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

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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 Poet Ashraf Fayadh is also still in jail on an eight-year sentence for allegedly questioning religion and spreading atheist thought. Gayle Manchin, Time, "Raif Badawi Is Still in Prison Over a Series of Blog Posts. The U.S. Has Given Saudi Arabia a Free Pass for Too Long," 28 Apr. 2021 Those findings have led some to conclude that, if religion is good for you, being an atheist will be bad for your health. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Being ‘godless’ might be good for your health, new study finds," 4 Mar. 2021 If one town could bar the AFA, another could reject a mosque, a synagogue or an atheist group. Steve Chapman,, "Column: White supremacists should have First Amendment protection," 16 Dec. 2020 Entertainer, genius, debunker, atheist ̶ Randi was them all. NBC News, "James Randi, dazzling magician and skeptic, dies at 92," 22 Oct. 2020 While Mother and Father are Mithraic technology, they have been programmed by someone from the atheist camp, and tasked with raising human embryos to adulthood by dint of science and not belief. Lydia Kiesling, The New Yorker, "The Aspirational Android Parenting of “Raised by Wolves”," 5 Oct. 2020 Before having such an experience during their psychedelic session, 21 percent retrospectively identified as atheist, whereas only 8 percent did after the experience. Matthew W. Johnson, Scientific American, "There's No Good Evidence that Psychedelics Can Change Your Politics or Religion," 5 Nov. 2020 And the Federalists accused Jefferson of being an atheist. Jerry Schwartz, Star Tribune, "EXPLAINER: From 1800, a lesson in delayed election results," 31 Oct. 2020 Sometimes, Randi veered into the territory of a harping professional atheist. Peter Tonguette, Washington Examiner, "James Randi, 1928-2020," 29 Oct. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of atheist

1551, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for atheist

see atheism

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Time Traveler for atheist

Time Traveler

The first known use of atheist was in 1551

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Statistics for atheist

Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Atheist.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for atheist



English Language Learners Definition of atheist

: a person who believes that God does not exist


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

Kids Definition of atheist

: a person who believes there is no God

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