Definition of anathema in English:


Line breaks: anath|ema
Pronunciation: /əˈnaθəmə


  • 2A formal curse by a pope or a council of the Church, excommunicating a person or denouncing a doctrine: the pope laid special emphasis on the second of these anathemas
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    • Although anathemas followed against any who disagreed with the faith so formulated, there was no prohibition against altering the creed at a future council.
    • It's no wonder then, that Paul calls down God's curse, God's anathema, His ban on those behind their potential defection from Christ.
    • The anathemas were eventually cancelled on 7 December 1965, by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I, as part of a larger effort to draw the two Churches together, after centuries of separation.
  • 2.1 literary A strong curse: the sergeant clutched the ruined communicator, muttering anathemas
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    • Each community can assert its own convictions forcefully, but neither community should resort to anathemas or silences, to exclusion or withdrawal.
    • At times, as the curses and the anathemas rained upon him, he held his hands out in front of him, like a school nerd begging the bullies not to hit him again.
    • That's when anathemas begin to fly and dialogue becomes impossible.


early 16th century: from ecclesiastical Latin, 'excommunicated person, excommunication', from Greek anathema 'thing dedicated', (later) 'thing devoted to evil, accursed thing', from anatithenai 'to set up'.

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