ap·​o·​phat·​ic ˌa-pə-ˈfa-tik How to pronounce apophatic (audio)
: of or relating to apophasis (see apophasis sense 2) : involving the practice of describing something by stating which characteristics it does not have
an apophatic description
It was a reactive consciousness, embedded mainly in an apophatic discourse.Amila Buturovic, Cultural Survival Quarterly, Summer 1995
especially : of, relating to, or being negative theology
apophatic theology
the Christian apophatic tradition
The deepest truth in all things is numinous, these apophatic masters taught, beyond reason, beyond language. Tim Lilburn, Fiddlehead, January 1993
… a humility that recognizes that all theology has both eschatological and apophatic dimensions. Lawrence S. Cunningham, Commonweal, 5 June 2009
We'll … move on to Thomas Aquinas, in whom we can see that God's best hope is apophatic silence. John Crace, The Guardian (London), 7 July 2009

Word History


borrowed from Medieval Latin apophaticus "negative, negating," borrowed from Greek apophatikós, adjective derivative of apóphasis "denial"

First Known Use

1850, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of apophatic was in 1850

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Dictionary Entries Near apophatic

Cite this Entry

“Apophatic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apophatic. Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

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