1 a : one that is cursed by ecclesiastical authority
b : someone or something intensely disliked or loathed — usually used as a predicate nominative
2 a : a ban or curse solemnly pronounced by ecclesiastical authority and accompanied by excommunication
b : the denunciation of something as accursed
c : a vigorous denunciation : curse
Did You Know?
From a historical perspective, anathema can be considered a one-word oxymoron. When it first appeared in English in the 1500s, it was used to refer to something accursed. Shortly thereafter, however, people also began to use it to refer to something consecrated to divine use—generally a good thing. Why the contradiction? Anathema comes from Greek, where it initially meant "anything devoted" and later "anything devoted to evil." The "consecrated to divine use" sense of anathema comes from that earlier Greek use but is not widely used today. Modern English speakers are most likely to encounter anathema used as a predicate nominative in the sense of "someone or something that is intensely disliked," as in the example sentences below.
"Diets were anathema to Julia because they implied that food was harmful." — Cook's Illustrated, November & December 2004
"Preordaining a peaceful future, especially an apparently zombie-free one, should be anathema to a show that clings to week-by-week anticipation." — Charles Bramesco, The New York Times, 5 Mar. 2018
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to complete a synonym of anathema: e _ _ c _ a _ _ on.VIEW THE ANSWER
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