A sect is a religious group that exists inside of a larger religion. Think of it as a section of a particular religion.

Although objectively speaking a sect is merely a subdivision of a larger religious group, the word often carries with it the feeling of a part of a religion that has broken away. It often has a negative connotation in English because it implies that the group departed from what was standard to believe something different or odd. If you are comparing two sects you might talk about their sectarian differences.

Definitions of sect
  1. noun
    a subdivision of a larger religious group
    synonyms: religious order, religious sect
    see moresee less
    show 30 types...
    hide 30 types...
    a religious society of women who live together as sisters (especially an order of nuns)
    Albigenses, Cathari, Cathars
    a Christian religious sect in southern France in the 12th and 13th centuries; believers in Albigensianism
    High Anglican Church, High Church
    a group in the Anglican Church that emphasizes the Catholic tradition (especially in sacraments and rituals and obedience to church authority)
    a 16th century sect of Anabaptists centered in Germany who had an absolute disdain for human knowledge
    Amish sect
    an orthodox Anabaptist sect separated from the Mennonites in late 17th century; settled chiefly in southeastern Pennsylvania
    a Jewish sect that recognizes only the Hebrew Scriptures as the source of divinely inspired legislation and denies the authority of the postbiblical tradition of the Talmud; the sect arose in Iraq in the eighth century
    Shia, Shiah, Shiah Islam
    one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam; mainly in Iran
    Sunni, Sunni Islam
    one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam
    Shivaism, Sivaism
    a Hindu sect worshiping Shiva
    Saktism, Shaktism
    a Hindu sect worshiping Shakti
    Vaishnavism, Vaisnavism
    Hindu sect worshiping of Vishnu
    any of several sects of Orthodox Judaism that reject modern secular culture and many of whom do not recognize the spiritual authority of the modern state of Israel
    Hare Krishna, ISKCON, International Society for Krishna Consciousness
    a religious sect founded in the United States in 1966; based on Vedic scriptures; groups engage in joyful chanting of `Hare Krishna' and other mantras based on the name of the Hindu god Krishna; devotees usually wear saffron robes and practice vegetarianism and celibacy
    sect founded in the 6th century BC as a revolt against Hinduism
    a Chinese sect claiming to follow the teaching of Lao-tzu but incorporating pantheism and sorcery in addition to Taoism
    Kokka, Kokka Shinto
    the branch of Shinto recognized as the official state religion of Japan
    Shua, Shuha Shinto
    any branch of Shinto other than Kokka
    (plural) the lay members of a male religious order
    monastic order, order
    a group of person living under a religious rule
    Quakers, Religious Society of Friends, Society of Friends
    a Christian sect founded by George Fox about 1660; commonly called Quakers
    Shakers, United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing
    a celibate and communistic Christian sect in the United States
    Vaudois, Waldenses
    a Christian sect of dissenters that originated in southern France in the late 12th century adopted Calvinist doctrines in the 16th century
    a Zoroastrian sect that claims Zurvan was the ultimate source of the universe
    Augustinian order
    any of several monastic orders observing a rule derived from the writings of St. Augustine
    Benedictine order, order of Saint Benedict
    a Roman Catholic monastic order founded in the 6th century; noted for liturgical worship and for scholarly activities
    Carmelite order, Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
    a Roman Catholic mendicant order founded in the 12th century
    Carthusian order
    an austere contemplative Roman Catholic order founded by St. Bruno in 1084
    Dominican order
    a Roman Catholic order of mendicant preachers founded in the 13th century
    Franciscan order
    a Roman Catholic order founded by Saint Francis of Assisi in the 13th century
    Jesuit order, Society of Jesus
    a Roman Catholic order founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1534 to defend Catholicism against the Reformation and to do missionary work among the heathen; it is strongly committed to education and scholarship
    type of:
    faith, organized religion, religion
    an institution to express belief in a divine power
  2. noun
    a dissenting clique
    synonyms: faction
    see moresee less
    show 8 types...
    hide 8 types...
    splinter group
    a faction or sect that has broken away from its parent organization
    left, left wing
    those who support varying degrees of social or political or economic change designed to promote the public welfare
    right, right wing
    those who support political or social or economic conservatism; those who believe that things are better left unchanged
    old guard
    a faction that is unwilling to accept new ideas
    pro-choice faction
    those who argue that the decision to have an induced abortion should be made by the mother
    pro-life faction
    those who argue that induced abortion is killing and should be prohibited
    religious right
    United States political faction that advocates social and political conservativism, school prayer, and federal aid for religious groups and schools
    hard right
    the extreme right wing
    type of:
    camp, clique, coterie, ingroup, inner circle, pack
    an exclusive circle of people with a common purpose
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week