ag·​nos·​tic | \ ag-ˈnä-stik How to pronounce agnostic (audio) , əg- \

Definition of agnostic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god
2 : a person who is unwilling to commit to an opinion about something political agnostics



Definition of agnostic (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or being an agnostic : involving or characterized by agnosticism
3a : not preferring a particular device or system usually used after a noun "Children are platform agnostic," said Alice Cahn, vice-president of development for Cartoon Network. "If you want to look foolish with a preschooler, say, 'Sorry, you can't watch that. It's not on.' It's TiVoed, it's online, it's on video on demand."Business Wire
b : designed to be compatible with different devices (such as computers or smartphones) or operating systems usually used after a noun content that is OS agnostic often used in combination The application is platform-agnostic, so it can work on your tablet or cell phone.

How Agnostic Differs From Atheist


Many people are interested in distinguishing between the words agnostic and atheist. The difference is quite simple: atheist refers to someone who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods, and agnostic refers to someone who doesn’t know whether there is a god, or even if such a thing is knowable. This distinction can be troublesome to remember, but examining the origins of the two words can help.

Agnostic first appeared in 1869, (possibly coined by the English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley), and was formed from the Greek agnōstos (meaning "unknown, unknowable"). Atheist came to English from the French athéisme. Although both words share a prefix (which is probably the source of much of the confusion) the main body of each word is quite different. Agnostic shares part of its history with words such as prognosticate and prognosis, words which have something to do with knowledge or knowing something. Atheist shares roots with words such as theology and theism, which generally have something to do with God.

Examples of agnostic in a Sentence

Noun Even polytheists … were in fact tolerated, as Islamic rule spread to most of India. Only the total unbeliever—the agnostic or atheist—was beyond the pale of tolerance … — Bernard Lewis, Islam in History, 1993 Supporters of education vouchers … will love what Norman Macrae has to say on the subject. Teachers' unions and other opponents of vouchers … will deplore it. Voucher agnostics (and I include myself) might find that the proposal not only answers most doubts but also makes sense on issues they've never much thought about. — William Raspberry, Springfield (Massachusetts) Union, 14 Aug. 1987 I call myself an agnostic. I do not really have any faith, any coherent religious faith, and yet the one thing in my life that I feel passionate and evangelical about is poetry. — Maxine Kumin, "An Interview at Interlochen," 1977, in To Make a Prairie1979 Adjective Cladistics classifies organisms in nested hierarchies based exclusively on their order of branching. (I should say that I am quite agnostic about this theory, so I do not write as a shill.) — Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History, March 1995 The composition comes alive in stanzas V and VI. This is the dark night. I hoped my readers would remember John of the Cross's poem. My night is not gracious, but secular, puritan, and agnostic. An existentialist night. — Robert Lowell, Collected Prose, 1987 … I thought that by the time I was past thirty-five—at the very least agnostic and surely swept by the bleak winds of existentialism—I had abandoned the Presbyterian precepts of my childhood. — William Styron, This Quiet Dust and Other Writings, 1982
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The research firm Gartner recently defined two different high-level categories of AIOps: domain-centric and domain-agnostic. Elik Eizenberg, Forbes, 10 Sep. 2021 The spread of misinformation on Facebook is partisan agnostic, meaning that the platform does not favor or reward falsehoods coming from one side or the other. Ramishah Maruf, CNN, 5 Sep. 2021 UniMelt technology is material agnostic, which offers other advantages. Jim Vinoski, Forbes, 28 May 2021 This presents a potential long-term threat to the free, open architecture of podcasting, though projects like The Podcast Index are aiming to preserve the medium as platform-agnostic. John Sullivan, The Conversation, 13 May 2021 Microservices, on the other hand, are lightweight, reusable, flexible and platform-agnostic. Gregory Webb, Forbes, 6 May 2021 In terms of technology says that Oma is technology agnostic and is completely compatible with all current technologies from standard digital projectors and also with Dolby Cinema and IMAX. Benny Har-even, Forbes, 11 Apr. 2021 VisuWall is brand category agnostic and works with private landlords, institutional owners and brokers. Essence, 4 July 2020 And until cloud gaming, there was no mass-market Netflix for videogames—on-demand content that’s device-agnostic. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, 29 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective As more and more protocol-agnostic vault strategies emerge, competing platforms need to even further incentivize users to choose them. Nicholas Gans, Forbes, 15 Nov. 2021 GEDmatch was free and open—a nonprofit, commercially agnostic place for serious genealogy. Raffi Khatchadourian, The New Yorker, 15 Nov. 2021 Unlike policies that target a certain category, like politics or health information, a content-agnostic change applies equally to all users and posts. Gilad Edelman, Wired, 25 Oct. 2021 The overall capital and bank lending allocation process still takes place in a fully carbon agnostic mode. Frank Van Gansbeke, Forbes, 4 Nov. 2021 In that same spirit, my team treated our product—one that allows advertisers around the world to access an international clientele—as culturally agnostic, relevant as much to users locally as to those on the other side of the world. Yona Golding, Wired, 21 Oct. 2021 The Squid Game phenomenon underscores a fundamental change taking place in the viewing habits of western audiences, largely fueled by the broad, location-agnostic Netflix catalog. Adario Strange, Quartz, 14 Oct. 2021 Other companies are location agnostic, such as Zillow, the large online real estate marketplace. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 2 Oct. 2021 Along the way, Evil remained rather agnostic, living in the ambiguous middle ground between offering supernatural or scientific explanations for everything the team encountered. Chancellor Agard,, 17 June 2021

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


1861, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1870, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for agnostic


Greek ágnōstos "unknown, unknowable" (from a- a- entry 2 + gnōstós "known," variant of gnōtós, verbal adjective of gignṓskein "to know entry 1") + -ic entry 2 (after gnostic)


derivative of agnostic entry 1

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The first known use of agnostic was in 1861

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Cite this Entry

“Agnostic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2021.

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