blas·​phe·​my | \ ˈblas-fə-mē How to pronounce blasphemy (audio) \
plural blasphemies

Definition of blasphemy

1a : the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God accused of blasphemy
b : the act of claiming the attributes of a deity for a mere man to suggest that he was … divine could only be viewed … as blasphemy— John Bright †1889
2 : irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable

Keep scrolling for more

The Origins of Blasphemy

Blasphemy came into the English language in the 13th century, and for the first several hundred years of its life had but a single meaning, “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.” By the early 17th century it began to be applied figuratively to irreverence for things held in great respect that were not necessarily divine in nature, as in the phrase, “a blasphemy against friendship.”

Blasphemy shares a root with blame; both words may be traced to the Greek blasphēmein (“to speak ill of, blaspheme"). Despite the fact that these words are connected, they have diverged sufficiently over the centuries that the meanings are now quite distinct.

Examples of blasphemy in a Sentence

She was condemned by the church for uttering blasphemies. in the 17th century the Quakers were persecuted for beliefs and practices that older churches regarded as blasphemies

Recent Examples on the Web

Since 2004, 147 people have been imprisoned under blasphemy or related laws, according to monitoring by Human Rights Watch. Binsar Bakkara, The Seattle Times, "Indonesia woman irked by mosque noise convicted of blasphemy," 21 Aug. 2018 The court upheld the blasphemy law but said there was not enough evidence to convict her. Munir Ahmed, The Seattle Times, "Pakistan rejects US rebuke on religious freedoms," 11 Dec. 2018 Shortly after the spat, villagers accused Ms. Bibi of blasphemy and had her imprisoned. Sadanand Dhume, WSJ, "Will Pakistan Execute a 53-Year-Old Woman for Being Christian?," 18 Oct. 2018 Corrections & Amplifications Asia Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010. Saeed Shah, WSJ, "Pakistan’s Top Court Frees Christian Woman on Death Row for Blasphemy," 31 Oct. 2018 Hundreds, including many Muslims, languish in Pakistani jails under the blasphemy laws, which include a mandatory death sentence for insults to the prophet Muhammad. Saeed Shah, WSJ, "Pakistani Woman Acquitted of Blasphemy Is Caught in Legal Limbo," 12 Nov. 2018 He was killed by his own bodyguard for criticizing the country’s harsh blasphemy laws. Pamela Constable, Washington Post, "Islamist terrorism wanes in Pakistan, but religious fervor threatens national unity," 7 May 2018 Toughest of all, however, is the matter of blasphemy, as it might be interpreted by some conservative adherents of Islam. Charles Desmarais, San Francisco Chronicle, "Talepasand takes on pleasure, religion and Iran at Jack Fischer Gallery," 5 June 2018 Putting a motor on a bicycle is quickly dismissed as blasphemy by real cyclists. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "A Weekend With a $16,000 Mountain Bike," 8 Mar. 2017

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

See More

First Known Use of blasphemy

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for blasphemy

see blaspheme

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about blasphemy

Share blasphemy

Dictionary Entries near blasphemy








Statistics for blasphemy

Last Updated

8 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for blasphemy

The first known use of blasphemy was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for blasphemy



English Language Learners Definition of blasphemy

: great disrespect shown to God or to something holy
: something said or done that is disrespectful to God or to something holy


blas·​phe·​my | \ ˈblas-fə-mē How to pronounce blasphemy (audio) \
plural blasphemies

Legal Definition of blasphemy

: the crime of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God or a religion and its doctrines and writings and especially God as perceived by Christianity and Christian doctrines and writings

Note: In many states, blasphemy statutes have been repealed as contrary to the First Amendment.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on blasphemy

What made you want to look up blasphemy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the way words of a language are spelled

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
True or False

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

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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