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From Middle English secte, from Old French secte (a sect in philosophy or religion), from Late Latin secta (a sect in philosophy or religion, a school, party, faction, class, gild, band, particularly a heretical doctrine or sect, etc.), possibly, from Latin sequi (to follow). Alternatively linked to sectus (cut off, divided), past participle of secō.


  • IPA(key): /sɛkt/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛkt


sect (plural sects)

  1. An offshoot of a larger religion; a group sharing particular (often unorthodox) political and/or religious beliefs.
    A religious sect.
  2. A group following a specific ideal or a leader.
    • 1984, Steven M. Tipton, Getting Saved from the Sixties: Moral Meaning in Conversion and Cultural Change, University of California Press, →ISBN, page 104:
      Zen Center welcomes visitors, guests, and prospective students, but it does not engage in systematic institutional or network recruiting of new members, unlike the Christian sect and Erhard Seminars Training.
    • 1995, Flo Conway, Jim Siegelman, Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change, Stillpoint Press, Inc., →ISBN, page 161:
      Every person who is not a fellow member, and every social, religious and political institution that lies outside the sect's domain, is portrayed as a representative of Satan's world. In our research, we found that Moonies and members of many Christian sects with similar religious and political doctrines often focus on such beliefs to the exclusion of all other thought.
    • 1995, Stuart A. Wright, Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict, University Of Chicago Press, →ISBN, page 207:
      Peoples Temple and the Branch Davidians both approximated the 'apocalyptic sect' as an ideal type. In such sects the end of the world is taken as a central tenet.
    • 1996, John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, Harvest House Publishers, →ISBN, page 216:
      There are scores of modern religious cults and sects that have been influenced by Hinduism to varying degrees. Werner Erhard, founder of 'Landmark Education's 'The Forum',' and 'est' seminars, which have about 700,000 graduates, was influenced by Hinduism through Swami Muktananda, one of Erhard's principal gurus.
    • 1998, Mary McCormick Maaga, Hearing the Voices of Jonestown, Syracuse University Press, →ISBN, page 75:
      The Indiana Peoples Temple was essentially a sect, which was joined by new religious movement members in California, which then recruited black church members as it focused its ministry on the residents of urban California.
    • 1999, R. C. S. Trahair, Utopias and Utopians: An Historical Dictionary, Greenwood, →ISBN, page 47:
      Branch Davidians are a modern religious sect that claims to be an offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The church renounced any connection with the sect in the 1930s.
  3. (obsolete) A cutting; a scion.



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Lower Sorbian[edit]




  1. supine of sec

Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of secte