This word has roots that mean “little city.”
Literally speaking, a citadel is a fortress: a strong building that offers protection.
And, on a ship, the citadel is the part that’s well-protected from attacks.
Figuratively, a citadel is something that reminds you of a longstanding fortress because it strongly protects something.
SIT uh dell
Part of speech:
Noun, the countable kind: “a citadel,” “these citadels.”
The plural is “citadels.”
And it’s rare, but you can call something “citadelled,” meaning it has a citadel, or it reminds you of a citadel.
How to use it:
Even to listeners unfamiliar with it, this word is easy to understand.
It sounds grand, impressive, beautiful, and historical.
You might talk literally about citadels: “the citadel of Corinth,” “the tenth century citadel,” “they retreated to a mountain citadel.”
But we’re interested in figurative citadels. We might talk poetically about how the heart, the mind, or the family is a citadel, keeping what’s inside safe from outside intrusions.
But you can call anything a citadel if it seems to protect and preserve something, allowing it to thrive and remain untouched by outside forces that might weaken it, attack it, or alter it in some way.
Often we call something “a citadel of something” (or “the citadel of something”). Bob Dylan called a gathering spot in New York “the citadel of Americana folk music.” The Los Angeles Times called a restaurant the “citadel of fried chicken.”
“The blood-brain barrier forms a rather impenetrable citadel around the organ, so getting a drug past it remains a challenge.”
— Bret Stetka, Scientific American, 27 March 2019
“…the day after tomorrow,
that citadel of stillness, unspoiled
by ambition or labor…”
— Billy Collins, “The Day After Tomorrow,” The Rain in Portugal: Poems, 2016