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noun (1)

: an offense against religious or moral law
: an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible
it's a sin to waste food
: an often serious shortcoming : fault
: transgression of the law of God
: a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God


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sinned; sinning

intransitive verb

: to commit a sin
: to commit an offense or fault


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noun (2)

ˈsēn How to pronounce sin (audio)
: the 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet see Alphabet Table


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Did you know?

More on the Meaning of Sin

The word sin has been in use for well over a thousand years. Our current form of the word comes from the Middle English sinne, which is itself from the Old English syn. The original meanings of sin were largely concerned with religious matters ("an offense against religious or moral law"; "a transgression of the law of God"; "a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God"), as they still are today.

Sin does, however, have weakened, non-religious meanings. In its "an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible" meaning it is still a weighty word; it refers to actions of a kind that are likely to be strongly condemned. Far weaker is its "an often serious shortcoming" meaning, which can jokingly apply to a harmless act like eating one dessert too many, or can be paired with another word to refer to a failing of one kind or another, as in "literary/grammatical sins."

The word sinful, although it is most often found used in reference to behavior that is in some way wicked, may also be found denoting activities which are quite enjoyable (although still possibly guilt-inducing), such as eating "a sinful dessert."

Sin is also used in a fair number of compound nouns, some of which allow shades of sinfulness: a venial sin is much less serious than a mortal sin.

If you find yourself in need of a word with which to describe behavior or inclinations that are in some way questionable, but feel that sin is too strong a word, the English language has a wealth of options available. The Latin word peccare (“to sin”) has given rise to a number of English words that deal with sin, but which have less fire and brimstone in their meanings. We have peccadillo (“a slight offense”), peccable (which may mean either “liable to sin” or “susceptible to temptation”), and peccant (“violating a principle or rule, as of taste or propriety”).

Choose the Right Synonym for sin

offense, sin, vice, crime, scandal mean a transgression of law.

offense applies to the infraction of any law, rule, or code.

at that school no offense went unpunished

sin implies an offense against moral or religious law.

the sin of blasphemy

vice applies to a habit or practice that degrades or corrupts.

regarded gambling as a vice

crime implies a serious offense punishable by the law of the state.

the crime of murder

scandal applies to an offense that outrages the public conscience.

a career ruined by a sex scandal

Examples of sin in a Sentence

Noun (1) a child old enough to know that lying is a sin a minister who worries that modern society has abandoned the concept of sin a sordid section of the city that is mainly known for sin and degradation it's a sin to waste food when people are starving my besetting sin is impatience—I hate to wait for anything Verb Forgive me, for I have sinned. bless me, Father, for I have sinned
Recent Examples on the Web
Former vice president Mike Pence is out — excommunicated from the MAGA movement for the sin of not trying to overturn the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021 — and someone else will soon be in. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, 9 July 2024 These long-warring houses have lost all memory of what started the original conflict, so one sin simply begets another as members of each take retribution against the other for the smallest of disagreements. Lauren Morgan,, 1 July 2024
Yet it could be argued that Abraham, by acting to improve his situation, did not sin. Rabbi Avi Weiss,, 4 Oct. 2021 But, despite the harsh punishment, the humans continued to sin. Simon Rich, The New Yorker, 26 Dec. 2022 See all Example Sentences for sin 

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

Word History


Noun (1)

Middle English sinne, from Old English synn; akin to Old High German sunta sin and probably to Latin sont-, sons guilty, est is — more at is

Noun (2)

Hebrew śin

First Known Use

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

circa 1823, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sin was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near sin

Cite this Entry

“Sin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: a breaking of a moral law
: an action that is or is felt to be bad


2 of 2 verb
sinned; sinning
: to commit a sin

More from Merriam-Webster on sin

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