Printable Version
Pronunciation: sæ-krê-li-jês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Profaning or desecrating that which is held to be sacred.

Notes: This word is especially good at trapping even the best of spellers. Despite the obvious semantic relation, today's Word History shows that this word is wholly unrelated to religious. This explains what seems to be the metathesis (switch) of the E and I: sacrilegious vs. religious. Today's word comes from sacrilege "desecration, profanation", not religious!

In Play: In most religions it is considered sacrilegious to utter the name of the deity. The Jewish faith holds men entering the temple with the head uncovered sacrilegious, while Christians think it sacrilegious for men to enter a church with the head covered. In fact, it might be sacrilegious to play around with this word, but let's see what we can do with it. It is often used in the sense of simply "highly discouraged": "It is considered sacrilegious to mention the name of a competitor's product in our office."

Word History: Today's is yet another word from Latin via French, this time from sacrilegus "someone who steals sacred things", a compound based on sacer "sacred" + legere "to pick out, collect". The meaning of the Proto-Indo-European root leg-/log- roved over a broad semantic spectrum: "pick, collect" (Latin lignum "firewood"—that which is collected"), "speak, word" (lexicon), "read" (legible), and "law" (legislature). The sense of "read" and "speak" are trivially related, since reading was often done aloud in the past. The leap from "word" to "law" is quite curious, though: was the law seen as a collection of things or as the word of the king? What do you think?

Dr. Goodword,

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