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religion, n.

Brit. Hear pronunciation/rᵻˈlɪdʒ(ə)n/
U.S. Hear pronunciation/rəˈlɪdʒ(ə)n/
Hear pronunciation/riˈlɪdʒ(ə)n/
Forms:  Middle English relegeon, Middle English religeoun, Middle English religioune, Middle English religiune, Middle English relygeoun, Middle English relygioun, Middle English relygyoun, Middle English relygyun, Middle English–1500s relegyon, Middle English–1500s religiun, Middle English–1500s religyone, Middle English–1500s relygion, Middle English–1500s relygione, Middle English–1500s relygyon, Middle English–1600s religeon, Middle English–1600s religione, Middle English–1600s religioun, Middle English–1600s religyon, Middle English–1700s religon, Middle English– religion, late Middle English riligioun, 1500s relegion, 1500s relygyone, 1500s–1600s relligion; Scottish pre-1700 ralegioun, pre-1700 relegioun, pre-1700 relegioune, pre-1700 releidgeon, pre-1700 reliegieoun, pre-1700 religeoun, pre-1700 religeowne, pre-1700 religione, pre-1700 religioun, pre-1700 religioune, pre-1700 religyowne, pre-1700 relligion, pre-1700 relygyon, pre-1700 relygyoun, pre-1700 relygyoune, pre-1700 relygyown, pre-1700 relygyowne, pre-1700 1700s– religion, 1800s– releegion. (Show Less)
Frequency (in current use):  Show frequency band information
Origin: Of multiple origins. Partly a borrowing from French. Partly a borrowing from Latin. Etymons: French religion; Latin religiōn-, religiō.
Etymology: < (i) Anglo-Norman religioun, religiun, Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French religion (French religion  ) system of beliefs and practices based on belief in, or acknowledgement of, some superhuman power or powers, also any particular such system (both first half of the 12th cent. in Anglo-Norman, originally in commune religion  , translating post-classical Latin catholica religio  ; the figurative use in sense 4b   is apparently not paralleled in French until later (c1810)), monastery (c1130 in Anglo-Norman), religious house (1139 in Anglo-Norman), action or conduct indicating belief in, obedience to, and reverence for a god, gods, or similar superhuman power, piety, devotion (c1145), state of life bound by religious vows (c1150), scrupulousness, conscientiousness (c1210), religious order (end of the 13th cent. or earlier in Anglo-Norman), (specifically) Protestantism (1533 in ceulx de la religion   the Protestants, lit. ‘those of the religion’),
and its etymon (ii) classical Latin religiōn-, religiō supernatural feeling of constraint, usually having the force of a prohibition or impediment, that which is prohibited, taboo, positive obligation, rule, impediment to action proceeding from religious awe or conscience, scruple, manifestation of divine sanction, religious fear, awe, religious feeling, superstition, quality evoking awe or reverence, sanctity, religious observance, religious practice, ritual, particular system of religious observance, cult, conscientiousness, in post-classical Latin also monastic community (8th cent.), religious order, rule observed by a religious order (12th cent.) < re-  re- prefix   + a second element of uncertain origin; by Cicero connected with relegere   to read over again (see relection n.), so that the supposed original sense of ‘religion’ would have been ‘painstaking observance of rites’, but by later authors (especially by early Christian writers) with religāre  religate v., ‘religion’ being taken as ‘that which ties believers to God’. Each view finds supporters among modern scholars.
Compare Old Occitan religio (late 12th cent., earliest in sense ‘religious order’), Catalan religió (13th cent.), Spanish religión (end of the 12th cent.), Portuguese religião (13th cent.), Italian religione (second half of the 13th cent.). The Latin word was also borrowed into other Germanic languages: compare Middle Dutch, Dutch †religioen state of life bound by religious vows, religie system of faith and worship, belief in superhuman powers, etc., Middle Low German religiōn, religie, German Religion (early 16th cent.), Swedish religion (1539), Danish religion (16th cent.).

 1. A state of life bound by religious vows; the condition of belonging to a religious order. Also figurative. Cf. to enter into religion at enter v. Phrases 2.Chiefly in Christian contexts, esp. with reference to the Roman Catholic Church.Recorded earliest in man of religion at Phrases 1.

a1200   MS Trin. Cambr. in R. Morris Old Eng. Homilies (1873) 2nd Ser. 49 (MED)   Ac þis loc [sc. of perfection] ne haueð non to offren bute þese lif holie men of religiun.
a1225  (c1200)    Vices & Virtues (1888) 43 (MED)   Ðo ðe ðese swikele woreld habbeð forlaten and seruið ure drihten on religiun, hie folȝið Daniele, ðe hali profiete.
c1230  (?a1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Corpus Cambr.) (1962) 9   Easkið him..hwer he funde in hali writ religiun openlukest descriueþ & isutelet þen is i sein iames canonial epistel: he seiþ what is Religiun, hwuch is riht ordre.
c1350  (a1333)    William of Shoreham Poems (1902) 63 (MED)   Relessed Schel hym nauȝt be religioun, Þaȝ he be nauȝt professed.
a1393   J. Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) viii. 1265 (MED)   In blake clothes thei hem clothe, This lady and the dowhter bothe, And yolde hem to religion..After the reule..Where as Diane is seintefied.
a1400  (a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) 23049 (MED)   Þai..Went þaim in to religiun..For to beserue vr lauerd dright.
c1449   R. Pecock Repressor (1860) 484 (MED)   Oon maner religioun is..a bynding aȝen of a mannys fre wil with certein ordinauncis maad bi God or bi man or with vowis or oothis.
a1500   Lancelot of Laik (1870) 1300   Non orderis had he of Relegioune.
1528   Rede me & be nott Wrothe sig. d viii   Ware thou never in religion? Yes so god helpe me and halydom, A dosen yeres continually.
1535   D. Lindsay Satyre 3673   Mariage, be my opinioun, It is better Religioun, As to be freir or Nun.
1586   A. Day Eng. Secretorie i. sig. P3   Forsweare thou nothing good..but building of monasteries and entring into religion.
1663   H. Cogan tr. F. M. Pinto Voy. & Adventures (new ed.) xxviii. 111   Those of the country [sc. China] repute him for a Saint, because he ended his dayes in Religion.
1672   in F. O. Blundell Old Catholic Lancs. (1941) III. v. 47   She is called in Religion by the name of Barbary Ignatius.
1764   H. Walpole Castle of Otranto iv. 139   My father..was retired into religion in the kingdom of Naples.
1825   R. Southey in Q. Rev. 32 364   We must enter into religion and be made nuns by will or by force!
1886   H. N. Oxenham Mem. R. de Lisle 6   The two others..are in religion; the former entered the Order of the Good Shepherd in 1863.
1907   A. B. Teetgen Life & Times Empress Pulcheria xxvi. 220   Eutyches, the superior of a populous monastery outside the walls of Constantinople, had spent practically the whole of his life in religion.
1998   M. P. Magray Transforming Power of Nuns iii. 44   Women did not long remain in religion without a sense of spiritual purpose.

a1200—1998(Hide quotations)

 2. Christian Church.

 a. A particular religious order or denomination; †a religious house. Also figurative. Now rare.

?c1225  (?a1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. C.vi) (1972) 3   Richten hire & smeðen hire is of vh ordre & of uh religion.
c1300   St. Edward Elder (Laud) 192 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 52 (MED)   Seint Edward cam..To an holi man þat þere was neiȝ in an oþur religion.
a1425  (?a1400)    G. Chaucer Romaunt Rose (Hunterian) (1891) l. 6352   Somtyme am I Prioresse..And go thurgh all Regiouns Sekyng all religiouns.
1483   W. Caxton tr. J. de Voragine Golden Legende 426/1   Saynt Rygoberte..ordeyned a relygyon of chanounes and clerkes.
1496   J. Alcock Mons Perfeccionis (de Worde) sig. bv   As hymself for his pryde & enuy was caste oute of the holy relygion of heuen.
1528   T. Cromwell in R. B. Merriman Life & Lett. T. Cromwell (1902) I. 322   The exchaunge to be made bitwene your colledge in Oxforde and his religion for Saundforde.
1548   Hall's Vnion: Henry VIII f. cxliij   This priest..was receiued into euery Religion with Procession, as though the Legate had been there.
1569   R. Grafton Chron. II. 194   This Religion of Saint Iohns, was greatly preferred, by the fall and suppression of the Templers.
1631   J. Weever Anc. Funerall Monuments 114   If any professed in the said Religion were negligently forgotten.
1687   A. Lovell tr. J. de Thévenot Trav. into Levant i. 12   A Dagger, which the King of Spain sent as a Present to the Religion.
1770   Ann. Reg. 1769 147   Some ships of the religion of Malta.
1858   F. W. Faber Foot of Cross i. 67   There were several false and counterfeit religions, which had troubled the Church about that time.
1902   Builder 27 Sept. 265/1   The sudden spread and popularity of the Franciscan religion in North Italy immediately on the death of Francis..was very remarkable.

?c1225—1902(Hide quotations)


b. A member of a religious order, spec. a member of the clergy. Obsolete.

a1250  (?a1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Nero) (1952) 168   Forto beon so angresful..nis nout god icweme, and ancre ful nomilche uor swuch religiun [c1230 Corpus Cambr. religius] nis nout god icweme.
?1316   Short Metrical Chron. (Royal) 527 in J. Ritson Anc. Eng. Metrical Romanceës (1802) II. 292 (MED)   Sethe he delede..To thilke that were povre in londe, That other to povre religiouns.
a1400  (c1303)    R. Mannyng Handlyng Synne (Harl.) 7556 (MED)   Specyaly þat comandeþ he..to bysshopes and persones, To prestys, and ouþer relygyons [v.r. relygyones].
a1400  (a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Gött.) 22001 (MED)   Quatkin man sum euer it es..Or laued or religiun, Clerk, monk, or canun.
c1426   J. Audelay Poems (1931) 17 (MED)   Herbore þe pore pur charyte, And ȝef mete and dreng to þe nede, And cumford hom þat woful be, Ellis be ȝe no relegyon.
c1450  (?a1400)    T. Chestre Sir Launfal (1930) 427 (MED)   Fyfty rewardede relygyons; Fyfty delyuerede pouere prysouns.

a1250—c1450(Hide quotations)


c. Collectively: people devoted to a religious life. Obsolete.

1487  (a1380)    J. Barbour Bruce (St. John's Cambr.) xx. 162   Till religioune of seir statis, For heill of his saull, gaf he Siluir in-to gret quantite.
a1525  (c1448)    R. Holland Bk. Howlat l. 190 in W. A. Craigie Asloan MS (1925) II. 100   Alkyn chennonis eik of vyer ordouris All maner of religioun ye less & ye maire.
1568   in W. T. Ritchie Bannatyne MS (1928) II. f. 80   All religioun levis in holines.

1487—1568(Hide quotations)


 a. Action or conduct indicating belief in, obedience to, and reverence for a god, gods, or similar superhuman power; the performance of religious rites or observances. Also in plural: religious rites. Now rare except as merged with sense 5a.

?c1225  (?a1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. C.vi) (1972) 8   Clene religiun..Iseon & helpen widewen..& from þe world witen him clene & vnwemmed.
c1275   Kentish Serm. in J. Hall Select. Early Middle Eng. (1920) I. 217 (MED)   Þos faten of watere..ware i clepede baþieres wer þo gius hem wesse for clenesse and for religiun.
a1382   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Bodl. 959) (1961) Lev. vii. 36   Þei sholden vsen presthod & þe þynges þat þe lord comaundede..þour perpetuel religion [L. religione].
c1425   J. Lydgate Troyyes Bk. (Augustus A.iv) ii. 366 (MED)   Sche ladde hir lyf..After þe ritys and þe religioun Of paganysme vsed in þo dawes.
c1475   Advice to Lovers in J. O. Halliwell Select. Minor Poems J. Lydgate (1840) 41   A man of sadde religioun.
1553   R. Eden tr. S. Münster Treat. Newe India sig. Gijv   They eate that fleshe with great religion.
1577   T. Vautrollier tr. M. Luther Comm. Epist. to Galathians (new ed.) f. 151   They that trust in theyr owne righteousnes, thinke to pacifie the wrath of God by their..voluntarie religion.
1613   S. Purchas Pilgrimage iii. i. 191   They vsed yet some religion in gathering of their Cinamon,..sacrificing before they began [etc.].
1667   J. Milton Paradise Lost i. 372   The Image of a Brute, adorn'd With gay Religions full of Pomp and Gold.  View more context for this quotation
1726   G. Leoni tr. L. B. Alberti Architecture II. 21/2   The Ancients used to found the Walls of their Cities with the greatest religion, dedicating them to some God who was to be their guardian.
1788   E. Gibbon Decline & Fall V. xlix. 89   The public religion of the Catholics was uniformly simple and spiritual.
1900   R. W. Dixon Hist. Church Eng. (1902) VI. xxxvi. 5   The religions of the religious orders..were swept away under the condemnation of superstition and abuse.
1913   M. C. Burbridge Twentieth Cent. Musings i. 42   Love may not increase with much religion, but it will increase many-fold with wisdom.

?c1225—1913(Hide quotations)


b. A religious duty or obligation. Obsolete.

1537   in State Papers Henry VIII (1830) I. ii. 557   Thei thoght a religion to kepe secret, betwene God and them, certayn thinges.
1549   H. Latimer 2nd Serm. before Kynges Maiestie 5th Serm. sig. Oviiiv   The dutye betwene man and wife, which is a holy religyon, but not religiously kepte.
1659   H. L'Estrange Alliance Divine Offices i. 14   Christs Gospel is not a ceremonial law..but it is a religion to serve God, not in bondage of the figure or shadow, but in the freedom of the spirit.

1537—1659(Hide quotations)


 a. A particular system of faith and worship.class, mystery, natural religion, etc.: see first element.

c1325  (c1300)    Chron. Robert of Gloucester (Calig.) 2812 (MED)   Þanne þe religion & holi chirche worþ ef sone ybroȝt al adoun.
a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add.) f. 192   It is worthi to trowe sawes & writynges of poetes and of writers ȝif here religioun and feþ is nouȝt aȝens gode þewes and maners.
a1400  (a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) 18944 (MED)   In þat siquar was in þat tun Men of alkin religioun, Of al maner of nacioun.
c1450  (?c1400)    tr. Honorius Augustodunensis Elucidarium (1909) 32 (MED)   Leef maister, which is þe beste religioun?
1560   J. Daus tr. J. Sleidane Commentaries f. xcijv   They neyther allure nor compelle any man vnto their Religion.
1593   R. Hooker Of Lawes Eccl. Politie iv. xi. 189   The Church of Rome, they say,..did almost out of all religions take whatsoeuer had any faire & gorgeous shew.
1631   B. Jonson Staple of Newes ii. iv. 55 in Wks. II   I wonder what religion hee's of.
1662   E. Stillingfleet Origines Sacræ ii. vi. §15   Whereby we plainly see what clear evidence is given to the truth of that religion which is attested with a power of miracles.
1732   G. Berkeley Alciphron I. iv. xxv. 263   The Christian Religion, which pretends to teach Men the Knowledge and Worship of God.
1791   T. Paine Rights of Man i. 75   If they are to judge of each others religion, there is no such thing as a religion that is right.
1849   T. B. Macaulay Hist. Eng. II. vi. 65   All religions were the same to him.
1862   F. M. Müller in Edinb. Rev. Apr. 381   All important religions have sprung up in the East.
1918   A. W. Fortune Conception of Authority in Pauline Writings ii. 67   Christianity was not intended to be a Jewish religion.
1925   San Antonio (Texas) Light 11 July 1/1   More primitive religions..represent their gods as liars, cheats and destroyers of earth women.
1968   A. Storr Human Aggression (1976) vi. 81   The history, both of religions and political ideologies, clearly shows that beliefs are bound to become modified in the course of time.
1991   A. Hourani Hist. Arab Peoples ii. v. 96   In northern Iraq there were Yazidis, followers of a religion which had elements derived from both Christianity and Islam.

c1325—1991(Hide quotations)


 b. figurative. A pursuit, interest, or movement, followed with great devotion.

1576   G. Whetstone Ortchard of Repentance 100 in Rocke of Regard   The religion of wanton louers like the papistes.
1593   M. Drayton Idea ii. sig. C2   Then Orphane thoughts with sorrow be you waind, When loues Religion shalbe thus prophayn'd.
1666   C. Molloy Hollands Ingratitude sig. E3v   No way is indirect for wealth to a Dutch-man, whether of fraud or violence; gain is his Religion.
1702   T. Brown Select Epist. Cicero 351   Money is a Whore's Religion, Love is down-right Superstition.
1849   H. W. Longfellow Kavanagh xvi. 78   The memory of that mother had become almost a religion to her.
1872   H. P. Liddon Some Elements Relig. i. 23   We hear men speak of a religion of art, of a religion of work, of a religion of civilization.
1929   T. Wolfe Look homeward, Angel v. 52   Not merely to possess property, but to draw income from it was part of the religion of her family.
1961   Western Polit. Q. 14 408   Marxian Socialism has become a religion of history.
2003   Jrnl. (Newcastle) (Nexis) 22 May 56   There is no place to hide in a city where football is a religion and United's players are instantly recognisable.

1576—2003(Hide quotations)


c. With the and capital initial. Chiefly in French contexts: Protestantism. Obsolete (historical in later use).

1577   tr. ‘F. de L'Isle’ Legendarie sig. Gviij   There was a noise raised that the Admiral had endeuoured to expel the Masse, and to plant the Religion in France.
1603   R. Johnson tr. G. Botero Hist. Descr. Worlde 99   They againe are deuided into thirteene Cantons, eight whereof are catholike, the residue of the religion.
1642   J. Howell Instr. Forreine Travell ix. 116   They of the Religion, are now Town-lesse, and Arme-lesse.
1656   in J. A. Clyde Hope's Major Practicks (1938) II. 162   That no persone excomunicat for not conformeing themselfes to the religion shall enjoy..their lands, rents, and revenues.
1704   Clarendon's Hist. Rebellion III. xv. 508   Those of the Religion possessed themselves with many arm'd Men of the Town-House.
1848   Hist. Protestantism in France (Relig. Tract Soc.) iii. 56   The singular name by which Protestantism in France was distinguished was that of ‘The Religion’; an emphatic appellation.
1883   Catholic Presbyterian Aug. 121   They became not merely pastors, but statesmen—head of the Religion, as Protestantism was called.

1577—1883(Hide quotations)


 a. Belief in or acknowledgement of some superhuman power or powers (esp. a god or gods) which is typically manifested in obedience, reverence, and worship; such a belief as part of a system defining a code of living, esp. as a means of achieving spiritual or material improvement.organized religion: see the first element.

▸ ?a1439   J. Lydgate Fall of Princes (Bodl. 263) v. l. 2757   Lik as he wolde haue luyed ther in pes..Withynne the temple of myhti Hercules Vnder a shadwe of religioun.
1533   tr. Erasmus Enchiridion Militis Christiani Ep. Ded. sig. b.viiv   He dothe not strayte condempne their maner of lyuyng whiche dothe shewe & admonysshe them in what thynges most true religyon doth stande or rest.
1560   J. Daus tr. J. Sleidane Commentaries f. xlvjv   Amonges the Suyces encreased dayly contention for Religion.
1597   R. Hooker Of Lawes Eccl. Politie v. lxv. 165   The tribe of Ruben..were..accused of backwardnes in religion.
1613   S. Purchas Pilgrimage i. iv. 16   True Religion is the right way of reconciling and reuniting man to God.
1651   T. Hobbes Leviathan i. xii. 52   There are no signes..of Religion, but in Man onely.
1704   R. Nelson Compan. Festivals & Fasts ii. ix. 475   It keeps a lively Sense of Religion upon our Minds.
1776   A. Smith Inq. Wealth of Nations II. v. ii. 474   So very slender a security as the probity and religion of the inferior officers of revenue.  View more context for this quotation
1832   H. Martineau Hill & Valley iii. 45   The best part of religion is to imitate the benevolence of God to man.
1877   W. Sparrow Serm. vii. 90   True religion, in its essence and in kind, is the same everywhere.
1905   Westm. Gaz. 14 Apr. 2/2   Religion is the great divider of mankind.
1960   C. Day Lewis Buried Day iii. 49   Religion..formed a natural part of my life.
1963   R. N. Frye Heritage of Persia v. 190   Religion dominated the lives of the ancients far more than of contemporary man.
2004   N.Y. Rev. Bks. 27 May 14/1   He wasn't calling for the overthrow of religion by rock and roll.

?a1439—2004(Hide quotations)


 b. Chiefly poetic and literary. Religion personified.

a1522   G. Douglas tr. Virgil Æneid (1957) i. v. 112   Ancyant faith and valiant knychthed, With chaste religioune, sal than the lawys led.
1609   W. Shakespeare Louers Complaint in Sonnets sig. Lv   Religious loue put out religions eye.
a1616   W. Shakespeare Timon of Athens (1623) iii. ii. 77   Religion grones at it.  View more context for this quotation
1662   J. Milton To Sir H. Vane in G. Sykes Life & Death Sir H. Vane 94   Therefore on thy firm hand Religion leanes In peace, and reckons thee her eldest Son.
1717   A. Pope Eloisa to Abelard in Wks. 419   There stern religion quench'd th' unwilling flame.
1781   W. Cowper Expostulation 492   Religion, if in heavenly truths attired, Needs only to be seen to be admired.
1844   A. B. Welby Poems (1867) 72   'Tis then that sweet Religion's holy wing Broods o'er the spirit.
1851   Freethinker's Mag. 1 Jan. 225   Religion..is a many-headed monster that there is no killing.
1908   F. W. Bourdillon Preludes & Romances 43   Throned Religion quails, Sick in her heart lest haply in the end Her good God cannot His own name defend.
1931   ‘H. MacDiarmid’ First Hymn Lenin 28   This is the kirk o' my faithers And I..am stricken aghast For here, ready for the road, Religion was biddin' goodbye.

a1522—1931(Hide quotations)


c. Awe, dread. Obsolete. rare.

a1642   W. Bedell in T. Fuller Abel Redevivus (1651) 65   He took a generall view of most parts of Itale as far as Cumæ, where (not without some Religion and horror)..he beheld the Cave of Sibilla.

a1642—a1642(Hide quotations)


6. The religious sanction or obligation of an oath or similar bond. Obsolete.

1578   T. Rogers tr. P. Cæsar Gen. Disc. Damnable Sect Vsurers ix. f. 28   These common rules should bee well remembred of all men..lest beyng deceaued through the religion of an oth..; they compell their subiectes to the obseruing of vnlawfull othes.
1593   R. Cosin Apol. for Sundrie Proc. (rev. ed.) ii. ix. 85   A witnesse is vrged by the religion of an oath, and is not entended to thrust himselfe into the matter willingly.
1619   E. Herbert Let. 16 May in Coll. Hist. & Archæol. Montgomeryshire (1886) XX. cxlix. 215   Being under ye religion of a promise to yo'r Sacred Ma'tie yt I would be in france before ye Sunday followinge.
1647   J. Howell New Vol. of Lett. 236   According to the rules and religion of friendship.
a1694   J. Tillotson Serm. (1742) II. xxii. 65   If the religion of an oath will not oblige men to speak truth, nothing will.
1704   J. Blair in W. S. Perry Hist. Coll. Amer. Colonial Church: Virginia (1870) I. 107   I shall under the same religion of an oath acquaint your Lordships with..what I remember.
1788   V. Knox Winter Evenings II. v. vi. 146   An apprehension has been expressed by good and wise men that the religion of an oath is, in the present age, less and less regarded.
1880   G. S. Godkin tr. V. Emanuele II in Life Victor Emmanuel II (new ed.) vi. 74   I signed a peace with Austria... The honour of the country and the religion of my oath demanded that it should be faithfully followed out.

1578—1880(Hide quotations)


7. figurative. Strict fidelity or faithfulness; conscientiousness; devotion to some principle. Also: an instance of this. Obsolete.

1597   W. Shakespeare Romeo & Juliet i. ii. 90   When the deuout religion of mine eye Maintaines such falshood, then turne teares to fire.  View more context for this quotation
a1616   W. Shakespeare As you like It (1623) iv. i. 187   Ros... Keep your promise. Orl. With no lesse religion, then if thou wert indeed my Rosalind.  View more context for this quotation
1631   B. Jonson New Inne i. vi. 156   Out of a religion to my charge, And debt profess'd, I ha'made a selfe-decree.
1640   W. Habington Hist. Edward IV 182   The ancient league observ'd with so much Religion betweene England and the Low Countries.
1691   A. Wood Athenæ Oxonienses I. Pref.   An old Word is retain'd by an Antiquary with as much Religion as a Relick.

1597—1691(Hide quotations)



 P1. man (woman, etc.) of religion : a person bound by religious vows, as a monk or nun; a member of the clergy. Now historical.  [Probably after Anglo-Norman home de religiun, Anglo-Norman and Old French home de religion (c1227; Middle French, French homme de religion), and Anglo-Norman gent de religiun, Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French gent de religion (1275 or earlier in Anglo-Norman; French gent de religion), although attested slightly earlier. With woman of religion compare Middle French dame de religion nun (1364 or earlier), and also Anglo-Norman dame de religiun abbess, prioress (1328 or earlier).]

a1200   MS Trin. Cambr. in R. Morris Old Eng. Homilies (1873) 2nd Ser. 49 (MED)   Ac þis loc [sc. of perfection] ne haueð non to offren bute þese lif holie men of religiun.
c1325  (c1300)    Chron. Robert of Gloucester (Calig.) 5735 (MED)   King edgar & seint aþelwold..An oþer hous..hii rerde of seinte marie, Of womman of religyon & made a nonnerye.
c1350   Apocalypse St. John: A Version (Harl. 874) (1961) 8 (MED)   By his heued ben bitokned gode prelates of holy chirche. By þe heer þe Men of Religioun [Fr. la gent de religiun] þat shullen ben white þorouȝ holynesse.
c1400  (?c1380)    Cleanness (1920) 7 (MED)   Renkez of relygioun þat reden and syngen And aprochen to hys presens and prestez arn called..Þay hondel þer [sc. at the altar] his aune body and usen hit boþe.
▸ 1440   Promptorium Parvulorum (Harl. 221) 360   Nune, womann of relygione, monialis, monacha.
a1475  (?a1430)    J. Lydgate tr. G. Deguileville Pilgrimage Life Man (Vitell.) 3192 (MED)   The cheff vyker..Haue set..Somme folkys of relygyon Hys offys to excersyce.
a1578   R. Lindsay Hist. & Cron. Scotl. (1899) I. 310   This bischope and the lordis of reliegieoun..gaif sentance against this innocent man.
1670   J. Evelyn tr. Moral Pract. Jesuites 296   The Iesuites..might practise on him the Doctrine of their Father Amy, who allows a man of Religion to kill him who publishes things scandalous of his Order.
a1707   W. Petyt Jus Parliamentarium (1739) i. 57   Others which had Offices perpetual, should be as perpetual as People of Religion.
1809   Amer. Law Jrnl. Jan. 57   The whole of this statute is in force, except those parts which relate to Prelates, men of Religion, and writs of attaint.
1878   ‘Ouida’ Friendship III. xxxi. 46   As women of religion, with the red cross on their breasts, bend over the wide war-wounds of naked men, so she beheld corruption.
1911   G. Hodges Saints & Heroes 239   The principal business of a man of religion,—a priest, a monk, or a friar,—was to say prayers.
1996   L. M. Bitel Land of Women viii. 168   Their stories of lustfully wayward women of religion.

a1200—1996(Hide quotations)


 P2. house (also †abbey) of religion : a religious house, esp. a monastery or nunnery; (in later use also) a place of worship, as a church, mosque, or synagogue.  [After Anglo-Norman maisun de religiun, Old French, Middle French maison de religion (1265).]

a1325   St. Thomas Becket (Corpus Cambr.) l. 561 in C. D'Evelyn & A. J. Mill S. Eng. Legendary (1956) 628 (MED)   He grantede ek þat a churche of þe kynges fe..ne ssolde iȝiue be As to hous of religion wiþoute þe kynges leue.
1340   Ayenbite (1866) 41 (MED)   Sacrilege is..huanne me bernþ oþer brekþ cherches..oþer hous of relygioun.
c1425  (?a1400)    Arthur (Longleat 55) 488 (MED)   He buryed Bedewere Hys frend..And so he dude other Echon In Abbeys of Relygyon.
?1449   Petition in Rotuli Parl. (1767–77) V. 157/2   Temporaltees of Bisshuprichez, Abbathiez, Prioriez, and of all othir Housez of Religion.
c1536   in J. Speed Hist. Great Brit. (1611) ix. xxi. 773/1   Spoiled in like maner..as the housys of Religion hath bene.
1569   R. Grafton Chron. II. 144   Many houses of relygion within the Citie..were searched for goodes of aliauntes.
1603   G. Downame Treat. conc. Antichrist ii. 27   Vpon them there doe yet remaine, besides some of the Popes palaces and courts, diuers churches and houses of religion and other buildings of note.
1679   Bp. J. Gordon Reformed Bishop ii. 27   Monasteries..might have been still Houses of Religion, without having any dependance upon Rome.
1733   Capt. Downes All Vows Kept iii. ii. 33   I am retir'd into a House of Religion; not vowed, but for Probation.
1819   W. Scott Ivanhoe (1820) III. vi. 139   Albert had received within a house of religion the Jewish captive, and..the paramour of a brother of the Order.
1861   R. C. Jenkins Last Crusader vii. 373   He dismissed accordingly all the brothers that were there,..and formed the house anew into a house of religion.
1910   Eng. Hist. Rev. 25 607   The committee..expects important results from the excavation of early monastic localities... The sites of these ancient houses of religion should be carefully examined.
1993   Toronto Star (Nexis) 31 Dec. a16   Our governments, schools, hospitals and houses of religion are virtually bankrupt.
2008   D. Wilson Out of Storm i. ii. 37   To the nineteen houses of religion already in existence was added the Convent of St Mary Magdalene.

a1325—2008(Hide quotations)

 P3. to make (a) religion of , to make (it) (a) religion to .

 a. To make a point of; to be scrupulously careful to.In later use with indefinite article in forms to make a religion of and to make it a religion to.

1561   Bible (Geneva) Gen. xxxix. 4 (note)    Because God prospered him: and so he made religion to serue his profite.
a1616   W. Shakespeare Antony & Cleopatra (1623) v. ii. 195   By your command (Which my loue makes Religion to obey) I tell you this.  View more context for this quotation
1742   R. North & M. North Life F. North 167   The factious Party made it Religion to propagate the Faith of the Plot..as far as they could carry it by their Correspondences.
1869   W. M. Baker New Timothy 199   Its acidity sharpens Mr. Wall's teeth.., yet, under the circumstances, he makes a religion of eating it.
1916   ‘W. D. Bank’ Average Woman xiv. 177   He had resumed his visits to the club, but did not make it a religion to go there every night.
1980   S. Fish Is there Text in this Class? ix. 219   Had he not made a religion of keeping to his word, then his breaking of it could not have been cited by Aufidius as a capital crime.

1561—1980(Hide quotations)


b. To make a point of not; to be scrupulously careful not to. Obsolete.

1601   B. Jonson Fountaine of Selfe-love v. v. sig. L3v   Let Mortalls learne To make Religion of offending Heauen.  View more context for this quotation
1617   J. Hales Serm. Oxf. 29   The ancients seeme to haue made a religion to meddle with it [sc. the book of Revelation], and thought it much better to admire it with silence, then to adventure to expound it.
1622   H. Peacham Compl. Gentleman vi. 44   Nor bee so foolish precise as a number are, who make it Religion to speake otherwise then this or that Author.

1601—1622(Hide quotations)


 P4. Originally U.S. to get religion : to be converted; (in extended use) to take matters seriously, to give proper attention to an issue.

1772   A. Hunter Let. 18 Mar. in P. V. Fithian Jrnl. & Lett. (1900) 22   We have had a considerable stir of religion in college since you went away, Lewis Willson is thought to have got religion.
1802   Methodist New Connexion Mag. Nov. 432   A number, too, are wrought upon in the usual way, and hopefully get religion without any of these extraordinary appearances.
1857   C. W. Elliott New Eng. Hist. I. 460   Capt. Underhill killed his neighbor's wife, and ‘got his religion on a pipe of tobacco’.
1908   ‘E. C. Hall’ Aunt Jane of Kentucky (1909) i. 24   We went home feelin' like we'd been through a big protracted meetin' and got religion over again.
1952   Manch. Guardian Weekly 9 Oct. 7   It is sad news for his publishers that he has got religion.
1993   N.Y. Times 26 Mar. a 28/1   The White House spokesman said the formal plan may not be ready for another few weeks, so it's still possible his boss may get religion.
2001   Time 22 Oct. 73/1   The Bush Administration..has suddenly got religion about tracking down terrorists' assets..and an array of other tools on law enforcement's wish list.

1772—2001(Hide quotations)


  religion of nature   n.  (a) = natural religion n.;  (b) a religion involving the worship of natural objects and phenomena in place of a more formal system of religious belief.

1622   G. Goodman Creatures praysing God 32   If you consider the Creatures, betweene God and God, in stead of a naturall discourse, here you haue a religion of nature.
1730   M. Tindal (title)    Christianity as old as Creation, a republication of the Religion of Nature.
1827   F. A. Walter tr. B. G. Niebuhr Rom. Hist. I. xxii. 265   The early religion of the Latins was a religion of nature [Ger. Naturdienst].
1895   J. Kidd Morality & Relig. v. 191   Vedism..was a religion of nature. The objects of its worship..were the powers of nature.
1902   W. James Varieties Relig. Experience iv. 91   In that ‘theory of evolution’ which..has within the past twenty-five years swept so rapidly over Europe and America, we see the ground laid for a new sort of religion of Nature, which has entirely displaced Christianity from the thought of a large part of our generation.
1954   R. N. Stromberg Relig. Liberalism 18th-Cent. Eng. iii. 31   Committed to a religion of nature, they [sc. deists] suspected that the whole Christian revelation was no more than a tissue of lies and fables.
1961   D. G. James Matthew Arnold i. 22   The essay itself is given up chiefly to a warm exposition of her religion of nature.
1997   N. Walter Humanism 49   Ernst Haeckel, the German advocate of Darwinism (and inventor of Ecology in 1866), advocated a religion of nature called Monism.

1622—1997(Hide quotations)


 P6. religion of the book: a religion entailing adherence to a book of divine revelation; spec. Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Cf. People of the Book n. at people n. Phrases 1b.

1830   Q. Rev. Oct. 560   Mahommedanism has been received by negro nations with more confidence, because it is the religion of the Book,—a written, and, as they believe, an attested religion, of the truth of which the koran is the record and the proof.
1888   B. Manly Bible Doctr. of Inspiration, explained & Vindicated i. i. 13   Christianity is the Religion of the Book.
1941   Amer. Jrnl. Semitic Lang. & Lit. 58 23   Mohammed considers himself not the founder of a new religion but rather a protagonist of the age-old religion of the Book.
1991   R. Oliver Afr. Experience (1993) vii. 85   When Islam eventually became a religion of the book, other ‘people of the book’, Christians and Jews, were specifically excluded from the operations of the holy war.
1992   M. E. Marty & R. S. Appleby Glory & Power i. 21   It is relatively easy to locate the fundamentalist groundings in the three faiths called the Religions of the Book.

1830—1992(Hide quotations)


 P7. religion of humanity: the humanistic religion founded by Auguste Comte; see positivism n. 2.  [After French réligion de l'Humanité (1844 or earlier in Comte).]

1852   Westm. Rev. New Ser. 1 347   Comte presents himself as the founder of the religion of humanity, as the systematic upholder of the supremacy of moral life.
1925   G. K. Chesterton Everlasting Man i. iv. 89   The Religion of Humanity was a term commonly applied to Comtism, the theory of certain rationalists who worshipped corporate mankind as a Supreme Being.
2000   P. A. Mellor in A. Hastings et al. Oxf. Compan. Christian Thought 678/2   Comte..sought to develop his own ‘religion of humanity’ complete with sociologist-priests, altars, a calendar of feast days, and modes of worship.

1852—2000(Hide quotations)


 P8. religion is the opium of the people and variants: see opium n. 2b.



 C1. General attributive, objective and instrumental.

  religion-arousing adj. rare

1927   J. S. Huxley Relig. without Revelation viii. 314   Potential religion-arousing objects.

1927—1927(Hide quotations)


  religion class   n.

1891   Deseret Weekly (Salt Lake City, Utah Territory) 28 Feb. 290/3   Apostle Lund was pleased to learn that the religion classes had commenced.
1972   Times 5 Jan. 10/5   Religion classes conducted by students and ex-students of the college were not religious at all.
2003   N. al-Radi Baghdad Diaries (new ed.) 93   Apparently Hammoodi is taking religion classes.

1891—2003(Hide quotations)


religion-dresser   n. Obsolete rare

a1634   J. Day Peregrinatio Scholastica (Sloane 3150) f. 30   This new vicker was made out of an olde ffrier, that had bene twice turnd at a Religion-dressers.

a1634—a1634(Hide quotations)


  religion game   n.

1961   J. B. Wilson Reason & Morals ii. 120   Thus J. R. Lucas..even puts in a good word for the religion-game.
2004   M. Lyon Game between Gods xv. 159   Jesus gave a warning to not play into the religion game.

1961—2004(Hide quotations)


religion infectious adj. Obsolete rare

a1700   A. Shields Church-communion Enquired Into (1706) 36   Such as are..Religion Infectious, like to spread, and leaven all in Communion with such a Congregation.

a1700—a1700(Hide quotations)


  religion-making   n.

1697   J. Partridge Defectio Geniturarum i. xii. 103   He was but an obscure fellow before he fell upon this Crafty Design of Religion-making.
1762   O. Goldsmith Citizen of World II. 183   They are arrived at such refinement in religion-making, that they have actually formed a new sect without a new opinion.
1888   Mrs. H. Ward Robert Elsmere III. vii. xlix. 360   We are in the full stream of religion-making.
2001   S. Clarke in A. Sharma Relig. in Secular City xvii. 183   The acceptance of being merely a counter force in culture-weaving and religion-making appears to acquiesce to the secondary role of Dalit culture.

1697—2001(Hide quotations)


  religion-masked adj. rare

1633   J. Ford 'Tis Pitty shee's Whore v. sig. I2   Your relligion-masked sorceries.
2004   Washington Times (Nexis) 16 Feb. a19   Religion-masked extremism feeds on poverty, deprivation and ignorance.

1633—2004(Hide quotations)


  religion-mender   n. now rare

1647   Mercurius Clericus No. 1. sig. A4v   A further account concerning the affaires of our Syon, and the..Religion-makers, Menders, or Marers there.
1737   E. Smith App. Cure of Deism 19   These are some of the Nostrums of our great Religion-Mender.
1822   J. Hook Pen Owen I. i. 16   I never knew any good come of your state-menders or religion-menders. They all make more holes than they stop.
1824   W. E. Andrews Crit. & Hist. Rev. Fox's Bk. Martyrs I. 380   The irreligious and blasphemous pretentions of those religion-menders.

1647—1824(Hide quotations)


  religion-monger   n.

1625   J. Stradling Divine Poemes iii. 122   That religion-monger Mohomet.
1718   Entertainer 253   The Fathers [are represented as]..a Parcel of old passive Religion-Mongers.
1878   G. J. Romanes Candid Exam. Theism 136   Religion-mongers as a class are apt to show too little regard for the sentiments, as distinguished from the beliefs, of those to whom they offer their wares.
1908   Times 11 Nov. 14/3   Is..Dionysus a god, or a religion-monger from the East..with a knack of mesmerism?
1998   Hindu (Nexis) 12 Nov.   Though most people profess to be religious, they fear religion-mongers. So few vote for religious parties.

1625—1998(Hide quotations)


religion-raptured adj. Obsolete rare

1797   R. Southey tr. P. de Azevedo Tojal Charles Redeemed in Lett. from Spain 341   The fervid soul of that blest Maid, Religion-raptur'd.

1797—1797(Hide quotations)


  religion school   n.

1892   Deseret Weekly (Salt Lake City, Utah Territory) 6 Aug. 216/3   She had occupied the position of president of the Young Ladies' Association, secretary of the Sabbath school and class teacher in the religion school.
1897   Jewish Q. Rev. 9 663   The Religion-school is not the place for such explanations.
1961   V. G. Simmons Path of Life xviii. 119   A flourishing religion school is the guarantee of Jewish consciousness.
1999   Jewish Chron. 30 July 12/5   David Schwarzmann, who has retired after 31 years as headmaster of Edgware Reform Synagogue's religion school, had been given a special kiddush and presentation.

1892—1999(Hide quotations)


  religion teacher   n.

1878   Polybiblion (Société Bibliographique) 392   The proper attitude of religion teachers towards scientific experts.
1942   Jrnl. Bible & Relig. 10 132/2   The note of inspiration is carried further in the religion teacher's task of counselling.
2009   Irish Times (Nexis) 28 Feb. 5   He was fired from his job as a religion teacher at a Catholic girls high school in Queens.

1878—2009(Hide quotations)


  religion complex   n.  (a) Psychology a complex (complex n. 3) relating to religion;  (b) a complex of buildings serving a religious function.

1922   Brit. Jrnl. Psychol. Oct. 117   Such complexes clearly exist in the normal mind with perfectly free access to consciousness, e.g. the ‘religion complex’.
1934   M. H. Weseen Dict. Amer. Slang 58   Jesus stiff, a tramp with a religion complex.
1989   Arkansas Democrat-Gaz. (Nexis) 13 Aug.   His religion complex in Northwest Arkansas included the Christ of the Ozarks statue.
2005   Houston (Texas) Chron. (Nexis) 17 Feb. (This Week section) 1   The 241-acre facility has its own pharmacy, dentists, barbershop, religion complex, recreational facility and doctors.

1922—2005(Hide quotations)


religion man   n.  [compare earlier man (woman, etc.) of religion] Obsolete a member of a religious order; a member of the clergy.

c1475  (a1449)    J. Lydgate Minor Poems (1934) ii. 793   Religioun men alway wonnyng in the court..It may wele ryme, but it accordith nought.
a1538   A. Abell Roit or Quheill of Tyme f. 30 v, in Dict. Older Sc. Tongue at Religion   Be prechin of dewote religioun men.

c1475—a1538(Hide quotations)


  religion shop   n. humorous or depreciative a church.

1811   L.-M. Hawkins Countess & Gertrude II. xxvii. 79   Well may scoffers talk of the ‘religion-shops’ of London.
1911   C. Marsland Angel of Gila i. 16   See the nat'ral cur'osity as is to start a religion shop, an' grind us fellers inter angels.
2007   Star (S. Afr.) (Nexis) 20 Dec. 13   The church boasts branches in about 40 countries—including its first 24-hour one-stop religion shop in Japan.

1811—2007(Hide quotations)