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ag·​nos·​tic ag-ˈnä-stik How to pronounce agnostic (audio)
: 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
: a person who is unwilling to commit to an opinion about something
political agnostics


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: of, relating to, or being an agnostic : involving or characterized by agnosticism
: 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
: 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.

Did you know?

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
Recent Examples on the Web
In general, they can be classified as the non-religious, the non-believers, and agnostics. Big Think, 24 June 2024 Given that 25 percent of Europe is expected to be atheist or agnostic by 2050, this will give Islam 20 percent of the religious market, and that proportion would be much higher if market exit included people who may not be atheists or agnostics but reject religious identification. Darren E. Sherkat, Foreign Affairs, 22 June 2015
The new federal program, and the broader effort to offer indigenous communities equity stakes, is sector agnostic, meaning that fossil fuel projects qualify just like clean energy ones. Justin Worland/toronto, TIME, 27 June 2024 The remaining 37 states are either agnostic on iced tea – no preference stated – or presumed to prefer unsweetened iced tea. Leah Ingram, The Christian Science Monitor, 21 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for agnostic 

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

Word History



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

First Known Use


1861, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1870, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of agnostic was in 1861

Dictionary Entries Near agnostic

Cite this Entry

“Agnostic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a person who believes that whether God exists is not known and probably cannot be known
agnostic adjective


from Greek agnōstos "unknown," from a- "not" and gnōstos "known"

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