Definitions

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

  • n. An employee or officer of a church who is responsible for the care and upkeep of church property and sometimes for ringing bells and digging graves.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A church official who looks after a church and its graveyard and may act as a gravedigger and bell-ringer.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An under officer of a church, whose business is to take care of the church building and the vessels, vestments, etc., belonging to the church, to attend on the officiating clergyman, and to perform other duties pertaining to the church, such as to dig graves, ring the bell, etc.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An under-officer of a church, whose duty it is to act as janitor, and who has charge of the edifice, utensils, furniture, etc.
  • n. In entomology, a sexton-beetle; a burying-beetle; any member of the genus Necrophorus. See also cut under Necrophorus.

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

  • n. an officer of the church who is in charge of sacred objects
  • n. United States poet (1928-1974)

Etymologies

Middle English sextein, from Anglo-Latin sextānus, probably from Medieval Latin secristānus, sacristan, variant of sacristānus; see sacristan.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Medieval Latin sacristanus, based on Latin sacer ("sacred"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The term sexton by definition is a person who looks after a church and digs graves, which failed to accurately describe the job duties.

    Sedalia Democrat : News

  • Sigrist, or sexton, is a job shared by a Manage who lives atop Sigrist Poke (the highest elevation on Skene) on the biggest island, Riesig.

    SKENE CULTURE

  • The sexton was a tall thin man, emaciated by years and by privations; his body was bent habitually by his occupation of grave-digging, and his eye naturally inclined downward to the scene of his labours.

    Castle Dangerous

  • The abode of the sexton was a solitary cottage adjacent to the ruined wall of the cemetery, but so low that, with its thatch, which nearly reached the ground, covered with a thick crop of grass, fog, and house-leeks, it resembled an overgrown grave.

    The Bride of Lammermoor

  • The sexton was a meek, acquiescing little man, of a bowing, lowly habit: yet he had a pleasant twinkling in his eye, and, if encouraged, would now and then hazard a small pleasantry; such as a man of his low estate might venture to make in the company of high churchwardens, and other mighty men of the earth.

    The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon

  • Betty stood godmother for him, and the parish clerk and the sexton were his godfathers.

    Tales from Many Sources Vol. V

  • Apart from sectarian issues, a sexton is the most mettlesome man that grows, and not at all to be subdued to the ignoble uses of a hoe.

    The Joys of Being a Woman and Other Papers

  • Renzo went and called the sexton, who, after confirming every fact, adding fresh particulars, and dissipating every doubt, again went on his way.

    Chapter XXXVIII

  • But as the sexton was a secret disciple of the opposition they had him hid away near the church, and at a given signal he was to appear with the keys.

    History of the First African Baptist Church, From its Organization, January 20th, 1788, to July 1st, 1888. Including the Centennial Celebration, Addresses, Sermons, Etc.

  • But he took little by it; the sexton was a tough customer.

    The History of David Grieve

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