Printable Version
Pronunciation: sin Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A violation of religious principle. 2. Something regarded as utterly wrong, shameful, deplorable.

Notes: Today's word may be used as a mass noun (no plural), as in, "Sin pervades the planet." It may also be used as a count noun, "God will forgive us all our sins." Don't confuse crime with sin: crime refers to the law of man; sin is a violation of the laws of God. The adjectives accompanying this word are sinful and its opposite, sinless. Both form adverbs with -ly and nouns with -ness.

In Play: Even though we often disagree on what constitutes sin, we all feel obliged to hate it: "She loved sinners as much as she hated the sins they committed." Sin occurs in many idioms like this one: "Robin Banks was as guilty of the crime he was accused of as homemade sin." We are free to use this word figuratively to our hearts' content: "It is a sin the way Portia Carr spends money."

Word History: This word has been around for a long time, just like what it refers to. This word must originate in the PIE root es- "to be", though the semantic path is far from clear. This makes it a distant cousin of English is or, more likely, some historical present participle of that word. Latin son(t)s "guilty" seems related to sen(t)s "being", and German Sünde "sin" shows striking similarities to seiend "being". Sin is the state in which all (human) beings are born according to Christianity, among other religions, so this might be the connection. But the jury is still out on this one. By the way, speaking of es-, swastika comes from Sanskrit svasti "well-being" from su "good, well" + asti- "being", the Sanskrit version of es-. (It would be a sin not to thank Jim Potter for suggesting today's Good Word—even if it has a bad meaning.)

Dr. Goodword,

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