an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite.
a system or collection of religious or other rites.
observance of set forms in public worship.
a book of rites or ceremonies.
a book containing the offices to be used by priests in administering the sacraments and for visitation of the sick, burial of the dead, etc.
a prescribed or established rite, ceremony, proceeding, or service: the ritual of the dead.
prescribed, established, or ceremonial acts or features collectively, as in religious services.
any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.
a prescribed code of behavior regulating social conduct, as that exemplified by the raising of one's hat or the shaking of hands in greeting.
Psychiatry. a specific act, as hand-washing, performed repetitively to a pathological degree, occurring as a common symptom of obsessive-compulsive neurosis.
of the nature of or practiced as a rite or ritual: a ritual dance.
of or pertaining to rites or ritual: ritual laws.

1560–70; < Latin rītuālis, equivalent to rītu-, stem of rītus rite + -ālis -al1

ritually, adverb
antiritual, adjective
proritual, adjective
unritual, adjective
unritually, adverb

1. See ceremony. 11. ceremonial, formal, sacramental.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
ritual (ˈrɪtjʊəl)
1.  the prescribed or established form of a religious or other ceremony
2.  such prescribed forms in general or collectively
3.  stereotyped activity or behaviour
4.  psychol any repetitive behaviour, such as hand-washing, performed by a person with a compulsive personality disorder
5.  any formal act, institution, or procedure that is followed consistently: the ritual of the law
6.  of, relating to, or characteristic of religious, social, or other rituals
[C16: from Latin rītuālis, from rītusrite]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1570, from L. ritualis "relating to (religious) rites," from ritus "rite" (see rite). The noun is first recorded 1649. Ritualistic first recorded 1850.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

ritual rit·u·al (rĭch'ōō-əl)
A detailed act or series of acts carried out by an individual to relieve anxiety or to forestall the development of anxiety.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Example sentences
To maintain the cycle of night and day, rulers performed rituals to appease the
The study's conclusion was that tasks with unpredictable, seemingly random
  outcomes tend to elicit rituals and eccentric behavior.
Or when these people came across dead dinosaurs, wouldn't they have kept the
  bones for rituals or something.
Rituals also usually incorporate a declaration of faith or offer a similar
  inclusion of religious dialogue.
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