Either of two small leather boxes, each containing strips of parchment inscribed with quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures, traditionally worn strapped to the forehead and the left arm by Jewish men during morning worship, except on the Sabbath and holidays.
(rare) Something worn as a charm or safeguard.
Other Word Forms
Origin of phylactery
- Middle English filaterie, philacterie from Old French filatiere from Late Latin phylactērium from Greek phulaktērion guard's post, safeguard, phylactery from phulaktēr guard from phulax phulak-
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
- Recorded since circa 1380, Middle English, philaterie, either from Old French filatiere (12c.), or via Medieval Latin philaterium, an alteration of Late Latin phylacterium (“reliquary"), from Ancient Greek φυλακτήριον (phulaktÄ“rion, “safeguard, amulet"), via adjective φυλακτήριος (phulaktÄ“rios, “serving as a protection"), from φυλακτήρ (phulaktÄ“r, “watcher, guard"), itself from φυλάσσω (phulassō, “guard or ward off"), from φύλαξ (phulaks, “a guard").