sac·​ri·​lege | \ ˈsa-krə-lij How to pronounce sacrilege (audio) \

Definition of sacrilege

1 : a technical and not necessarily intrinsically outrageous violation (such as improper reception of a sacrament) of what is sacred because consecrated to God
2 : gross irreverence toward a hallowed person, place, or thing

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Why is sacrilegious not spelled sacreligious?

Sacrilegious is often used in reference to religion, or to religious things, so it is easy to see why people might be confused by its spelling. However, sacrilegious and religious are not from the same roots. Religious comes from the Latin word religio (“reverence, religion”), whereas sacrilegious and the related noun sacrilege come from Latin roots meaning “sacred” (sacr-) and “to steal” (legere).

The earliest sense of sacrilege, in use since the beginning of the 14th century, was concerned with the theft, misuse, or desecration of sacred or holy things. It still is used in this sense quite often, but has also taken on a broader meaning, in which it refers to irreverence to a person, place, or thing which may or may not have religious significance.

Examples of sacrilege in a Sentence

They accused him of committing a sacrilege. They accused him of sacrilege. an act of sacrilege against the church
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Recent Examples on the Web Some right-leaning Americans have called masks a tool of oppression, Democratic conspiracy, and even sacrilege. Joel Shannon, USA TODAY, "Some Americans refuse to mask up. Rules, fines and free masks will change that, experts say.," 13 July 2020 The only thing that’s not allowed in the chili is greens or vegetables of any kind — that would be sacrilege. cleveland, "Chili, the way you like it, is the easiest route to dinner," 1 July 2020 Even the impressive act of pulling a 1.25-million-pound train full of F-150s was not enough to convince some diehards that this was not an act of sacrilege, but the result of evolution. Maxwell B. Mortimer, Car and Driver, "See Some of the Ford F-150's Craziest Stunts and Maneuvers," 26 June 2020 Nor is criminalizing sacrilege based on Islam’s main sacred text, the Quran. Washington Post, "Execution for a Facebook post? Why blasphemy is a capital offense in some Muslim countries," 20 Feb. 2020 Such Islamaphobic laws and policies can create the impression that Muslims are under siege and provide an excuse that punishing sacrilege is a defense of the faith. Ahmet T. Kuru, The Conversation, "Execution for a Facebook post? Why blasphemy is a capital offense in some Muslim countries," 20 Feb. 2020 Reviewers who controlled film culture’s secular narrative praised Reygadas for agnosticism that verged on sacrilege. Armond White, National Review, "Franco Zeffirelli: Unlikely Conservative Hero," 20 June 2019 At the climax, the priest destroys the altar in an act of horrifying sacrilege. Aja Romano, Vox, "Leonard Bernstein gave American music so much more than West Side Story.," 25 Aug. 2018 The two films do share a producer, Genki Kawamura, but the comparison otherwise feels like sacrilege. Justin Chang,, "Time-travel romance, but no magic, in the Japanese anime 'Fireworks'," 2 July 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sacrilege

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin sacrilegium, from sacrilegus one who robs sacred property, from sacr-, sacer + legere to gather, steal — more at legend

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Time Traveler for sacrilege

Time Traveler

The first known use of sacrilege was in the 14th century

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Statistics for sacrilege

Last Updated

22 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sacrilege.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for sacrilege


How to pronounce sacrilege (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sacrilege

: an act of treating a holy place or object in a way that does not show proper respect

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