ha·​gi·​og·​ra·​phy | \ ˌha-gē-ˈä-grə-fē How to pronounce hagiography (audio) , ˌhā-, -jē- \

Definition of hagiography

1 : biography of saints or venerated persons
2 : idealizing or idolizing biography an account that smacks of hagiography

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Did You Know?

Like "biography" and "autograph," the word hagiography has to do with the written word. The combining form "-graphy" comes from Greek graphein, meaning "to write." "Hagio-" comes from a Greek word that means "saintly" or "holy." This origin is seen in "Hagiographa," the Greek designation of the Ketuvim, the third division of the Hebrew Bible. Our English word hagiography, though it can refer to biography of actual saints, is these days more often applied to biography that treats ordinary human subjects as if they were saints.

Examples of hagiography in a Sentence

a hagiography about a famous politician The book gives a good idea of his virtues without resorting to hagiography.
Recent Examples on the Web The trouble with chronicling genius is that, if not careful, the process can quickly veer into hagiography. Sheldon Pearce, The New Yorker, "Kendrick Lamar and the Mantle of Black Genius," 26 Oct. 2020 Malcolm X’s difficult legacy—the fact that his rhetoric could radicalize Black communities even as the Nation of Islam fractured some families—was rarely acknowledged at the height of Malcolm X hagiography, during the 1990s. Kerri Greenidge, The Atlantic, "The Making of Malcolm X," 15 Oct. 2020 At first, the shirt seemed like yet another piece of Girlboss merchandise, an attempt at hagiography that flattened women into symbols. Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, "How We Lie to Ourselves About History," 12 Oct. 2020 Within hours of her death, there also appeared more than a little snarking about the pop-hagiography around her, edged with insinuating questions about just how far-ranging her vision of equality was. Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times, "Amid the Outpouring for Ginsburg, a Hint of Backlash," 21 Sep. 2020 North Korea for much of its history hid behind Kim family hagiography and dealt with internal crises much differently. Andrew Jeong, WSJ, "Kim Jong Un’s New Look Is More Man Than Superhuman," 1 Oct. 2020 Like many biopics, the film has the glossy veneer of hagiography—down to one of its final scenes, which finds Jones’s version of Ginsburg walking up the steps of the Supreme Court Building, only to morph into the real Ginsburg doing the same. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "What the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Fandom Knew," 19 Sep. 2020 As Trump’s presidency drags on and Ginsburg’s hospital visits arrive with ever greater frequency, all this hagiography appears increasingly misplaced. Amanda Hess, New York Times, "The Fandom Around R.B.G. Is Out of Step With Reality," 12 Aug. 2020 Others criticized him as selfish, wondering where his then-wife and children were in the hagiography. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "Opinion: 'The Last Dance' showed Michael Jordan to be both otherworldly and deeply human," 18 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hagiography.' 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 hagiography

1821, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for hagiography

see hagiographa

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The first known use of hagiography was in 1821

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Cite this Entry

“Hagiography.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hagiography. Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for hagiography


How to pronounce hagiography (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of hagiography

disapproving : a book about someone's life that makes it seem better than it really is or was : a biography that praises someone too much

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More from Merriam-Webster on hagiography

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hagiography

Britannica English: Translation of hagiography for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about hagiography

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