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 And violating them may result in a sin of sacrilege. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, 2 July 2021 Purists, though, view fakery that’s flung on by machine or clothing that’s formulaically hand-splattered as sacrilege. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, 19 May 2021 As someone who grew up seeped in the belief that hard work is noble and shortcuts are character defects, making things easier for myself feels like sacrilege. Lisa Earle Mcleod, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2021 And for many years, the Kalash have been wary about the threat from Islamist militants who see their faith as sacrilege. New York Times, 27 Dec. 2020 Some like it sweet, others think adding sugar is sacrilege. Nicole Hvidsten, Star Tribune, 20 Jan. 2021 To fans of Bad Bunny, the near-instantaneous unavailability of the new Crocs felt like sacrilege. Star Tribune, 30 Oct. 2020 Handel himself was initially accused of sacrilege in some orthodox quarters for transposing the biblical text. Dan Bilefsky, New York Times, 21 Dec. 2020 To fans of Bad Bunny, the near-instantaneous unavailability of the new Crocs felt like sacrilege. Star Tribune, 30 Oct. 2020

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

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

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Dictionary Entries Near sacrilege

sacrificial theory



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Cite this Entry

“Sacrilege.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for sacrilege



English Language Learners Definition of sacrilege

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

More from Merriam-Webster on sacrilege

Nglish: Translation of sacrilege for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sacrilege for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about sacrilege


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