Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Desecration, profanation, misuse, or theft of something sacred.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. desecration, profanation, misuse or violation of something regarded as sacred

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The sin or crime of violating or profaning sacred things; the alienating to laymen, or to common purposes, what has been appropriated or consecrated to religious persons or uses.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The violation, desecration, or profanation of sacred things.
  • n. In a more specific sense: The alienation to laymen or to common purposes of that which has been appropriated or consecrated to religious persons or uses.
  • n. The felonious taking of any goods out of any church or chapel.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. blasphemous behavior; the act of depriving something of its sacred character

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin sacrilegium, from sacrilegus, one who steals sacred things : sacer, sacred; see sacred + legere, to gather; see leg- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Circa 1300, original sense “stealing something sacred”. From Old French sacrilege, from Latin sacrilegium, from sacrilegus ("sacrilegious"), from phrase sacrum legere, from sacrum (from sacer ("sacred, holy")) + legō ("gather; take, steal"), from Proto-Indo-European *sak- and Proto-Indo-European *leǵ-. Sense of “profanation” from late 14th century. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Thwackum was resolved a crime of this kind, which he called sacrilege, should not go unpunished.

    IX. Containing an Incident of a More Heinous Kind. Book III

  • Driven by myth [...] horror can only be expressed by and in sacrilege: the impious cults, hideous ceremonies, blasphemous rites elsewhere mentioned, which tell a reverse history of salvation.

    Dark Awakenings and Cosmic Horror : The Lovecraft News Network

  • Recognition that a Muslim state might commit the ultimate in sacrilege by beheading a person who had been dangled on the Prophet's knee has imbued modern political Shiism with a distrust of the state.

    Iran Election Live-Blogging (Thursday June 18)

  • I wasn't sure how far I wanted to go into this part of the debate because I think sacrilege is something of a separate issue here which complexifies things greatly, so I probably gave the Art and Religion relationship short shrift.

    The Sacred Domain

  • Another example which complements this intra-cultural sacrilege, as a case of cross-cultural sacrilege, is that of the Mohammed cartoons.

    The Sacred Domain

  • So what if we want to argue that this sacrilege is valid?

    Archive 2006-09-01

  • Actually I agree that the issue in the case of sacrilege is power, but it's the power differential between the religion and the individual rather than between the dominant culture-as-community and the marginalised culture-as-community that's the deciding factor for me.

    The Power and the Piss

  • But later today we'll get a chance to step out on what some call sacrilege, others call stunning.

    CNN Transcript Mar 20, 2007

  • While some would call it sacrilege to deface such a well-known icon, there is a long history of ads on the left-field wall.

    USATODAY.com - Will Canseco last on unemployment line?

  • Even if it is indisputable that Bobby Moore was a football god who in one of the greatest games ever played fought Pele to a standstill, no-one should sneer the word sacrilege if it should happen this evening in Seville that his total of 108 caps for England is matched by David Beckham.

    Belfasttelegraph.co.uk - Frontpage RSS Feed

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