athe·​ist | \ ˈā-thē-ist How to pronounce atheist (audio) \

Definition of atheist

: a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods : one who subscribes to or advocates atheism

Other Words from atheist

atheistic \ ˌā-​thē-​ˈi-​stik How to pronounce atheist (audio) \ or atheistical \ ˌā-​thē-​ˈi-​sti-​kəl How to pronounce atheist (audio) \ adjective
atheistically \ ˌā-​thē-​ˈi-​sti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce atheist (audio) \ adverb

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 atheist in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In the departments of theology and charm, Hitchens’s legacy is hard to disentangle, since his atheist barnstorming ultimately became a work of high-concept performance art, to be very generous, or a disposable stand-up act, to be less so. Christian Lorentzen, Harper’s Magazine , 20 July 2022 When a deeply religious order of surviving humans threatens their atheist existence, the androids learn controlling human belief is much more difficult than anticipated. Sophie Hanson, Harper's BAZAAR, 24 June 2022 Around half of tech workers identify as atheist or agnostic, according to a 2018 Lincoln Network survey. Peter Rex, WSJ, 10 Feb. 2022 They’re joined by Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi), a technology contractor, atheist and gizmo genius who often provides comic relief. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 5 June 2022 Travis Fimmel, fresh off his role as Ragnar in Vikings, plays Marcus—an atheist who has disguised himself as one of the religious Mithraic soldiers along with is wife, Sue, played by Niamh Algar. Erik Kain, Forbes, 5 June 2022 Liz Cooper-Klish said the Bible ultimately led her down the path of becoming an atheist. Sarah Elbeshbishi, USA TODAY, 29 May 2022 Her father, Guillermo Berganza, an accountant, was an atheist who favored left-wing causes. New York Times, 13 May 2022 Neither of us -- Arin, a Jewish atheist, nor I, a Catholic agnostic -- ever felt comfortable with the masses, the crossings, the acts of adoration, all the trappings of institutional religion. Dave Lucas, CNN, 15 Apr. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of atheist

1551, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for atheist

see atheism

Learn More About atheist

Time Traveler for atheist

Time Traveler

The first known use of atheist was in 1551

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near atheist




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for atheist

Last Updated

28 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Atheist.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for atheist


athe·​ist | \ ˈā-thē-ist How to pronounce atheist (audio) \

Kids Definition of atheist

: a person who believes there is no God


Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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