1 : one who assists a member of the clergy in a liturgical service by performing minor duties
2 : one who attends or assists a leader : follower
Did You Know?
Follow the etymological path of acolyte back far enough and you’ll arrive at kéleuthos, a Greek noun that means “path” and that is itself the parent of akólouthos, an adjective that means “following.” Akólouthos traveled from Greek, leaving offspring in Medieval Latin and Anglo-French; its English descendant, acolyte, emerged in the 14th century. Originally, acolyte was exclusively a term for a person who assisted a priest at Mass, but by the 19th century, the word had acquired additional meanings, among them “attendant body, satellite” (a meaning used in astronomy) and “attendant insect” (a zoological sense), as well as the general meaning “assistant” or “sidekick.”
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The lawyer arrived with one of her acolytes, an eager young attorney who’d recently been hired by the firm.
“His main rival, Henri Falcón, a former state governor who was once an acolyte of Mr. Chávez’s but broke with him to join the opposition, received 1.8 million votes.” — William Neuman and Nicholas Casey, The New York Times, 21 May 2018