Definition of anathema in US English:



  • 1Something or someone that one vehemently dislikes.

    ‘racial hatred was anathema to her’
    • ‘Peace required partial ideological abdication, in that each state treated as legitimate other states whose arguments for their own legitimacy were anathema to its own principles.’
    • ‘Hitherto Macra's aims were strictly educational, social and cultural and involvement in economics, which had been strenuously resisted at all levels, was still an anathema to many.’
    • ‘Contraception and abortion were, of course, anathema to Mother Teresa.’
    • ‘Being such a private man I think this was anathema to him, to be exposed, you know, publicly in this way.’
    • ‘This is anathema to New Labour - a government which is uninterested in history, and which equates the whole notion of tradition with the ‘forces of conservatism’ holding the country back.’
    • ‘To them, I will only say that regardless of whether it is big or small, supporting evil is anathema to any man who seeks the good, the right and the true.’
    • ‘The idea of counter-cyclical policy was anathema to the Victorians.’
    • ‘This sort of thing has every danger of deteriorating into a wider cultural rift between outsiders and others, which is quite anathema to a place like Bangalore that thrives on its cosmopolitan character.’
    • ‘That idea [that the Federal Government should embrace ‘traditional values’] is anathema to those who take the Constitution seriously.’
    • ‘The process of formation and literacy that is taking place within the space and time of the flows, is often located within the logic of corporate organization even though they are literally an anathema to it.’
    • ‘But that wild idea was quickly shown to reduce commercial and industrial property taxes in Toronto and increase them everywhere else in the province, a result that was anathema to the government.’
    • ‘In spite of many examples of successful reform through the introduction of choice and competition in other countries, these ideas continue to be an anathema to the German electorate.’
    • ‘And the entire concept is anathema to Garbo's Hollywood heirs, most of whom break out in a rash and require vodka injections if they remain unphotographed for longer than 17 minutes.’
    • ‘America's founders knew that corporate power was anathema to the public interest and the democratic will of the people, so they created a framework to run government like a government.’
    • ‘Given such a declaration, O'Brien might be surprised to find herself quoted in another, more recent interview saying: ‘News stories are anathema to fiction’.’
    • ‘There are many others who are directly or indirectly associated with the process of finding a solution to this problem that serves as an anathema to this unique city.’
    • ‘It is an anathema to me to suggest that someone in their 60s is past their sell-by date.’
    • ‘Such open displays of patriotism are anathema to today's liberal journalists, who see ‘taking sides’ as a betrayal of journalistic objectivity.’
    • ‘Yet they have been given a daily diet of statements from Democratic leaders that seem intent on not only avoiding a fight but also embracing candidates who would be anathema to the Democratic base.’
    • ‘The idea that one would voluntarily inject poison into one's body was anathema to me.’
    abhorrent, hateful, odious, repugnant, repellent, offensive
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  • 2A formal curse by a pope or a council of the Church, excommunicating a person or denouncing a doctrine.

    • ‘Facing persecution in idolatrous Mecca, in AD 622 the Prophet Muhammad pronounced an anathema on the city's leaders and took his followers to Medina.’
    • ‘The anathemas were eventually cancelled on 7 December 1965, by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I, as part of a larger effort to draw the two Churches together, after centuries of separation.’
    • ‘It's no wonder then, that Paul calls down God's curse, God's anathema, His ban on those behind their potential defection from Christ.’
    • ‘Although anathemas followed against any who disagreed with the faith so formulated, there was no prohibition against altering the creed at a future council.’
    • ‘He shrank from the venerable saint as if to avoid an anathema.’
    curse, ban, excommunication, damnation, proscription, debarment, denunciation, malediction, execration, imprecation
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    1. 2.1literary A strong curse.
      ‘the sergeant clutched the ruined communicator, muttering anathemas’
      • ‘In the legend, the burden of hierarchical corruption is carried by the anathema hurled by the wives immolating themselves, and it culminates in a fatal robe of honour.’
      • ‘That's when anathemas begin to fly and dialogue becomes impossible.’
      • ‘Ironically, at the very end of this millennium, demotions, warnings, and anathemas have again come into vogue in several regions of our nation.’
      • ‘Each community can assert its own convictions forcefully, but neither community should resort to anathemas or silences, to exclusion or withdrawal.’
      • ‘At times, as the curses and the anathemas rained upon him, he held his hands out in front of him, like a school nerd begging the bullies not to hit him again.’


Early 16th century: from ecclesiastical Latin, ‘excommunicated person, excommunication’, from Greek anathema ‘thing dedicated’, (later) ‘thing devoted to evil, accursed thing’, from anatithenai ‘to set up’.