

Alternative forms[edit]

  • adytus (masculine fourth-declension collateral form)


adytum n (genitive adytī); second declension

  1. (literally) shrine, Holy of Holies (the innermost or most secret part of a temple or other sacred place; the sanctuary, which none but priests could enter, and from which oracles were delivered)
  2. (more generally) a secret place or chamber
  3. (transferred sense, of the dead) a grave, tomb, or mausoleum
    ab imīs adytīs
    from the innermost chambers [of a tomb]
  4. (figuratively) the inmost recesses
    ex adytō tamquam cordis respōnsa dēdere
    to yield answers as if from the inmost recesses of the soul

Second-declension noun (neuter).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative adytum adyta
Genitive adytī adytōrum
Dative adytō adytīs
Accusative adytum adyta
Ablative adytō adytīs
Vocative adytum adyta
  • English: adytum
  • Portuguese: ádito


  • ădytum in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • adytum in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • adytum in Charles du Fresne du Cange’s Glossarium Mediæ et Infimæ Latinitatis (augmented edition, 1883–1887)
  • ădy̆tum in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré Latin-Français, Hachette, page 69/3
  • adytum in Harry Thurston Peck, editor (1898) Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • adytum in William Smith et al., editor (1890) A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, London: William Wayte. G. E. Marindin

Etymology 2[edit]

See adytus.


adytum m

  1. accusative singular of adytus