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 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 Their atrocious human deeds are, to paraphrase a famous fictional atheist, the manure for our future harmony. James Wood, The New Yorker, 24 Jan. 2022 My father was a Communist and my mother was an atheist! Joseph S. Laughon, National Review, 2 Mar. 2022 In the movie, an evangelical student enrolls in a philosophy class led by an atheist professor. Ryan Burge, WSJ, 24 Feb. 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

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Time Traveler for atheist

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The first known use of atheist was in 1551

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Last Updated

22 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Atheist.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2022.

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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


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