the violation or profanation of anything sacred or held sacred.
an instance of this.
the stealing of anything consecrated to the service of God.

1275–1325; Middle English < Old French < Latin sacrilegium, equivalent to sacri- (combining form of sacrum holy place) + leg(ere) to steal, literally, gather + -ium -ium Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
sacrilege (ˈsækrɪlɪdʒ)
1.  the misuse or desecration of anything regarded as sacred or as worthy of extreme respect: to play Mozart's music on a kazoo is sacrilege
2.  the act or an instance of taking anything sacred for secular use
[C13: from Old French sacrilège, from Latin sacrilegium, from sacrilegus temple-robber, from sacra sacred things + legere to take]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

c.1300, "crime of stealing what is consecrated to God," from O.Fr. sacrilege (12c.), from L. sacrilegium "temple robbery," from sacrilegus "stealer of sacred things," from phrase sacrum legere "to steal sacred things," from sacrum "sacred object (from neuter sing. of sacer "sacred") + legere "take,
pick up" (see lecture). Second element is related to lecture but is not from religion. Transferred sense of "profanation of anything held sacred" is attested from late 14c.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


originally, the theft of something sacred; as early as the 1st century BC, however, the Latin term for sacrilege came to mean any injury, violation, or profanation of sacred things. Legal punishment for such acts was already sanctioned, in the Levitical code of ancient Israel. The Israelites had extensive rules to safeguard what was holy or consecrated, violation of which (especially of temple laws) often led to mob violence.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Some were rumored to have hired a taxi for the climb, sacrilege for a true pilgrim.
He predicted over a hundred years ago the sacrilege of burning irreplaceable petroleum oil when energy is all around us.
Caught in the act, he was embalmed alive and his tongue was cut out for his act of sacrilege.
The historian's first duties are sacrilege and the mocking of false gods.
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