syn·​cre·​tism ˈsiŋ-krə-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce syncretism (audio)
: the combination of different forms of belief or practice
: the fusion of two or more originally different inflectional forms
syncretist noun or adjective
syncretistic adjective

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The ancient Greeks mainly used the term synkrētismos to describe the joining together of Greeks in opposition to a common enemy. In the early 17th century, English speakers adopted the term in the anglicized form syncretism to refer to the union of different religious beliefs. Three centuries later, lexicographers of the 1909 edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language added a new definition of syncretism ("the union or fusion into one or two or more originally different inflectional forms, as of two cases"), but this specialized sense is rarely encountered outside of the field of linguistics. Some related terms that you might encounter are syncretize ("to attempt to unite and harmonize"), syncretist ("one who advocates syncretism"), and syncretic and syncretistic ("characterized or brought about by syncretism").

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The plan was to have a perfect society, one in which men and women were equal, art was celebrated, magic was part of reality, syncretism was accepted, and homosexuality was seen as perfectly normal. Gabino Iglesias,, 2 Feb. 2023 Elliot & Erick added a new chapter to their creative journey, one made up of cultural syncretism and references to the great masters of the Renaissance. Vogue, 29 Nov. 2022 Any suggestion of syncretism or co-influence feels tantamount to treason. Jennifer Wilson, New York Times, 29 Mar. 2022 The book’s spirit of joyful syncretism is reflected by the backgrounds of its creators. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, 11 Feb. 2022 Their religion, Mexican syncretism, worships the forces of nature, the animals of the jungle, and the planets in the sky. Pilar Guzman, Travel + Leisure, 9 Nov. 2021 The first is syncretism, the merging of two traditions into a new one. Steve Padilla, Los Angeles Times, 28 Oct. 2021 They can be found in everything from African Traditional Religions and their descendants, such as Ifa and Black American Hoodoo, to the cultural syncretism embedded in Black expressions of Abrahamic religions. Shamira Ibrahi, Allure, 17 Sep. 2021 In addition to honoring her ancestors, Rodriguez loves that syncretism is a tradition that unites Black people of different nationalities. Sarah Molano, CNN, 26 Aug. 2021 See More

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

Word History


New Latin syncretismus, from Greek synkrētismos federation of Cretan cities, from syn- + Krēt-, Krēs Cretan

First Known Use

1618, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of syncretism was in 1618


Dictionary Entries Near syncretism

Cite this Entry

“Syncretism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2023.

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