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Borrowed from Late Latin anathema (curse, person cursed, offering), itself a borrowing from Ancient Greek ἀνάθεμα (anáthema, something dedicated, especially dedicated to eternal damnation), from ἀνατίθημι (anatíthēmi, I set upon, offer as a votive gift), from ἀνά (aná, upon) + τίθημι (títhēmi, I put, place). The Ancient Greek term was influenced by Hebrew חרם(herem), leading to the sense of "accursed," especially in Ecclesiastical writers.


  • IPA(key): /əˈnæθəmə/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: a‧na‧the‧ma


anathema (plural anathemas or anathemata)

  1. (ecclesiastical, historical) A ban or curse pronounced with religious solemnity by ecclesiastical authority, often accompanied by excommunication; something denounced as accursed. [from early 17th c.]
    Synonyms: ban, curse
  2. (by extension) Something which is vehemently disliked by somebody.
    Synonym: bête noire
    • 2015 January 18, Monty Munford, “What’s the point of carrying a mobile phone nowadays?”, in The Daily Telegraph[1]:
      Even three years ago, the thought of spending two hours, let alone a whole day, without my mobile would have been anathema.
    • 2022 October 22, Maureen Dowd, “Ralph Fiennes, Master of Monsters”, in The New York Times[2]:
      The actor, who prizes mystery, hated being gossip fodder. “That was anathema to him,” said his sister Martha Fiennes, a filmmaker, “and he just hated the curiosity into his life.”
  3. (literary) An imprecation; a curse; a malediction.
    • 1920, Edward Arlington Robinson, “The Wandering Jew”, in The Three Taverns:
      I trembled at his ringing wealth
      Of manifold anathemas []
    • 2002, Joseph O'Conner, Star of the Sea, Vintage, published 2003, page 30:
      That was a curse from which no flight was possible: the anathema of a man who had once known holiness.
  4. (ecclesiastical) Any person or thing anathematized, or cursed by ecclesiastical authority to unending punishment. [from 1520s]
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, 1 Corinthians 16:22:
      If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
    • 1707, John Locke, “The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans”, in An Essay for Understanding St. Paul's Epistles, by Consulting St. Paul Himself, Section VIII:
      Ἆνάθεμα, accurẛed, חרם, which the Septuagint renders Anathema, ẛignifies Perẛons or Things devoted to Deẛtruction and Extermination. The Jewiẛh Nation were now an Anathema, deẛtin'd to Deẛtruction. St. Paul to expreẛs his Affection to them, ẛays, he could wiẛh to ẛave them from it, to become an Anathema and be deẛtroy'd himẛelf.
    • 1885, “The Anathemas of Cyril in Opposition to Nestorius”, in Philip Schaff, editor, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (II), volume III:
      If any one refuses to confess that the Word of God the Father is united in hypostasis to flesh, and is one Christ with His own flesh, the same being at once both God and man, let him be anathema.

Derived terms[edit]



New Advent: The Catholic on-line encyclopedia.

Further reading[edit]



Borrowed from Ancient Greek ἀνάθεμα (anáthema, something dedicated, especially dedicated to eternal damnation).



anathema n (genitive anathematis); third declension

  1. offering (especially the life of a person)
  2. curse
  3. excommunication


Third-declension noun (neuter, imparisyllabic non-i-stem).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative anathema anathemata
Genitive anathematis anathematum
Dative anathematī anathematibus
Accusative anathema anathemata
Ablative anathemate anathematibus
Vocative anathema anathemata


  • German: Anathema
  • Polish: anatema (learned)