For an animal which is sacrificed to God, which adjective should be used – sacrificial or sacrificed?

Which phrase is right?

sacrificial animal OR sacrificed animal?

2 Answers 2


The animal is a "sacrificial animal" while it is still alive (before the ceremony), and through the end of the religious ceremony. After the ceremony, you would almost always still call it the "sacrificial animal." But if, for some reason, you wanted to place emphasis on the fact that the animal is now dead, you could call it the "sacrificed animal." Probably, you'd be most likely to say "sacrificed animal" if you weren't religious and thought killing the animal was wrong.

In short, "sacrificial" is mostly used in religious contexts but is an adjective that can be applied to anything meant to be sacrificed, even before it has been. "Sacrificed" can only be past tense.


The two words are related, but subtly different in what they're referring to.

Sacrificial describes the intended use of the animal: it is to be used as a sacrifice. This applies before, during, and after the actual moment of sacrifice.

Sacrificed describes what has happened to the animal: it has been made a sacrifice. This applies after the moment of sacrifice has happened.

This may be further confused by the fact that, when talking about the process in general, you can refer to "the sacrificed animal" to mean "the animal that is sacrificed at some point during the process", at which point the usage is very similar to the usage of "sacrificial". Essentially, it comes down to what aspect of this animal you want to refer to: the fact that it was intended as a sacrifice, or the fact that it has, in fact, been sacrificed.


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