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From Middle English seyntuarie, from Old French saintuaire, from Late Latin sanctuarium (a sacred place, a shrine, a private cabinet, in Medieval Latin also temple, church, churchyard, cemetery, right of asylum), from Latin sanctus (holy, sacred); see saint.



sanctuary (plural sanctuaries)

  1. A place of safety, refuge, or protection.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, “Foreword”, in The China Governess[1]:
      ‘I understand that the district was considered a sort of sanctuary,’ the Chief was saying. ‘An Alsatia like the ancient one behind the Strand, or the Saffron Hill before the First World War. […]’
    My car is a sanctuary, where none can disturb me except for people who cut me off.
  2. An area set aside for protection.
    The bird sanctuary has strict restrictions on visitors so the birds aren't disturbed.
  3. A state of being protected, asylum.
    The government granted sanctuary to the defector, protecting him from his former government.
  4. The consecrated (or sacred) area of a church or temple around its tabernacle or altar.



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