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Definition of celibate


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Houghton Mifflin

cel·i·bate  audio  (sl-bt) KEY 

NOUN:
  1. One who abstains from sexual intercourse, especially by reason of religious vows.
  2. One who is unmarried.
ADJECTIVE:
  1. Abstaining from sexual intercourse, especially by reason of religious vows.
  2. Unmarried; unwed.

ETYMOLOGY:
Latin caelibtus, from caelebs, caelib-, unmarried
Usage Note:
Historically, celibate means only "unmarried"; its use to mean "abstaining from sexual intercourse" is a 20th-century development. But the new sense of the word seems to have displaced the old, and the use of celibate to mean "unmarried" is now almost sure to invite misinterpretation in other than narrowly ecclesiastical contexts. Sixty-eight percent of the Usage Panel rejected the older use in the sentence He remained celibate [unmarried], although he engaged in sexual intercourse.


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