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[n. her-i-tik; adj. her-i-tik, huh-ret-ik] /n. ˈhɛr ɪ tɪk; adj. ˈhɛr ɪ tɪk, həˈrɛt ɪk/
a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church.
Roman Catholic Church. a baptized Roman Catholic who willfully and persistently rejects any article of faith.
anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.
Origin of heretic
1300-50; Middle English heretik < Middle French heretique < Late Latin haereticus < Greek hairetikós able to choose (Late Greek: heretical), equivalent to hairet(ós) that may be taken (verbal adjective of haireîn to choose) + -ikos -ic
Related forms
semiheretic, adjective, noun
1. apostate, backslider, recreant, protestant. 3. dissenter, skeptic, freethinker. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for heretic
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Then, heretic, you dare to say that the Bible is above the Church?

    The Last Look W.H.G. Kingston
  • Doctors of divinity said, "He is a heretic; he contradicts the Bible."

  • When a heretic was seized, the world abandoned him; his nearest friends durst not say a word in his defence.

  • But this Castro—this Andalou, who is nearly as bad as a heretic!

    Romance Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer
  • It may be said, of course, by our Presbyterian friends, that Dr. Briggs is a heretic; that he has been cast out of their church.

British Dictionary definitions for heretic


(mainly RC Church) a person who maintains beliefs contrary to the established teachings of the Church
a person who holds unorthodox opinions in any field
Derived Forms
heretical (hɪˈrɛtɪkəl) adjective
heretically, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for heretic

mid-14c., from Old French eretique (14c., Modern French hérétique), from Church Latin haereticus, from Greek hairetikos "able to choose," the verbal adjective of hairein (see heresy).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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heretic in Culture

heretic definition

One who challenges the doctrines of an established church. Martin Luther was proclaimed a heretic for rejecting many of the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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