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From Middle English congregacioun, from Old French congregacion, from Latin congregātiō, itself from congregō (to herd into a flock). Adopted (1520s) by the English Bible translator William Tyndale, to render the Ancient Greek ἐκκλησία (ekklēsía, those called together, (popular) meeting) (hence Latin ecclēsia) in his New Testament, and preferred by 16th century Reformers instead of church.



congregation (countable and uncountable, plural congregations)

  1. The act of congregating or collecting together.
  2. A gathering of faithful in a temple, church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship. It can also refer to the people who are present at a devotional service in the building, particularly in contrast to the pastor, minister, imam, rabbi etc. and/or choir, who may be seated apart from the general congregation or lead the service (notably in responsory form).
    • 2021 January 13, Bethan McKernan, “Turkey drought: Istanbul could run out of water in 45 days”, in The Guardian[1]:
      The critically low level of rainfall in the second half of 2020 – approaching 50% year on year for November – led the religious affairs directorate to instruct imams and their congregations to pray for rain last month.
  3. A Roman Congregation, a main department of the Vatican administration of the Catholic Church.
  4. A corporate body whose members gather for worship, or the members of such a body.
  5. Any large gathering of people.
    • 1998, Carley Roney, The Knot's Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World: The Ultimate Source of Ideas, Advice, and Relief for the Bride and Groom and Those who Love Them[2], Broadway Books, →ISBN, →LCCN, →OCLC, page 94:
      During the wedding ( usually held on a Saturday ) , you and your committee sit on " facing benches ” before the rest of the congregation ( your guests ) . Everyone worships silently until you two feel that it's time to say your vows .
  6. A flock of various birds, such as plovers or eagles.
    • 1893 September 27, The Bazaar, the Exchange and Mart, London, page 800, column 3:
      "Oh! I wasted most of my morning crawling to a murmuration of starlings, which I foolishly mistook for congregation of plover."
  7. (UK, Oxford University) The main body of university staff, comprising academics, administrative staff, heads of colleges, etc.

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