ag·​nos·​tic | \ ag-ˈnä-stik How to pronounce agnostic (audio) , 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



Definition of agnostic (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or being an agnostic : involving or characterized by agnosticism
3a : not preferring a particular device or system usually used after a noun "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 usually used after a noun content that is OS agnostic often used in combination The application is platform-agnostic, so it can work on your tablet or cell phone.

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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

Noun 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 Adjective 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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun UniMelt technology is material agnostic, which offers other advantages. Jim Vinoski, Forbes, 28 May 2021 This presents a potential long-term threat to the free, open architecture of podcasting, though projects like The Podcast Index are aiming to preserve the medium as platform-agnostic. John Sullivan, The Conversation, 13 May 2021 Microservices, on the other hand, are lightweight, reusable, flexible and platform-agnostic. Gregory Webb, Forbes, 6 May 2021 In terms of technology says that Oma is technology agnostic and is completely compatible with all current technologies from standard digital projectors and also with Dolby Cinema and IMAX. Benny Har-even, Forbes, 11 Apr. 2021 VisuWall is brand category agnostic and works with private landlords, institutional owners and brokers. Essence, 4 July 2020 And until cloud gaming, there was no mass-market Netflix for videogames—on-demand content that’s device-agnostic. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, 29 June 2020 But the wider global culture seems to present either a homogenized agnostic or atheistic and capitalist worldview, or some version of Christianity. Aneesa Bodiat, New York Times, 12 May 2020 When the sun shines through and paints floors, walls, and people with moving color, the effect is aleatoric, agnostic, and otherworldly. Susan Tallman, The New York Review of Books, 25 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective On the religious premises of Zen, Paik was agnostic. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 28 May 2021 But suddenly, there was a reason to become more digital, more omnichannel and more agnostic. Hope Neiman, Forbes, 8 June 2021 Parts of data highways have been built by cloud platform and AI analytics providers embracing data-centric business models based on de novo design of scalable, user- and vendor-agnostic architectures. Stefan Harrer, Forbes, 1 June 2021 Likewise, the industry-specific disclosures suggested by SASB standards complement and supplement the IBC industry-agnostic metrics. Punit Renjen, Fortune, 7 May 2021 This mindset reduces school to a purely academic endeavor, as if children’s brains are mere receptacles for data, agnostic about the ways in which that data is received. David Zweig, Wired, 14 May 2021 While their leadership model might be ideologically agnostic, their claim to power was quite consistent. Paul Laudicina, Forbes, 12 May 2021 What was instead required was an agnostic approach, one biased in favor neither of extraterrestrial craft nor of the weather or Venus. Gideon Lewis-kraus, The New Yorker, 30 Apr. 2021 The Electric Juice Network is providing another alternative that is manufacturer agnostic. James Morris, Forbes, 3 Mar. 2021

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for agnostic

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The first known use of agnostic was in 1861

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Last Updated

6 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Agnostic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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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


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