Word: ecclesiastical

Pronunciation: ə-klee-zee-A-stə-k(ə)l

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: of or relating to the Christian Church or its clergy

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


He had a special passion, also, for ecclesiastical vestments, as indeed he had for everything connected with the service of the Church.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde, 1891)

So I’ve been reading Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I have to admit that the novel has me utterly fascinated. Considering it was written at the end of the 19th century, it obviously contains a handful of words uncommon to modern vocabulary that I could pick out for this segment, so I randomly chose one of the words that had me reaching for the dictionary (read: built-in dictionary widget) the moment I read it. The above excerpt, taken from the chapter detailing the various fleeting pleasures in which Dorian indulges himself throughout his life, mentions his passion for clothing and other items related to the Church. Being one to readily succumb to temptation and sin, one can only imagine where Mr. Gray’s “ecclesiastical” obsession came from!

Anything “ecclesiastical” is related to the Church and/or its clergy. The word is the adjective form of the noun “ecclesiastic” (“a priest or member of the clergy”), which arose in late Middle English and traces back through the French adjective ecclésiastique and the Latin adjective ecclesiasticus to the Greek noun ekklēsia, meaning “assembly” or “church”. This noun stems from the adjective ékklētos, which means “summoned”.

While “ecclesiastical” is apparently limited to contexts referencing the Church and its clergy, I admit I like the sound of the word enough to consider writing a scene in a religious setting just for the excuse to use it. It may be worth noting that the noun form “ecclesiastic” can also function as an adjective with the same meaning as “ecclesiastical”, though this usage is considerably less common in modern English. If your stories tend to include religious characters or settings, you could make great use of some “ecclesiastical” details!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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