Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A group of people forming a distinct unit within a larger group by virtue of certain refinements or distinctions of belief or practice.
  • n. A religious body, especially one that has separated from a larger denomination.
  • n. A faction united by common interests or beliefs.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An offshoot of a larger religion; a group sharing particular (often unorthodox) political and/or religious beliefs.
  • n. A group following a specific ideal or a leader.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A cutting; a scion.
  • n. Those following a particular leader or authority, or attached to a certain opinion; a company or set having a common belief or allegiance distinct from others; in religion, the believers in a particular creed, or upholders of a particular practice; especially, in modern times, a party dissenting from an established church; a denomination; in philosophy, the disciples of a particular master; a school; in society and the state, an order, rank, class, or party.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A system or body of doctrines or opinions held by a number of persons and constituting the distinctive doctrines of a school, as propounded originally by the founder or founders of the school and (usually) developed or modified by later adherents; also and usually, the body of persons holding such doctrines or opinions; a school of philosophy or of philosophers: as, the sect of Epicurus; the sect of the Epicureans.
  • n. A party or body of persons who unite in holding certain special doctrines or opinions concerning religion, which distinguish them from others holding the same general religious belief; a distinct part of the general body of persons claiming the same religious name or origin; especially, such a party of innovators, differing in their beliefs from those who support the older or orthodox views; a party or faction in a religious body; a separate ecclesiastical organization; an ecclesiastical denomination: as, the sects of the Jewish religion (which were not separately organized); the sects of the Christian church (usually separately organized); Mohammedan sects; Buddhist sects.
  • n. A religion.
  • n. In a general sense, a number of persons holding the same opinions or practising the same customs, or having common associations or interests; a party; following; company; faction.
  • n. Kind; sex: originally merely a particular use of sect in sense 4, but now regarded as a form of sex, and as such avoided as incorrect.
  • n. Apparel; likeness.
  • n. A part cut off; a cutting; scion.
  • n. In geometry: A part cut out on a straight line; a limited straight line or rod; the part or piece of a straight line between two definite points (end-points of the sect); a portion of a given straight line, of definite length.
  • n. A piece of a range bounded by two points.
  • n. Two points, A and B, upon a straight adjective
  • In mathematics, of sects; operating with sects.
  • [lowercase or cap.] An abbreviation of section.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a subdivision of a larger religious group
  • n. a dissenting clique

Etymologies

Middle English secte, from Old French, from Latin secta, course, school of thought, from feminine past participle of sequī, to follow; see sekw-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English secte, from Old French secte ("a sect in philosophy or religion"), from Late Latin secta ("a sect in philosophy or religion, a school, party, faction, class, gild, band, particularly a heretical doctrince or sect, etc."), possibly, from Latin sequi ("to follow"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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