Definition of transgress in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Infringe or go beyond the bounds of (a moral principle or other established standard of behavior)

    ‘she had transgressed an unwritten social law’
    no object ‘they must control the impulses that lead them to transgress’
    • ‘Before 6pm, I'd feel I was transgressing an unwritten rule.’
    • ‘The desire to transgress the limits and limitations of human existence is a driving force behind all art.’
    • ‘He affirmed the claims of justice, even if he had transgressed against them.’
    • ‘In each case the rejected form is taken to embody that which is beyond the bounds or transgresses the limits of, variously, decency, acceptability, or good taste.’
    • ‘I ask any member who has never transgressed against the moral codes to put up his or her hand; then I will not use the word we cannot use.’
    • ‘And this temple was set up largely to commemorate the victory over the Persians who had by definition transgressed the divine limits in their attempt to conquer the Greeks.’
    • ‘The cringe of this recognition comedy is beyond humour: it transgresses the boundaries of self and society, identification and identity.’
    • ‘The group appears to have devoted itself to making sure any person who transgressed against them or their property was reported to the authorities and dealt with as severely as possible.’
    • ‘On the one hand, early modern Italy witnessed a proliferation of new techniques of representation that transgressed against earlier, more mimetic ways of seeing and listening.’
    • ‘Does the text in some way transgress these limits?’
    • ‘Still, I'm not sure that merely transgressing social boundaries or taboos makes him any kind of trickster.’
    • ‘Their opposition is driven by a pessimistic sense that agbio is the latest example of how modern society has transgressed natural limits.’
    • ‘In my opinion, I was transgressing standards of acceptable female behaviour - women are supposed to smile, to happily ornament the streets.’
    • ‘The figures, in this way, served as surrogates of the body, enabling the idea of the body to transgress social norms without consequence.’
    • ‘They experience pain, transgress borders/limits, and come into existence in situations that are stimulated by pain.’
    • ‘Is it not in its nature to transgress the limits of knowledge, thus revealing dimensions of life beyond the reach of other disciplines?’
    • ‘This could have been a dark novel where guilt, longing and desire transgress accepted boundaries.’
    • ‘Special courts under such proclamations tried and punished those who transgressed against the orders of the military authority.’
    misbehave, behave badly, break the law, err, lapse, commit an offence, fall from grace, stray from the straight and narrow, sin, degenerate, do wrong, go astray
    disobey, defy, infringe, breach, contravene, violate, break, flout, infract, commit a breach of
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    1. 1.1Geology (of the sea) spread over (an area of land).
      • ‘At some point during the lower Devonian, the sea began to transgress again, and this continued through the deposition of the Port Ewen formation.’
      • ‘By 9500 BC the outward flow stopped and the sea began to transgress into the enlarged Great Belt, turning it brackish very slowly.’
      • ‘As the sea level rose in the early to middle Holocene, dunes on the low-gradient shelf were transgressed and provided the core for the modern offshore sandy shoals.’
      • ‘High peat cliffs on the coasts of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are clear examples of coastal wetland loss by transgressing sea levels.’


Late 15th century (earlier ( late Middle English) as transgression): from Old French transgresser or Latin transgress- ‘stepped across’, from the verb transgredi, from trans- ‘across’ + gradi ‘go’.