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

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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

Moreover, the play’s presentation of the Biblical story of Salome, the stepdaughter of King Herod of Judaea, elicited accusations of blasphemy. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The Endless, Grisly Fascination of Richard Strauss’s “Salome”," 21 Aug. 2019 That’s what blasphemy is, giving their beliefs human rights. Kyle Smith, National Review, "‘Don’t Apologize’: Ricky Gervais Takes On Verbal Terrorism," 16 Aug. 2019 Hundreds of thousands of Indonesian Muslims protested against Jakarta's Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, for alleged blasphemy at a rally in December 2016. Ben Otto, WSJ, "With Fatwas and Blasphemy Claims, Cleric Emerges as a Force in Indonesia," 23 Jan. 2019 In 2016, Jakarta's Chinese Christian governor (a Joko ally) Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, was accused of insulting the Quran and jailed on blasphemy charges. Anna Coren, CNN, "President Joko Widodo says Islam in Indonesia is 'tolerant' as rights groups warn of rising fundamentalism," 27 July 2019 Violence, profanity, blasphemy and tap dancing ensue. Kerry Lengel, azcentral, "How to score $25 tickets for ‘The Book of Mormon,’ returning to ASU Gammage Aug. 6-11," 24 July 2019 Woods’s alignment doesn’t have any of West’s folly, turmoil or historical blasphemy. Wesley Morris, New York Times, "A Tolerable Redemption for Tiger Woods," 13 June 2019 The capital, Jakarta, was flooded with more than 700,000 Muslims demanding that Ahok be charged with blasphemy. Margaret Scott, The New York Review of Books, "Indonesia’s New Islamist Politics," 18 Apr. 2019 Ahok was convicted of blasphemy and imprisoned for two years. Margaret Scott, The New York Review of Books, "Indonesia’s New Islamist Politics," 18 Apr. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of blasphemy

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

History and Etymology for blasphemy

see blaspheme

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Last Updated

6 Sep 2019

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

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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.

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authorized for issue (as a bond)

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