1. A raised structure (as a square or oblong erection of stone or wood) on which sacrifices are offered or incense burned to a deity. "Noah builded an altar unto the Lord." (Gen. Viii. 20)

2. In the Christian church, a construction of stone, wood, or other material for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist; the communion table.

Altar is much used adjectively, or as the first part of a compound; as, altar bread or altar-bread. Altar cloth or Altar-cloth, the cover for an altar in a Christian church, usually richly embroidered. Altar cushion, a cushion laid upon the altar in a Christian church to support the service book. Altar frontal. See Frontal. Altar rail, the railing in front of the altar or communion table. Altar screen, a wall or partition built behind an altar to protect it from approach in the rear. Altar tomb, a tomb resembling an altar in shape, etc. Family altar, place of family devotions. To lead (as a bride) to the altar, to marry; said of a woman.

Origin: OE. Alter, auter, autier, fr. L. Altare, pl. Altaria, altar, prob. Fr. Altus high: cf. OF. Alter, autier, F. Autel. Cf. Altitude.

(01 Mar 1998)

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