her·​e·​sy | \ˈher-ə-sē, ˈhe-rə-\
plural heresies

Definition of heresy 

1a : adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma (see dogma sense 2) They were accused of heresy.

b : denial of a revealed truth by a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church

c : an opinion or doctrine contrary to church dogma

2a : dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice To disagree with the party leadership was heresy.

b : an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards our democratic heresy which holds that … truth is to be found by majority vote— M. W. Straight

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Synonyms & Antonyms for heresy


dissent, dissidence, heterodoxy, nonconformity


conformity, orthodoxy

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Examples of heresy in a Sentence

They were accused of heresy. He was preaching dangerous heresies.

Recent Examples on the Web

What is heresy to one evangelical could be orthodoxy to another. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "What’s Next for Evangelicalism?," 7 June 2018 Furthermore, Douglass was a black man of consistently radical opinion, also supporting such heresies as women’s suffrage and Irish home rule. Mark Feeney,, "The face of 19th-century America," 5 Apr. 2018 In such a volatile climate, being accused of heresy was a constant danger, and Colonna walked a narrow line, communing with men who would later flee or be arrested, her poetry and letters flirting with the language of Calvin and Luther. Sarah Dunant, New York Times, "Who Was Vittoria Colonna? Just One of Italy’s Great Poets...," 1 June 2018 The idea that Francis’s love for a gay man as a gay man somehow rips apart the fabric of the church and implies that Francis is guilty of heresy is absurd. Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer, "Why We Should Say Yes to Drugs," 25 May 2018 Rivals have criticized the pharaoh project as environmental and urban-planning heresy, and pointed to the risks of corruption. David Gauthier-villars, WSJ, "Turkey’s Erdogan Strains to Turn Strongman Rule Into Dominance at Polls," 22 June 2018 After all, one person’s heresy is another’s new religion. Sarah Scoles, Longreads, "Meet the New Mormons," 8 June 2018 In this know-it-all age of thought-leader messiahs and thumb-taunting Twitter Torquemadas, Russo places his faith in the ideals of art — ambiguity, paradox, heresy, the sublime — over the black-and-white ideologies of our current politics. Jay Fielden, New York Times, "What Do Mark Twain, Carpentry and Commodes Have in Common?," 13 June 2018 De Leon is the candidate of progressives disenchanted with Feinstein’s history of intermittent ideological heresy and relative friendliness toward Republicans. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Why Republicans Are Fighting So Hard to Get Into California’s Gubernatorial Election," 24 May 2018

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

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

History and Etymology for heresy

Middle English heresie, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed (with assimilation to the suffix -ie -y entry 2) from Late Latin haeresis, heresis "school (of philosophy or theology), sect, belief contrary to church dogma," borrowed from Greek haíresis "act of taking, choice, course of action or thought, system of principles, sect, faction," from haireîn "to take, grasp, (middle voice) obtain, choose, prefer" (of obscure origin) + -sis -sis

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Statistics for heresy

Last Updated

26 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for heresy

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

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More Definitions for heresy



English Language Learners Definition of heresy

: a belief or opinion that does not agree with the official belief or opinion of a particular religion


her·​e·​sy | \ˈher-ə-sē \
plural heresies

Kids Definition of heresy

1 : the holding of religious beliefs opposed to church doctrine : such a belief

2 : belief or opinion opposed to a generally accepted view It's heresy in my family to not love baseball.

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