Definition of profanity in English:



  • 1[mass noun] Blasphemous or obscene language.

    ‘an outburst of profanity’
    • ‘Mercedes was taken back by the sudden change of emotion on Jake's face and his abrupt outburst of profanity.’
    • ‘Janis Joplin is fined $200 for violating local profanity and obscenity laws for her performance after a concert in Tampa, Florida.’
    • ‘His highly polished boots and the ivory-handled revolvers strapped to his hips were all part of this posturing, as was the profanity of his language.’
    • ‘We cut back to the splitscreen view so we can also see the studio anchorman, who's obviously similarly at a loss by the outburst of profanity.’
    • ‘Zora raises her hand: ‘Never use profanity or inappropriate language.’’
    • ‘But the key words in understanding swearing, as opposed to coarse language or mere profanity, are taboo and shock.’
    • ‘Similarly, don't use profanity, obscenity, slander or libel.’
    • ‘Now let me be quite clear that I'm not the kind of person given to the use of profanity or offensive language.’
    • ‘Whenever I use profanity in my posts, the language in the comments inevitably becomes coarser.’
    • ‘The atmosphere of the billiard room, it was suggested in South Shields, was also conducive to profanity and bad language.’
    oath, swear word, expletive, curse, obscenity, four-letter word, dirty word, execration, imprecation
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[count noun]A swear word; an oath.
      ‘a man with bloodied chin mouthing profanities’
      • ‘His mumbled curses and profanities were becoming more and more apparent.’
      • ‘And then, all of a sudden Garrett is taking a solo so unbelievably impassioned, he has me screaming profanities.’
      • ‘Looking over my shoulder, it was alarming to see 20 people in black charging through gravestones, mouthing profanities.’
      • ‘We hastily examined the despatched message to check that an obscenity or profanity had not somehow slipped in, or that a word could have been misinterpreted.’
      • ‘Interestingly enough, I avoided emitting a stream of profanities as I made a completely futile attempt to steer.’
      • ‘May I be so bold as to encourage the use of profanities… for real… not just symbols.’
      • ‘That means the music is turned down to a tolerable level and the arguments peppered with colourful church-related profanities begins.’
      • ‘I won't even delve into the profanities this elicited in explosive bursts as I read his latest missive taking me to task for this or that.’
      • ‘When a song makes you want to get up and dance, hug someone, grope someone and shout profanities all at once, is it special or are you?’
      • ‘I didn't notice him until he ejected a stream of swear words and profanities when we were told to leave the train and wait on platform three.’
    2. 1.2Irreligious or irreverent behaviour.
      • ‘Not by abandoning all to profanity, but by extending the reach of sacred time and space.’
      • ‘Others, touching on areas that range from elements of sexuality, to the treatment of the dead and dying, to bodily indignity and even profanity and sacrilege, are of course more controversial.’
      • ‘This is a clash between piety and profanity, between light and darkness, between the path to Paradise and the way to Hell.’
      • ‘While this may seem a bit simplistic, it actually describes how profanity can exist in a sacred universe.’
      • ‘The question of sanctity versus profanity is one which every Pagan, Wiccan, or Witch confronts and comes to terms with at some point on their spiritual path.’
      • ‘Throughout, these figures mirror humanity in all its pomposity and haplessness, calculation and honesty, devotion and infidelity, profanity and piety.’
      • ‘The profanity of medieval gargoyles contrast with sacred images decorating doorways and the interior of churches, though grotesque imagery on a smaller scale is found here too.’
      • ‘Religious scholars and students were moved by it as a piece of Jewish and Israeli literature that functioned neither as a traditional religious text nor as a profanity of sacred ideas.’
      • ‘Despite gospel-centred ministries, and various societies dedicated to moral reform, homosexuality, profanity, immorality, drunkenness and gluttony were widespread.’
      • ‘This was in the notorious letter to Michelangelo, published in 1550, in which the writer roundly denounced the pagan profanity and immoderate artistic license of The Last Judgment.’
      • ‘We need not offer any apologies for that just because the forces of profanity seem to be powerful.’
      idolatry, sacrilege, irreligiousness, ungodliness, impiety, unholiness, profaneness, blasphemy, irreverence, disrespectfulness, disrespect
      View synonyms


Mid 16th century: from late Latin profanitas, from Latin profanus not sacred (see profane).