Definition of sanctuary in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsaNGk(t)SHəˌwerē/

noun (plural sanctuaries)

1A place of refuge or safety: people automatically sought a sanctuary in time of trouble his sons took sanctuary in the church
More example sentences
  • His shunning of the rest for the more difficult shots demonstrated a confidence not normal for such an arena, while he went for pots where mere mortals would have sought safety sanctuary.
  • The Waterford technique also provided this patient a place of refuge or sanctuary where she could retreat and find safety.
  • Without foot patrols, drug dealers took sanctuary in these areas and set up shop.
refuge, haven, harbor, port in a storm, oasis, shelter, retreat, hideaway, hideout
safety, protection, shelter, immunity, asylum
2 [usually with modifier] A nature reserve: a bird sanctuary
More example sentences
  • Traditionally conservation has focused on national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests, but this project goes to show that by co-opting private land owners, much can be achieved.
  • Regions once preserved as national parks, sanctuaries, and havens for wildlife have no laws, regulations, or societal values to protect them.
  • Wildlife sanctuaries and national parks are cornerstones of bio-diversity conservation of the country and will remain so in future, unless danger of the arrogant ‘only for humans’ view.
reserve, park, reservation, preserve
3A holy place; a temple or church.
Example sentences
  • In Jerusalem the sanctuary of the temple was called the Holy Place and was between the court and the Holy of Holies.
  • It was replaced by the older form, shrine Shinto, the worship of kami in shrines or sanctuaries, tended by priests.
  • The sense of place as a point of access to and focus for the sacred informs Pausanias's description of the Greek world, with its enumeration of cities and sanctuaries, their sacred shrines and associated rituals.
3.1The inmost recess or holiest part of a temple or church.
Example sentences
  • It was to this precinct that the survivors of the attack retreated, barricading themselves into the inner sanctuary of the temple, which was burned to the ground with them in it.
  • A photograph of the balustrade and the underside of the eaves of the main sanctuary at the inner shrine extends to the edge of all four sides of the left page with no frame.
  • Then we confront a full view of the main sanctuary shot from the southwest corner of the inner compound.
3.2The part of the chancel of a church containing the high altar.
Example sentences
  • On entering the Church, he noticed pieces of stained glass strewn over the sanctuary and on the altar table.
  • The service takes place in the sanctuary, which contains an altar table and an oblation table.
  • Many sermons die in the sanctuary because preachers try to say too many things and give too much extraneous information.


Middle English (sense 3): from Old French sanctuaire, from Latin sanctuarium, from sanctus 'holy'. The early sense 'a church or other sacred place where a fugitive was immune, by the law of the medieval church, from arrest' gave rise to sense 1 and sense 2.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: sanc·tu·ar·y

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