ha·​gi·​og·​ra·​phy ˌha-gē-ˈä-grə-fē How to pronounce hagiography (audio)
: biography of saints or venerated persons
: idealizing or idolizing biography
an account that smacks of hagiography

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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 part of the Jewish Scriptures. English's 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 While the series follows an investigative producer who teamed with law-enforcement to spring innocent inmates from custody, the Mandela portrait will counter previous efforts that veered too far into hagiography. Ben Croll, Variety, 5 Apr. 2024 What’s more, conventional wisdom in Hollywood says that biopics and documentaries that involve family members too directly can verge on hagiography. Kate Dwyer, New York Times, 2 Mar. 2024 Yet her words hardly tarnish the overwhelming sense of hagiography. Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post, 12 Feb. 2024 Perhaps the most notable way The Crown honors Diana in these episodes is by avoiding the temptation to turn them into hagiography. EW.com, 16 Nov. 2023 Also, Reece’s Replica verged on hagiography when asked to write about Altman’s potential legacy as a leader at OpenAI. Reece Rogers, WIRED, 26 Dec. 2023 In the wake of Roth’s death in 2018, alongside the triumphant hagiographies, further reconsiderations of misogyny in his writing were composed, and new ones were occasioned by the Bailey scandal. Hannah Gold, Harper's Magazine, 3 Nov. 2023 Unlike other Wild West figures who were lathered in hagiography, Reeves needed no embellishment. Wil Haygood, Washington Post, 2 Nov. 2023 Unlike the biography of many famous concert pianists, the story of Vogt’s life reads less like a hagiography and more like a bildungsroman: a calling, an arduous apprenticeship, and a mature artistry that was ultimately less about solitary stardom and more about musical community. Max Norman, The New Yorker, 5 Sep. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hagiography.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see hagiographa

First Known Use

1821, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of hagiography was in 1821


Dictionary Entries Near hagiography

Cite this Entry

“Hagiography.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hagiography. Accessed 22 May. 2024.

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