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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.

Example Sentences

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
Catherine Zeta Jones as Morticia, Luis Guzman as Gomez, Fred Armisen as Uncle Lester, a CGI hand as Thing) proved plenty transporting even for this horror/fantasy agnostic. Los Angeles Times, 6 Jan. 2023 These businesses will thrive by becoming channel-agnostic: The tools exist now to operate a store everywhere, reaching hundreds on the high street to billions on YouTube and TikTok, as well as niche communities in Web3. Shimona Mehta, WIRED, 23 Dec. 2022 In 2018, the ACTA (which is real vs. artificial tree agnostic) commissioned a life-cycle assessment of the carbon footprint of both real and artificial trees. Aryn Baker, Time, 22 Dec. 2022 Anys growing increasingly platform agnostic, Ahgren believes this approach makes more sense than ever. Nathan Grayson, Washington Post, 27 Sep. 2022 For example, modern BI tools can be: • Data-source agnostic, meaning any data source can be incorporated into the environment. Omri Kohl, Forbes, 8 Sep. 2021 Fair Square, which employs about 25 people, has tailored its service to be commission agnostic, according to Petkevich. Mike Freeman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Aug. 2022 The term influencer was platform agnostic and described the growing and amorphous power that came with online fame. Taylor Lorenz, Washington Post, 5 Aug. 2022 Ensure software is bot-agnostic and can work seamlessly. Sudha Chandrasekharan, Forbes, 3 Aug. 2022
The Studio Buds are meant to be somewhat platform agnostic and are intended to appeal to both iOS and Android customers. Chris Welch, The Verge, 21 Mar. 2023 Ten Eleven is stage agnostic and global, so the fund can invest past a startup’s seed stage. Bylucy Brewster, Fortune, 24 Jan. 2023 The Metaverse is device agnostic, but only VR offers presence. Charlie Fink, Forbes, 30 Apr. 2022 This device-agnostic coordination is similar to net neutrality in data communications. IEEE Spectrum, 29 Jan. 2022 The wired Arlo is a platform-agnostic doorbell that supports Amazon, Google, Samsung, and Apple smart home systems (with only Apple requiring an additional Hub). Antonio G. Di Benedetto, The Verge, 9 Mar. 2023 Platform-agnostic users may want to look at the Bose 700 headphones, which deliver a terrific noise-canceling headphone experience, or Sony's affordable WF-C500 earbuds. Chuong Nguyen, Ars Technica, 17 Feb. 2023 More typical is Warren Buffett, who admits to being agnostic. Forbes Wealth Team, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2023 Workers in an industry that had long been famously union-agnostic at best have been forming bonds, organizing and developing solidarity. Karim Doumarhead Of Newsletters Feb. 4, Los Angeles Times, 4 Feb. 2023 See More

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.

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 27 Mar. 2023.

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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