blas·phe·my | \ˈblas-fə-mē \
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

Pakistan’s legal code criminalizes blasphemy with a maximum punishment of the death penalty. Laignee Barron, Time, "A Man Was Denied Asylum in the U.K. Because He Couldn't Answer Questions About Greek Philosophers," 19 Jan. 2018 The then incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was also convicted of blasphemy against Islam and is serving a two-year prison sentence. Anita Rachman, WSJ, "Jakarta’s Governor, Backed by Islamic Conservatives, Sets Up Vice Showdown," 26 Mar. 2018 The blasphemy clause has drawn some support elsewhere. New York Times, "Next in Irish Voters’ Cross Hairs? A Law Banning Blasphemy," 13 June 2018 To some, crude humor about a religious leader can be considered both blasphemy and hate speech against all followers of that faith. James Freeman, WSJ, "Facebook’s 10,000 New Editors," 16 May 2018 Not only is Indiana in the Eastern Conference, which is an NBA sin, but the Pacers are neither Boston nor Philadelphia, which is a blasphemy. Gregg Doyel, Indianapolis Star, "Doyel: Pacers to the NBA — here we come," 6 July 2018 Even if Linard were being disingenuous, there’s little evidence left of any alleged blasphemy. Vogue, "Blitz Kid Stephen Linard’s 1980 Neo-Gothic Collection Anticipated “Heavenly Bodies” by 38 Years," 4 May 2018 As if things couldn't get any worse — this is family game blasphemy! — the thimble might not be the only token to go. Sarah Schreiber, Good Housekeeping, "Monopoly Just Got Rid of the Thimble and Now None of the Original Tokens Are Safe," 17 Feb. 2017 The Muslim legal experts have issued fatwas, or religious decrees, that respond to questions seeking religious guidance on the most serious of issues, such as blasphemy, as well as the most trivial household matters. Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, "Buying ‘likes’ on Facebook is ‘immoral’, Egypt’s top Muslim cleric declares," 17 Apr. 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.

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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

20 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for blasphemy

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 \
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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