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


ag·​nos·​tic | \ ag-ˈnäs-tik How to pronounce agnostic (audio) , 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.

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Other Words from agnostic


agnosticism \ ag-​ˈnä-​stə-​ˌsi-​zəm How to pronounce agnosticism (audio) , 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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The sort of centrist, agnostic, big-tent rock that Hootie specialized in, and that served as a bridge between eras of far more abrasive material, has all but vanished from the rock mainstream, inasmuch as there is even a rock mainstream anymore. Jon Caramanica, New York Times, "Hootie & the Blowfish, Great American Rock Band (Yes, Really)," 6 June 2019 Just why so many agnostics, and even atheists, believe in a higher power is a matter of debate. Washington Post, "Most Americans believe in a higher power, but not always in the God of the Bible," 25 Apr. 2018 The rule is also agnostic regarding fuel, so states won’t be punished if their coal plants use, say, lignite from Mississippi that burns less efficiently. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Not the Climate Apocalypse," 21 Aug. 2018 PlayFab's services are platform agnostic, and Microsoft has preserved this aspect: there are SDKs for Xbox, Windows, PlayStation, Switch, iOS, and Android. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Microsoft wants Azure to be the multiplayer server solution for every platform," 14 Nov. 2018 The Freedom From Religion Foundation is an educational nonprofit and association of atheists, agnostics and skeptics. Erica Snow, WSJ, "Religious Groups, Atheists Clash Over Tax-Free Housing for Clergy," 24 Oct. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

More broadly, its agnostic approach to energy sources provides a way for oil and gas to stay viable economically compared to more dramatic climate change proposals that would seek to phase out fossil fuels more rapidly. Justin Worland, Time, "The World's Largest Automakers Asked Trump Not to Loosen a Climate Change Standard. Here's Why," 7 June 2019 Plus, Chinese users largely stick to platform-agnostic messaging and payment services such as WeChat, as opposed to Apple’s proprietary iMessage. Joanna Stern, WSJ, "iPhone XR Revisited: The Best iPhone Apple Can’t Sell," 7 Jan. 2019 All else being equal, a 62-year-old white, Christian Democrats who lives in rural Montana will loathe Republicans less than a 23-year-old Hispanic, agnostic Democrat who lives in Los Angeles. Ezra Klein, Vox, "The political tribalism of Andrew Sullivan," 11 Dec. 2018 Now, of course, other people thank Jesus, but that joke was directed at that audience for being homogenous, liberal and basically agnostic. Fox News, "Kavanaugh accused: Where does the burden of proof lie?," 19 Sep. 2018 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

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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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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More from Merriam-Webster on agnostic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for agnostic

Spanish Central: Translation of agnostic

Nglish: Translation of agnostic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of agnostic for Arabic Speakers

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