AskDefine | Define temple

Dictionary Definition



1 place of worship consisting of an edifice for the worship of a deity
2 the flat area on either side of the forehead; "the veins in his temple throbbed"
3 an edifice devoted to special or exalted purposes
4 (Judaism) the place of worship for a Jewish congregation [syn: synagogue, tabernacle]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • tĕm'p(ə)l, /ˈtemp(ə)l/, /"temp(@)l/
  • Rhymes: -ɛmpəl


  1. The region of the skull on either side of the forehead.
  2. A building for worship.
    "A temple of Zeus."
  3. (often capitalized) The Jewish temple of Jerusalem, first built by Solomon.
  4. (French), Sometimes used to describe a protestant church in French-speaking nations.
  5. Something regarded as holding religious presence.
  6. Something of importance; something attended to.
    My body is my temple.
  7. (Ophthalmology) Either of the sidepieces on a set of spectacles, extending backwards from the hinge toward the ears and, usually, turning down around them.
  8. a body
* 1602 : Hamlet by William Shakespeare, act 1 scene 3 lines 11-12-13-14
  • For nature crescent does not grow alone
    In thews and bulks, but as this temple waxes,
    The inward service of the mind and soul
    Grows wide withal.


region of skull
worship place
holding the religious presence
something of importance

Derived terms



  • /tɑ̃pl/, /tA~pl/


temple (temples)
  1. A building for worship: temple, church.

Extensive Definition

A temple (from the Latin word templum) is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites. A ‘’templum’’ constituted a sacred precinct as defined by a priest, or augur. It has the same root as the word “ template,’’ a plan in preparation of the building that was marked out on the ground by the augur. Though a templum, technically speaking, is not a “house of the gods” but a diagram that for the Romans linked the geometries of heaven and earth, it was also indicative of a dwelling place of a god or gods. This tradition, of course, dates back to prehistoric times. For the ancient Egyptians, the word pr could refer not only to a house, but also to a sacred structure since it was believed that the gods resided in houses. The word ‘temple’ (which dates to about the 6th century BCE), despite the specific set of meanings associated with the religion of the ancient Rome, has now become quite widely used to describe a house of worship for any number of religions and is even used for time periods prior to the Romans. Stated differently, temple was once a species of sacred structures; today it is, in the English language, often used as a genus.

Ancient Near East

Jewish synagogues and temples

In Judaism, the ancient Hebrew texts refer not to temples, the word having not existed yet, but to a "sanctuary", "palace" or "hall". (The Jerusalem temples were called Beit Hamikdash, the Holy House or more commonly, Beth El (the House of God)or Beth Yahweh (the House of Yahweh)). The Greek word synagogue became current during Hellenistic times and it (along with the Yiddish term shul) remained the convention until the middle of the nineteenth century when the word ‘temple’ began to be used, almost exclusively by the followers of Reform Judaism, as in Emanu-El, or the Temple Beth-El. The word referred not to Roman temples, but to the Temple of Solomon. Orthodox Judaism considers this inappropriate as it does not consider synagogues a replacement for the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the site where the First Temple of Solomon and the Second Temple were built. At the center of the structure was the Holy of Holies where only the high priest could enter. The Temple Mount is now the site of the Islamic mosque, the Dome of the Rock (c. 690).
Two different Jewish temples actually occupied this mountain at different times. The first was proposed by King David but was not built until his son, Solomon gained the throne. David made great preparation for the temple but, according to the Bible was not allowed to because of the wars he had fought. This temple stood for a number of years until it was destroyed by the invading armies of Nebuchadnezzar when Jerusalem fell and was taken into exile as captives. It was at this time that the Ark of the Covenant, which occupied the Holy of Holies (the inner sactuary of the temple)was believed to have disappeared from history). Roughly some 70 years later, under the leadership of Jewish leaders such as Ezra and Nehemiah and with the blessing of the Persian King Cyrus, the temple was again rebuilt and stood until the time of Jesus Christ, during the reign of King Herod. Herod refurbished the temple, built my Ezra/Nehemiah, making it into a grandiose building far excelling its previous glory and splendor. Unfortunately, this notoriety was short-lived, as the building was raized by the Romans, some 70 years later. The so-called "Wailing Wall" in Jerusalem, is actually part of the original retaining wall built around the temple mount as a foundation for the original temple by King Solomon.
Since 1979, a Texas based religious denomination, known as The House of Yahweh, under the leadership of its pastor, Elder Yisrayl B. Hawkins has promoted plans to rebuild the Jewish Temple on its original site. Due to the volatile political climb in the Middle East, this has understandably been a controversial undertaking. Their proposal suggests that the Jewish Temple, (called "La Bayit Yahweh" or "The House of Yahweh") was originally located just north of the Muslim mosque's present location, its main door directly in line with the Old City's "Golden Gate" (since blocked). This suggestion is important in the fact that it means the Muslim mosque need not be removed in order for the Jewish Temple to be rebuilt, but instead they would share the Holy Site. The House of Yahweh points to prophesy in the book of Ezekiel to support their proposal, and has gone so far as to draw up patented and copyprotected blue prints based on the description given in Ezekiel and shown it to Israeli and Palestinian leaders for consideration. According to Hawkins, these leaders are seriously considering his proposal. Jewish tradition claims the temple mount, Mount Moriah as the site where the patriarch Abraham tested by being asked to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Islamic tradition, which actually shares quite a bit in common with Judaism, also claims this site as the place where the prophet Muhammad ascended into Heaven.

Greco-Roman temples

Though today we call most Greek religious buildings "temples," the ancient pagans would have referred to a temenos, or sacred precinct. Its sacredness, often connected with a holy grove, was more important than the building itself, as it contained the open air altar on which the sacrifices were made. The building which housed the cult statue in its naos was originally a rather simple structure, but by the middle of the 6th century BCE had become increasingly elaborate. Greek temple architecture had a profound influence on ancient architectural traditions.
The rituals that located and sited the temple were performed by an augur through the observation of the flight of birds or other natural phenomenon. Roman temples usually faced east or toward the rising sun, but the specifics of the orientation are often not known today; there are also notable exceptions, such as the Pantheon which faces north. In ancient Rome, only the native deities of Roman mythology had a templum; any equivalent structure for a foreign deity was called a fanum.

Indian religions

see Indian religions

Hindu temples

These may also be called by other names, including mandir or mandira, koil or kovil, devasthana and devalaya, depending on the region in the Indian subcontinent and its local language.
Hindu temples are large and magnificent with a rich history. Some date as far back as the Bronze Age and later the Indus Valley Civilization. In the present day magnificent Hindu temples have been built in India, Great Britain, the United States, Australia and South Africa.

Buddhist temples

They include the structures called stupa, wat and pagoda in different regions and languages. Temples in Buddhism represent the pure land or pure environment of a Buddha. Traditional Buddhist Temples are designed to inspire inner and outer peace.

Sikh temples

Ayyavazhi temples

Zoroastrian temples

Zoroastrian temples may also be called the [darb-e meh and atashkada.

Christian temples

The word is rarely used in the Western Christian tradition, and very frequently used in Eastern Orthodox Church. The principal words for Western Christian architecture are: basilica, cathedral and church, while in Eastern Orthodox Church, principal words are: temple and church.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church the use of the word temple comes from the need to distinguish building of the church vs. church as Body of Christ. For example Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade, Serbia. See also: Orthodox church (building) and catholicon.
Beginning in the late eighteenth century, following the Enlightenment, some Protestant denominations in France and elsewhere began to use the word "temple" to distinguish these spaces from a Catholic church. Evangelical and other Protestant churches will make use of a wide variety of terms to designate their worship spaces, such as Tabernacle, Temple, etc.

Temples in the Latter Day Saints movement

According to Latter Day Saint tradition, in 1832, Joseph Smith, Jr. received a revelation to restore the practice of temple worship, in a "house of the Lord". The Kirtland Temple was the first temple of the Latter Day Saint movement and the only one completed in Smith's lifetime, although the Nauvoo Temple was partially complete at the time of his death. The schisms stemming from a succession crisis have led to differing views about the role and use of temples between various groups with competing succession claims.

Temples of LDS church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a prolific builder of "Latter-day Saint" or "Mormon" temples. Latter-day Saint temples are reserved only for the most holy and sacred of the covenant for performing special ordinances, and are distinct from meeting houses and chapels where weekly worship services are held. The Temples are built and kept under strict sacredness and not to be defiled, thus, strict rules for entrance.

Other LDS Denominations

Various other Latter Day Saint denominations also have temples. An example is the Independence Temple at Independence, Missouri that was built by the Community of Christ by then church prophet-president Wallace B. Smith. The Community of Christ also currently owns the original Kirtland Temple, which it operates as a historic site.

Masonic temples

Freemasonry is a fraternal organization with its origins in the eighteenth century whose membership is held together by a shared set of moral and metaphysical ideals. Freemasons meet as a Lodge. Lodges meet in a Masonic Temple, Masonic Center or a Masonic Hall, such as Freemasons' Hall, London. Some confusion exists as Masons usually refer to a Lodge meeting as being in Lodge.

Other religions

Though the word "temple" is used broadly, one should use it with discretion in the context of some religions. A mosque for example, should never be called a temple. Convention allows the use of temple in the following cases:

Temple as Metaphor

The word 'temple' can be interpreted as metaphorical in English translations of the Bible, synonymous with Godhead. Two examples in the New Testament are: 1) Jesus and the money changers and 2) description of the rending of the veil covering the temple (in advance of his resurrection as the Christ) at the death of Jesus in Matthew 27:51.

Additional reading

Hani, Jean, Le symbolisme du temple chrétien, G. Trédaniel (editor); [2. éd.] edition (1978), 207 p., ISBN 2-85707-030-6
temple in Arabic: معبد
temple in Bulgarian: Храм
temple in Czech: Chrám
temple in Welsh: Teml
temple in Danish: Tempel
temple in German: Tempel
temple in Estonian: Tempel
temple in Spanish: Templo
temple in Esperanto: Templo
temple in French: Temple
temple in Western Frisian: Timpel
temple in Galician: Templo
temple in Korean: 사찰
temple in Hindi: मन्दिर
temple in Indonesian: Klenteng
temple in Italian: Tempio
temple in Hebrew: מקדש
temple in Latin: Templum
temple in Lithuanian: Šventykla
temple in Latvian: Templis
temple in Hungarian: Templom
temple in Malayalam: ക്ഷേത്രം (ആരാധനാലയം)
temple in Dutch: Tempel
temple in Newari: देगः
temple in Japanese: 寺院
temple in Norwegian Nynorsk: Tempel
temple in Narom: Templle
temple in Polish: Świątynia
temple in Portuguese: Templo
temple in Romanian: Templu
temple in Russian: Храм
temple in Sanskrit: देवमन्दिरम्
temple in Simple English: Temple
temple in Slovak: Chrám
temple in Serbian: Храм
temple in Finnish: Temppeli
temple in Swedish: Tempel
temple in Telugu: దేవాలయం
temple in Thai: เทวสถาน
temple in Vietnamese: Đền
temple in Turkish: Tapınak
temple in Wu Chinese: 寺
temple in Chinese: 寺庙

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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