ag·​nos·​tic | \ag-ˈnä-stik, əg-\

Definition of agnostic 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (such 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 : a person who is unwilling to commit to an opinion about something political agnostics


ag·​nos·​tic | \ag-ˈnäs-tik, əg-\

Definition of agnostic (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or being an agnostic : involving or characterized by agnosticism

3 usually used after a noun

a : not preferring a particular device or system "Children are platform agnostic," said Alice Cahn, vice-president of development for Cartoon Network. "If you want to look foolish with a preschooler, say, 'Sorry, you can't watch that. It's not on.' It's TiVoed, it's online, it's on video on demand."Business Wire

b : designed to be compatible with different devices (such as computers or smartphones) or operating systems content that is OS agnostic often used in combination The application is platform-agnostic, so it can work on your tablet or cell phone.

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from agnostic


agnosticism \ ag-​ˈnä-​stə-​ˌsi-​zəm , əg-​ \ noun

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 does not believe in the existence of a god or any 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.

Examples of agnostic in a Sentence


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 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 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 Prairie1979


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 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 … 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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Before Fasetto releases Gravity OS to everyone, Fasetto CEO and founder Coy Christmas said the company wants to get a product in people's hands to show what the agnostic operating system can do. Sarah Hauer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin tech company says presentation tool makes meetings easier, showcasing its agnostic operating system," 29 June 2018 In his world, the Supreme Court is an agnostic, apolitical body — above and beyond the influence of partisanship or corrosive forces that have nothing to do with the law. Cristian Farias, Daily Intelligencer, "Why the Supreme Court Keeps Dodging the Question of Partisan Gerrymandering," 18 June 2018 His genre-agnostic sound, a natural fit for the streaming era, has also caught attention. Taylor Weatherby, Billboard, "Quinn XCII Almost Chose Office Life Over a Career in Music. Now He's Playing At All Your Favorite Festivals," 26 June 2018 The system deployed in 2008 was application-agnostic. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Comcast disabled throttling system, proving data cap is just a money grab," 13 June 2018 Beauty concierges will serve as brand-agnostic consultants, guiding customers through the 122 brands, including 61 that are new to Saks. Suzanne Kapner, WSJ, "Saks Bumps Its Beauty Counter Off Coveted Ground Floor," 18 May 2018 For beach agnostics, planning a trip to Maui is a challenge. Mark Arsenault,, "A beach agnostic’s guide to Hawaii," 13 June 2018 The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas sued on behalf of four Arkansas residents — three who identify themselves as agnostics and one as atheist — who are members of a walking and cycling club whose routes include the state Capitol grounds. Washington Post, "Lawsuits seek removal of Arkansas Ten Commandments display," 23 May 2018 Attendees cover the entire spectrum of spiritual faiths, from ardent believers to agnostics to atheists. Peter Rowe,, "Going this way? Death is still inevitable, but 'angels' and cafes want to change our last days," 20 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Strategies that involve taking sides on BDS, Zionism, and statehood have yet to yield a lasting peace, so perhaps IfNotNow’s new, agnostic approach is the fresh perspective that the community needs in order to achieve a breakthrough. Abraham Riesman, Daily Intelligencer, "Can the young activists of IfNotNow change the conversation about Israel and the Palestinians, or will their contradictions hold them back?," 12 July 2018 So while officials may be agnostic on the precise natural rate, all of them are building an overshoot into their projections. Greg Ip, WSJ, "Analysis: What Will the Fed Do With an Overshoot?," 14 June 2018 But as with any hardware product from a company that has some services skin in the game, the Fire TV Cube is not a perfectly agnostic streaming platform. Lauren Goode, WIRED, "Amazon's New Fire TV Device Is a Voice-Controlled Cube," 7 June 2018 Composers who cloak their works in the genre-agnostic garb of the post-Minimalist and indie classical styles get most of the attention now, but other approaches to contemporary musical language have not surrendered the field entirely. Allan Kozinn, WSJ, "Romantic Lushness Meets Post-Tonal Grittiness," 30 May 2018 Paradoxically, the central European country that has tried hardest to plug itself into the EU’s heart often seems most agnostic about its orientation. The Economist, "A struggle between authoritarians and liberals in the heart of Europe," 26 May 2018 For example, the study in press used the agnostic approach. Nicholette Zeliadt, Scientific American, "Some Mutations Tied to Autism May Be Passed Down from Fathers," 19 Apr. 2018 In their shared legal brief, however, the CLS and NAE remain agnostic about the president’s motives. Tobin Grant, Washington Post, "Why some religious-freedom groups won’t take a stand on the travel ban," 25 Apr. 2018 And with a Disney streaming service coming, Netflix’s agnostic approach to quality may come back to haunt it. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Can Netflix Take Over Hollywood?," 24 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'agnostic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of agnostic


1861, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1870, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for agnostic


Greek ágnōstos "unknown, unknowable" (from a- a- entry 2 + gnōstós "known," variant of gnōtós, verbal adjective of gignṓskein "to know entry 1") + -ic entry 2 (after gnostic)


derivative of agnostic entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about agnostic

Dictionary Entries near agnostic








Statistics for agnostic

Last Updated

18 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for agnostic

The first known use of agnostic was in 1861

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for agnostic



English Language Learners 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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on agnostic

Spanish Central: Translation of agnostic

Nglish: Translation of agnostic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of agnostic for Arabic Speakers

Comments on agnostic

What made you want to look up agnostic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!