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From Latin syncretismus, from Ancient Greek συγκρητισμός (sunkrētismós, federation of Cretan cities), from συγκρητίζω (sunkrētízō, to unite against a common enemy), from σύν (sún, together) (see English syn-) + Κρῆτες (Krêtes, Cretans). By surface analysis, syn- +‎ Crete +‎ -ism (“Crete joining together”).


  • IPA(key): /ˈsɪŋkɹəˌtɪzm/
  • (file)


syncretism (countable and uncountable, plural syncretisms)

  1. (chiefly religion) The (attempted) reconciliation or fusion of different systems or beliefs.
    • 1876 [1840], Benjamin R. Tucker, transl., “Second Memoir”, in What is Property?, translation of Qu'est-ce que la propriété ? by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon:
      Having thus established his trinity of hypotheses, M. Lamennais deduces therefrom, by a badly connected chain of analogies, his whole philosophy. And it is here especially that we notice the syncretism which is peculiar to him. The theory of M. Lamennais embraces all systems, and supports all opinions.
    • 1995, Clinton E. Arnold, The Colossian Syncretism: The Interface Between Christianity and Folk Belief at Colossae, J.C.B. Mohr (Paul SieBeck), page 238:
      It provides a more natural explanation of the Colossian syncretism as stemming from local religious impulses that continued to wield a powerful draw on people converted to Christianity from the local Jewish communities and pagan cults. [] The kind of syncretism we find at Colossae was not unique to that city or region.
    • 2006, Gailyn Van Rheenen, “1: Syncretism and Contextualization: The Church on a Journey Defining Itself”, in Gailyn Van Rheenen, editor, Contextualization and Syncretism: Navigating Cultural Currents, Evangelical Missiological Society, page 7:
      Kraft's functional view of Anthropology eventually leads to syncretism because God is understood as working within a modern, humanistic paradigm.
    • 2010, Marguerite Fernández Olmos; Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, “Creole Religions of the Caribbean”, in Claudio Iván Remeseira, editor, Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook, Columbia University Press, page 222:
      The strategies of religious syncretism—the active transformation through renegotiation, reorganization, and redefinition of clashing belief systems—are consistent with the creolization process.
  2. (linguistics) The fusion of different inflexional forms.
    • 1993, Robert Coleman, “Patterns of Syncretism in Indo-European”, in Henk Aertsen; Robert J. Jeffers, editors, Historical Linguistics 1989: Papers from the 9th International Conference, John Benjamins Publishing Company, page 111:
      In this paper a distinction is assumed between full syncretism, which affects whole morphemes, and partial syncretism, which affects only some case allomorphs, and also between syncretism proper and mere loss of a case morpheme.
    • 2004, Ronald F. Feldstein, “On the Structure of Syncretism in Romanian Conjugation”, in Julie Auger; J. Clancy Clements; Barbara Vance, editors, Contemporary Approaches to Romance Linguistics, John Benjamins Publishing Company, page 177:
      Romanian conjugation displays several cases of syncretism, in which two paradigmatic slots share the same grammatical desinence. [] On the other hand, the syncretisms of the imperfect and subjunctive are not phonologically conditioned and, as such, apply to every verb without exception.
    • 2005, Michael Cysouw, “Chapter 3: Syncretisms involving clusivity”, in Elena Filimonova, editor, Clusivity: Typology and Case Studies of Inclusive-exclusive Distinction, John Benjamins Publishing Company, page 73:
      In this chapter, I will investigate whether they deserve this name by looking at syncretisms between clusivity and other person markers.

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