Does "a rite of passage" mean "a symbolic ceremony"?

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For many South Korean adoptees, returning to their birth country has become a rite of passage — canceled indefinitely by the pandemic. But some have persisted, making flights and staying in quarantine to meet their biological families for the first time.

Source: The NYTimes just tweeted

  • A "rite" means a "symbolic ceremony" (roughly). "Passage" is the thing it's celebrating.
    – NotThatGuy
    Nov 24, 2020 at 15:46
  • 1
    "Does "a rite of passage" mean "a symbolic ceremony"? Yes it does. I believe the origin of this to be nautical, referring to the rituals undergone when crossing the equator during an ocean passage (journey). atlasobscura.com/articles/… Nov 24, 2020 at 21:07
  • This is easy to Google. Did you try looking up a definition?
    – Kat
    Nov 25, 2020 at 4:01

1 Answer 1


Strictly speaking, a rite of passage is a ceremony marking a person's transition into a new phase of life (a tribal initiation, confirmation or bar mitzvah, university graduation). Here, it's being used more loosely to mean 'something that people in that situation feel they have to do when they grow up'.

  • The word for how it's being used here is "figuratively" or "metaphorically".
    – Barmar
    Nov 24, 2020 at 16:39
  • “Your first hangover is a rite of passage.” is an example of usage that is valid but as far from a formal ceremony as can be imagined.
    – jwpfox
    Nov 25, 2020 at 1:50

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