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Borrowed from Middle French reliquaire (modern French reliquaire), from Late Latin reliquiarium, from rēliquia (a relic) (English relic), noun use of reliquus (abandoned, left behind, relict), from relinquō (I relinquish), from re- (again) and linquō (I leave), from Proto-Indo-European *leikʷ-.


  • IPA(key): /ˈɹɛlɪkwɛɹi/, /ˈɹɛlɪkwəɹi/
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reliquary (plural reliquaries)

  1. A container to hold or display religious relics.
    • 1935, Francis Beeding, “4/1”, in The Norwich Victims[1]:
      “… There is an ivory virgin of the fourteenth century. I once found a buyer for that piece, but the old boy would not sell it. [] The other piece—the one that concerns us—is known as the Borgia reliquary.”
    • 2009 February 13, Holland Cotter, “To Bump Off Art as He Knew It”, in New York Times[2]:
      And whether you think of those little cans as intellectual puzzles or reliquaries or scams, there are surprises inside.
  2. (figuratively) An object that sustains the memory of past people or events.
  3. (law) A person who owes a balance.

Related terms[edit]