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Inherited from Middle English consistorie, from Old Northern French consistorie (secular tribunal) (Old French consistoire), and Late Latin consistorium (waiting room, meeting place of the imperial council). Meaning "Church council" is from early 14th century.


  • IPA(key): /kənˈsɪstəɹi/
    • (file)


consistory (plural consistories)

  1. A solemn assembly or council.
  2. The spiritual court of a diocesan bishop held before his chancellor or commissioner in his cathedral church or elsewhere.
    • 1860-1876, Walter Hook, Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury
      In 1551 we find Bertholier excommunicated by the consistory because he would not allow that he had done wrong in asserting that he was as good a man as Calvin
  3. An assembly of prelates; a session of the college of cardinals at Rome.
    • 1631, Francis [Bacon], “(please specify |century=I to X)”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] William Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], →OCLC:
      Pius [] [was] then hearing of causes in consistory.
  4. A church tribunal or governing body, especially of elders in a Reformed church.
  5. (obsolete, Early Modern) A civil court of justice.
    • 1566, John Rastell, The Third Book, Declaring by Examples out of Ancient Councels, Fathers, and Later Writers, that it is Time to Beware of M. Iewel, Antwerp, folio 23r:
      And so were many greate and heighnous maters Obiected against S. Ambrose, because he refused to haue the cause betwene himselfe and the Heretike Auxentius, to be tried in the Consistorie of the Emperour, before Secular Iudges.