Definition of sanctuary in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsaŋ(k)tjʊəri/

noun (plural sanctuaries)

1 [mass noun] Refuge or safety from pursuit, persecution, or other danger: his sons took sanctuary in the church [count noun]: she thought of her room as a sanctuary
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, harbour, port in a storm, oasis, shelter, retreat, bolt-hole, foxhole, hideout, hiding place, hideaway, den, asylum, safe house, fastness;
Spanish querencia
safety, safe keeping, protection, shelter, security, immunity, asylum
2A 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, wildlife reserve, nature reserve, reservation, preserve, home, shelter;
Australian/New Zealand  conservation park
2.1A place where injured or unwanted animals of a specified kind are cared for: a donkey sanctuary
More example sentences
  • The Fauna Foundation started out originally as a sanctuary for unwanted farm animals.
  • Horses, ponies and donkeys are overcrowding animal sanctuaries after being abandoned by their owners.
  • The Center also serves as a sanctuary for injured or orphaned animals that could not survive in the wild.
3A holy place; a temple: the sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena
More 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.
holy place, temple, shrine, tabernacle, altar, sanctum, inner sanctum, holy of holies, sacrarium, bema, naos, adytum;
Latin sanctum sanctorum;
Architecture  presbytery
3.1The inmost recess or holiest part of a temple: the inner sanctuary where the reliquary was kept
More 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 (in sense 3): from Old French sanctuaire, from Latin sanctuarium, from sanctus 'holy'. Early use in reference to 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, sense 2.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sanc|tu¦ary

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.