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noun ag·nos·tic \ag-ˈnäs-tik, əg-\

Simple Definition of agnostic

  • : a person who does not have a definite belief about whether God exists or not

  • : a person who does not believe or is unsure of something

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of agnostic

  1. 1 :  a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly :  one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god

  2. 2 :  a person who is unwilling to commit to an opinion about something <political agnostics>


play \-tə-ˌsi-zəm\ noun

Examples of agnostic in a sentence

  1. Even polytheists … were in fact tolerated, as Islamic rule spread to most of India. Only the total unbeliever—the agnostic or atheist—was beyond the pale of tolerance … —Bernard Lewis, Islam in History, 1993

  2. Supporters of education vouchers … will love what Norman Macrae has to say on the subject. Teachers' unions and other opponents of vouchers … will deplore it. Voucher agnostics (and I include myself) might find that the proposal not only answers most doubts but also makes sense on issues they've never much thought about. —William Raspberry, Springfield (Massachusetts) Union, 14 Aug. 1987

  3. I call myself an agnostic. I do not really have any faith, any coherent religious faith, and yet the one thing in my life that I feel passionate and evangelical about is poetry. —Maxine Kumin, “An Interview at Interlochen,” 1977, in To Make a Prairie, 1979

How agnostic Differs from atheist

Many people are interested in distinguishing between the words agnostic and atheist. The difference is quite simple: atheist refers to someone who believes that there is no god (or gods), and agnostic refers to someone who doesn’t know whether there is a god, or even if such a thing is knowable. This distinction can be troublesome to remember, but examining the origins of the two words can help.

Agnostic first appeared in 1869, (possibly coined by the English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley), and was formed from the Greek agnōstos (meaning "unknown, unknowable"). Atheist came to English from the French athéisme. Although both words share a prefix (which is probably the source of much of the confusion) the main body of each word is quite different. Agnostic shares part of its history with words such as prognosticate and prognosis, words which have something to do with knowledge or knowing something. Atheist shares roots with words such as theology and theism, which generally have something to do with God.

Origin and Etymology of agnostic

Greek agnōstos unknown, unknowable, from a- + gnōstos known, from gignōskein to know — more at know

First Known Use: 1869

Other Christian Religious Terms



adjective ag·nos·tic \ag-ˈnäs-tik, əg-\

Definition of agnostic

  1. 1 :  of, relating to, or being an agnostic (see 1agnostic) :  involving or characterized by agnosticism

  2. 2 :  noncommittal, undogmatic

Examples of agnostic in a sentence

  1. Cladistics classifies organisms in nested hierarchies based exclusively on their order of branching. (I should say that I am quite agnostic about this theory, so I do not write as a shill.) —Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History, March 1995

  2. The composition comes alive in stanzas V and VI. This is the dark night. I hoped my readers would remember John of the Cross's poem. My night is not gracious, but secular, puritan, and agnostic. An existentialist night. —Robert Lowell, Collected Prose, 1987

  3. … I thought that by the time I was past thirty-five—at the very least agnostic and surely swept by the bleak winds of existentialism—I had abandoned the Presbyterian precepts of my childhood. —William Styron, This Quiet Dust and Other Writings, 1982

Origin and Etymology of agnostic

(see 1agnostic)

First Known Use: 1873

Other Christian Religious Terms

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