her·​e·​sy ˈher-ə-sē How to pronounce heresy (audio)
plural heresies
: adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma (see dogma sense 2)
They were accused of heresy.
: denial of a revealed truth by a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church
: an opinion or doctrine contrary to church dogma
: dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice
To disagree with the party leadership was heresy.
: 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 voteM. W. Straight

Example Sentences

They were accused of heresy. He was preaching dangerous heresies.
Recent Examples on the Web Her writings caused no scandal like the one unleashed by the twelfth-century theologian Peter Abelard, who, after espousing principles of universal reason and individual intention, faced accusations of heresy. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 30 Jan. 2023 Some may think the cocktail is an act of heresy in the first place. Tori Latham, Robb Report, 24 Jan. 2023 This week’s column indulges in acts of heresy by questioning the continued relevance of our elders — specifically, the almost-60-year-old antideferral rules. Robert Goulder, Forbes, 4 Oct. 2021 Others joined Ellis in criticizing Warnock, who is an ordained minister, with some also accusing him of heresy. Emma Colton, Washington Examiner, 5 Apr. 2021 And indeed, such a claim was treated as heresy of the highest order. Keith Kloor, Discover Magazine, 29 July 2011 Both witchcraft and heresy, Mr. Gaskill notes, were terrors that touched the Puritan soul. Barbara Spindel, WSJ, 22 Nov. 2022 Then LeRette interprets: A skeptic is trying to trick Jesus into contradicting Judaic law, into uttering a heresy. Andrew Kay, WIRED, 17 Jan. 2023 One generation’s heresy is the next generation’s gospel. Christy Piña, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Cite this Entry

“Heresy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


her·​e·​sy ˈher-ə-sē How to pronounce heresy (audio)
plural heresies
: religious opinion that is opposed to the doctrines of a church
: opinion that is opposed to a generally accepted belief

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