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Definition of agnostic


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ag·nos·tic  audio  (g-nstk) KEY 

NOUN:
    1. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
    2. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.
  1. One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something.
ADJECTIVE:
  1. Relating to or being an agnostic.
  2. Doubtful or noncommittal: "Though I am agnostic on what terms to use, I have no doubt that human infants come with an enormous 'acquisitiveness' for discovering patterns" (William H. Calvin).

ETYMOLOGY:
a-1 + Gnostic

OTHER FORMS:
ag·nosti·cal·ly(Adverb)

WORD HISTORY:
An agnostic does not deny the existence of God and heaven but holds that one cannot know for certain whether or not they exist. The term agnostic was fittingly coined by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H. Huxley, who believed that only material phenomena were objects of exact knowledge. He made up the word from the prefix a-, meaning "without, not," as in amoral, and the noun Gnostic. Gnostic is related to the Greek word gnsis, "knowledge," which was used by early Christian writers to mean "higher, esoteric knowledge of spiritual things"; hence, Gnostic referred to those with such knowledge. In coining the term agnostic, Huxley was considering as "Gnostics" a group of his fellow intellectuals"ists," as he called themwho had eagerly embraced various doctrines or theories that explained the world to their satisfaction. Because he was a "man without a rag of a label to cover himself with," Huxley coined the term agnostic for himself, its first published use being in 1870.


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