Printable Version
Pronunciation: he-rê-see Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A controversial opinion that violates accepted doctrine, especially if it denies the truth of that doctrine or otherwise casts dispersions on it. Usually associated with religious doctrine.

Notes: The noun and adjective from this word are rather different from their origin. The noun is heretic [her-ê-tik] and the adjective heretical [hê-ret-ik-êl]. Two quite different forms with Ts where the S stands in the underlying form. This is not uncommon in words borrowed from Greek: hypothesis: hypothetical, psychosis: psychotic, neurosis: neurotic.

In Play: First and foremost this word is associated with religious doctrine: "Dr. Dubchek was shunned by members of his congregation when he expressed the heresy that Jesus could not have appeared on Earth parthenogenically." However, we are free to use it anywhere we find a set of ways that are considered inviolable doctrine: "Any criticism of the boss is treated as heresy at the office, and bringing into question the employment status of the critic."

Word History: Today's word comes from Old French heresie (Modern French hérésie), from Late Latin haeresis, from Late Greek hairesis "a choice, faction". This noun was derived from haireisthai "to choose", the middle voice of hairein "to take, grasp, seize". One etymologist claims that this word goes back to Proto-Indo-European ser- "take", but I can't find that meaning recorded for ser-. (Today we thank our old friend William Hupy for recommending this religiously Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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