AskDefine | Define liturgy

Dictionary Definition



1 a Christian sacrament commemorating the Last Supper by consecrating bread and wine [syn: Holy Eucharist, Eucharist, sacrament of the Eucharist, Holy Sacrament, Eucharistic liturgy, Lord's Supper]
2 a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship

User Contributed Dictionary



From Latin liturgia, from λειτουργία < λειτ-, from λαός, people + -ουργός < ἔργον, work (work of the people)


  1. A predetermined or prescribed set of rituals that are performed, usually by a religion. An official worship service of the Christian church.


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Extensive Definition

A liturgy is the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to their particular traditions. The word may refer to an elaborate formal ritual such as the Eastern Orthodox Divine Liturgy or Catholic Mass, or a daily activity such as the Muslim salat (see Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, p.582–3). Not infrequently in Christianity, a distinction is made between "liturgical" and "non-liturgical" churches based on the elaboration and/or antiquity of the worship, but this obscures the universality of public worship as a religious phenomenon. Thus, even the open or waiting worship of Quakers is liturgical, since the waiting itself until the spirit moves individuals to speak is a prescribed form of Quaker worship, sometimes referred to as "the liturgy of silence." Typically in Christianity, however, the term "the liturgy" normally refers to a standardized order of events observed during a religious service, be it a sacramental service or a service of public prayer.
As a religious phenomenon, liturgy is a communal response to the sacred through activity reflecting praise, thanksgiving, supplication, or repentance. Ritualization may be associated with life events such as birth, coming of age, marriage, and death. It thus forms the basis for establishing a relationship with a divine agency, as well as with other participants in the liturgy. Methods of dress, preparation of food, application of cosmetics or other hygienic practices are all considered liturgical activities. Repetitive formal rites, in some ways similar to liturgies, are natural and common in all human activities such as organized sports venues.


The word comes from the Classical Greek word λειτουργία (leitourgia) meaning "public work". In the Greek city-states, it had a different sense: some public good which a wealthy citizen arranged at his own expense, either voluntarily or by law. At Athens, the Assembly assigned liturgies to the wealthy, and there was a law by which any man who had been assigned a liturgy while a richer man had had none could challenge him either to undertake the liturgy or to exchange property with him.
The church use of the term comes from its frequent and historic use in the Greek text of the New Testament (eg Acts 13:2). It referred to a public and deliberate, well-defined ceremony. It is often translated as "minister" or "worship" in English language Bibles.


  • Bowker, John, ed. (1997) Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-213965-7.
  • Jones, Cheslyn, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Edward Yarnold, eds. (1978) ''The Study of Liturgy. London: SPCK.
  • "What Do Quakers Believe?". Quaker Information Center, Philadelphia, PA, 2004.
liturgy in Arabic: طقس ديني
liturgy in Czech: Liturgie
liturgy in Danish: Liturgi
liturgy in German: Liturgie
liturgy in Estonian: Liturgia
liturgy in Modern Greek (1453-): Λειτουργική
liturgy in Spanish: Liturgia
liturgy in Esperanto: Liturgio
liturgy in French: Liturgie
liturgy in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Liturgia
liturgy in Italian: Liturgia
liturgy in Latin: Liturgia
liturgy in Hungarian: Liturgia
liturgy in Dutch: Liturgie
liturgy in Japanese: 奉神礼
liturgy in Japanese: 典礼
liturgy in Norwegian: Liturgi
liturgy in Norwegian Nynorsk: liturgi
liturgy in Narom: Litourgie
liturgy in Polish: Liturgia
liturgy in Portuguese: Liturgia
liturgy in Russian: Литургия
liturgy in Serbian: Литургија
liturgy in Albanian: Liturgjia
liturgy in Finnish: Liturgia
liturgy in Swedish: Liturgi
liturgy in Ukrainian: Літургія
liturgy in Samogitian: Lėturgėjė

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Mass, baccalaureate service, bedtime prayer, camp meeting, celebration, ceremonial, ceremony, church, church service, commencement, compline, convocation, devotions, divine service, duty, empty formality, evening devotions, evensong, exercise, exercises, form, form of worship, formal, formality, formula, formulary, function, graduation, graduation exercises, holy rite, inaugural, inauguration, initiation, institution, lauds, matins, meeting, mode of worship, morning devotions, mummery, mystery, night song, none, nones, novena, observance, office, order of worship, ordinance, performance, practice, praise meeting, prayer, prayer meeting, prayers, prescribed form, prime, prime song, public worship, religious ceremony, revival, revival meeting, rite, rite de passage, rite of passage, ritual, ritual observance, rituality, sacrament, sacramental, service, sext, solemnity, solemnization, tent meeting, tierce, undersong, vesper, vespers, vigils, watch meeting, watch night, watch-night service
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