AskDefine | Define secular

Dictionary Definition

secular adj : concerning those not members of the clergy; "set his collar in laic rather than clerical position"; "the lay ministry"; "the choir sings both sacred and secular music" [syn: laic, lay]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /sɛk.jə.lə(ɹ)/|/sɛk.jʊu.lɑː(ɹ)/


saecularis, of the age, from saeculum


  1. Not specifically religious.
  2. Not bound by the vows of a monastic order.
    secular clergy in Catholicism
  3. Temporal; something that is worldly or otherwise not based on something timeless.
  4. Happening from age to age.
    the secular games of ancient Rome
  5. Long-term.
    The long-term growth in population and income accounts for most secular trends in economic phenomena.
    on a secular basis = over the long term
  6. Of or pertaining to long-term non-periodic irregularities, especially in planetary motion.
  7. In the context of "atomic physics": Unperturbed over time.
    • 2000, S. A. Dikanov, Two-dimensional ESEEM Spectroscopy, in New Advances in Analytical Chemistry (Atta-ur-Rahman, ed.), page 539
      The secular A and nonsecular B parts of hyperfine interaction for any particular frequencies να and νβ are derived from eqn.(21) by ...




not specifically religious
  • Finnish: maallinen
not bound by the vows of a monastic order
  • Finnish: maallinen, ajallinen
happening from age to age
  • Finnish: sekulaarinen
  • Finnish: pitkä aikaväli/tähtäys
astrophysics: of or pertaining to long-term non-periodic irregularities
  • Finnish: sekulaarinen
atomic physics: unperturbed over time
  • Finnish: sekulaarinen


Extensive Definition

Secularity (adjective form secular) is the state of being separate from religion. For instance, eating and bathing may be regarded as examples of secular activities, because there is nothing inherently religious about them. (Note, however, that both eating and bathing are regarded as sacraments by some religious organizations, and therefore would be religious activities in their worldview.) Saying a prayer derived from religous text or doctrine, worshipping through the context of religon, and attending Sunday School are examples of religious (non-secular) activities. However prayer and meditation are not necessarily non-secular being that the concept of spirituality and higher consiousness are not married solely to any religion but are practiced and arose indepedently across a continuum of cultures.
Most businesses and corporations are secular organizations. All state universities in the United States are secular organizations, while some private universities are church-related; among many, four church-related examples are Brigham Young University, University of Notre Dame, Baylor University, and The Catholic University of America. The public university system in the United Kingdom is also secular, although many primary and secondary schools are religiously aligned.
One approximate synonym for secular is worldly; another could be phrased as neutral in religious matters. Approximate antonyms for secular are religious and devout.
Despite occasional confusion, secularity is not synonymous with atheism.

Origin of term

This word derives from a Latin word meaning "of the age". The Christian doctrine that God exists outside of time led medieval Western culture to use secular to indicate separation from religious affairs and involvement in worldly (or time-related) ones. This meaning has been extended to apply to separation from any religion, regardless of whether it has a similar doctrine.

Modern usage

Examples of secular used in this way include:

Related concepts

  • Laïcité is a French concept related to the separation of state and religion, sometimes rendered by the English cognate neologism laicity and also translated by the words secularity and secularization. The word laïcité is sometimes characterized as having no exact English equivalent; it is similar to the more moderate definition of secularism, but is not as ambiguous as that word.
  • Secularism is an assertion or belief that religious issues should not be the basis of politics, a movement that promotes those ideas or (in the extreme) an ideology that holds that religion has no place in public life. Secularist organizations are distinguished from merely secular ones by their political advocacy of such positions.
  • Laïcisme is the French word that most resembles secularism, especially in the latter's extreme definition, as it is understood by the Catholic Church, which sets laïcisme in opposition to the allegedly far milder concept of laïcité. The correspondent word laicism (also spelled laïcism) is sometimes used in English as a synonym for secularism.


secular in Arabic: علمانية (صفه)
secular in Danish: sekularitet
secular in German: Säkular
secular in Spanish: Secularización
secular in Norwegian Nynorsk: sekulær

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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