AskDefine | Define pilgrim

Dictionary Definition



1 someone who journeys in foreign lands
2 one of the colonists from England who sailed to America on the Mayflower and founded the colony of Plymouth in New England in 1620 [syn: Pilgrim Father]
3 some one who journeys to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion

User Contributed Dictionary

see Pilgrim



Latin peregrinus


  1. One who travels, especially on a journey to visit sites of religious significance.

Derived terms


traveller, especially to religious sites
  • Czech: poutník
  • French: pèlerin
  • German: Pilger, Wallfahrer
  • Greek: προσκυνητής
  • Italian: pellegrino
  • Polish: pielgrzym
  • Spanish: peregrino

Extensive Definition

A pilgrim is one who undertakes a pilgrimage, literally 'far afield'. This is traditionally a visit to a place of some religious or historic significance; often a considerable distance is traveled. Examples include a Muslim visiting Mecca or a Christian or Jew visiting Jerusalem. No religion has laid greater stress on the duty of a pilgrim than Islam in the Hajj. In the United States the word "Pilgrims" usually refers to the European settlers of New England, who celebrated the "First Thanksgiving" with the Native Americans in 1621.

Religious pilgrims

Pilgrims are common in many religions, including the faiths in ancient Egypt, Persia in the Mithraic period, India, China, and Japan. The Greek and Roman custom of consulting the gods at local oracles, such as those at Dodona or Delphi, both in Greece, is widely known. In Greece, pilgrimages could either be personal, or state-sponsored.
In the early period of Hebrew history, pilgrims traveled to Shiloh, Dan, Bethel, and eventually Jerusalem, leading the way for the other Abrahamic religions to include the practice. The great Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (now in Saudi Arabia), is obligatory for every able Muslim, and other Islamic devotional pilgrimages, particularly to the tombs of saints, are numerous. The early Christians made pilgrimages to the scenes of the Passion of Christ in Jerusalem. Even after Jerusalem had been occupied by the Saracens, the liberty of pilgrimage, on payment of a tax, was secured by treaty; the necessity of protecting pilgrims, however, gave rise to the medieval military orders, such as the Knights Templar.
While religious pilgrims usually travel toward a singular destination, a physical location is not a necessity. One group of pilgrims in early Celtic Christianity were the Peregrinari Pro Christ, (Pilgrims for Christ), or "white martyrs," where pilgrims left with the intent to wander. This sort of pilgrimage was an ascetic religious practice, leaving home and the clan for an unknown destination, in complete trust of Divine Providence. These travels often resulted in the founding of new abbeys and spreading Christianity among the pagan population in Britain as well as on continental Europe.

Cultural pilgrims

A cultural pilgrimage, while also about personal journey, involves a secular response. Destinations for such pilgrims can include historic sites of national or cultural importance, and can be defined as places "of cultural significance: an artist's home, the location of a pivotal event or an iconic destination." An example might be a baseball fan visiting Cooperstown, New York. Other typical global destinations for cultural pilgrims include Auschwitz concentration camp, Gettysburg Battlefield, the Ernest Hemingway House or even Disneyland.
Secular pilgrims are also found under communism regimes. These devotional but strictly secular pilgrims visited locations such as the Mausoleum of Lenin or Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, or the Birthplace of Karl Marx. Such visits were sometimes state-sponsored.

Notable pilgrims

Many national and international leaders have gone on pilgrimages for both personal and political reasons.

External links

pilgrim in Bulgarian: Пилигрим
pilgrim in Czech: Pouť
pilgrim in Danish: Pilgrim
pilgrim in German: Pilger
pilgrim in Esperanto: Pilgrimado
pilgrim in Estonian: Palverännak
pilgrim in Spanish: Peregrino
pilgrim in French: Pèlerinage
pilgrim in Galician: Peregrino de Santiago de Compostela
pilgrim in Hebrew: עלייה לרגל
pilgrim in Indonesian: Peziarah
pilgrim in Italian: Pellegrinaggio
pilgrim in Japanese: 巡礼
pilgrim in Korean: 성지 순례
pilgrim in Latin: Peregrinatio
pilgrim in Limburgan: Baevaart
pilgrim in Dutch: Bedevaart
pilgrim in Norwegian Nynorsk: Pilegrim
pilgrim in Norwegian: Pilegrim
pilgrim in Narom: Pèlerinnage
pilgrim in Polish: Pielgrzym (religia)
pilgrim in Portuguese: Peregrinação
pilgrim in Russian: Паломничество
pilgrim in Simple English: Pilgrimage
pilgrim in Serbian: Ходочасник
pilgrim in Swedish: Pilgrim
pilgrim in Chinese: 朝聖

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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