1. any of the early followers of Jesus who carried the Christian message into the world.
  2. (sometimes initial capital letter) any of the original 12 disciples called by Jesus to preach the gospel: Simon Peter, the brothers James and John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas Iscariot.
  3. the first or the best-known Christian missionary in any region or country.
  4. Eastern Church. one of the 70 disciples of Jesus.
  5. the title of the highest ecclesiastical official in certain Protestant sects.
  6. (among the Jews of the Christian epoch) a title borne by persons sent on foreign missions.
  7. one of the 12 administrative officials of the Mormon Church.
  8. a pioneer of any reform movement.
  9. Nautical. a knighthead, especially one having its top projecting and used as a bitt or bollard.


  1. (often capital) one of the 12 disciples chosen by Christ to preach his gospel
  2. any prominent Christian missionary, esp one who first converts a nation or people
  3. an ardent early supporter of a cause, reform movement, etc
  4. Mormon Church a member of a council of twelve officials appointed to administer and preside over the Church

Old English apostol “messenger,” especially the 12 witnesses sent forth by Jesus to preach his Gospel, from Late Latin apostolus, from Greek apostolos “messenger, person sent forth,” from apostellein “send away, send forth,” from apo- “from” (see apo-) + stellein in its secondary sense of “to send,” from PIE *stel-yo-, suffixed form of root *stel- “to put, stand,” with derivatives referring to a standing object or place (see stall (n.1)). Cf. epistle.

The current form of the word, predominant since 16c., is influenced by Old French apostle (12c.), from the same Late Latin source. Figurative sense of “chief advocate of a new principle or system” is from 1810. Apostles, short for “The Acts and Epistles of the Apostles,” is attested from c.1400.

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