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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
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
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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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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Encyclopedia Britannica


the performance of ceremonial acts prescribed by tradition or by sacerdotal decree. Ritual is a specific, observable mode of behaviour exhibited by all known societies. It is thus possible to view ritual as a way of defining or describing humans.

Learn more about ritual with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Ritual purification at the command of a heroic leader is an ancient and
  powerful tradition in this part of the world.
Her usual ritual is to flip through the course booklet on her own, then call or
  e-mail her adviser with her plans.
No ritual or routine to get things done is effective unless it's effective for
Nonetheless, the ritual endures, an intimate reminder of the time before
  stealth applications.
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