Guide to Literary Terms

Start Free Trial

What is the definition of homily?

The definition of homily is a discussion of a passage of scripture, usually delivered in Christian religious services.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated October 19, 2022.

A homily is a sermon or discourse on a religious topic, intended to examine a passage—or passages—of a spiritual text and, in many cases, impart a moral lesson. The term is generally used in contexts of Christian worship.

Homily derives from the Greek word homilia, meaning “discourse, conversation,” from homou (“together”). 

In the sixteenth century, the Church of England published the two-volume Books of Homilies, collections of sermons for Anglican clergy to deliver to their congregations. The first of these homilies, titled, “A Fruitful Exhortation to the Reading and Knowledge of Holy Scripture,” begins as follows:

Unto a Christian man there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable than the knowledge of holy Scripture; forasmuch as in it is contained God’s true word, setting forth his glory and also man’s duty.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access