blasphemy

noun
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

Judges imposed the sentence despite prosecutors downgrading the blasphemy charge to a lesser offense. Binsar Bakkara, The Seattle Times, "Indonesia woman irked by mosque noise convicted of blasphemy," 21 Aug. 2018 But between 1987 and 2014, more than 1,300 blasphemy charges were lodged with the police, including those brought by ordinary citizens against other citizens. Madiha Afzal, Washington Post, "Malala is building more schools in Pakistan. That’s not likely to reduce support for extremism.," 7 Apr. 2018 Pakistan’s highest court affirmed its decision to free a Christian woman who had been convicted of blasphemy, dismissing a legal challenge by religious hard-liners. Saeed Shah, WSJ, "Top Court Clears Way for Woman in Blasphemy Case to Leave Pakistan," 29 Jan. 2019 The country’s laws also prohibit blasphemy and non-Muslim proselytizing. Asa Fitch, WSJ, "In Arab Nation, Christians, Buddhists and Jews Emerge to Worship," 27 Jan. 2019 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

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

Dictionary Entries near blasphemy

blaspheme

blaspheme-vine

blasphemous

blasphemy

blast

-blast

blast-

Statistics for blasphemy

Last Updated

3 May 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

blasphemy

noun

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

blasphemy

noun
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).

WORD OF THE DAY

a strong desire or propensity

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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