Although the word is most usually assigned to the members of a church, any gathering might be called a congregation, including a gathering of animals. Come to think of it, a congregation of church members is often called a "flock."

The Latin root of congregation, which is greg, meaning "flock," easily becomes congregare, meaning "to gather together," and finally congregationen, giving the current meaning of “a group.” The meaning took on a religious quality when 16th Century Protestants took it to refer to the church itself, then refining it to mean church members. If you're not a churchgoer, you might still refer to your friends who show up to watch football as a congregation.

Definitions of congregation

n the act of congregating

Type of:
assemblage, assembly, gathering
the social act of assembling

n an assemblage of people or animals or things collected together

“a congregation of children pleaded for his autograph”
“a great congregation of birds flew over”
Type of:
accumulation, aggregation, assemblage, collection
several things grouped together or considered as a whole

n a group of people who adhere to a common faith and habitually attend a given church

faithful, fold
a church congregation guided by a pastor
Type of:
social group
people sharing some social relation

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.