Function: noun Etymology: Greek agnostos unknown, unknowable, from
a- + gnostos known, from gignoskein to know — more at know Date: 1869
1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown
and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in
either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god
2 : a person unwilling to commit to an opinion about something
Someone who does not know, or believes that it is impossible to know, whether
a god exists Although he was raised a Catholic, he was an agnostic for most of his adult life.
(Definition of agnostic noun from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)
the beliefs of an agnostic
(Definition of agnostic adjective from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)
a. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
b. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.
c. One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something.
2. One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something.
1. Relating to or being an agnostic.
2. Doubtful or noncommittal: "Though I am agnostic on what terms to use, I have
no doubt that human infants come with an enormous 'acquisitiveness' for
discovering patterns" (William H. Calvin).
Word History: An agnostic does not deny the existence of God and heaven but
holds that one cannot know for certain whether or not they exist. The term
agnostic was fittingly coined by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H.
Huxley, who believed that only material phenomena were objects of exact
knowledge. He made up the word from the prefix a-, meaning "without, not,"
as in amoral, and the noun Gnostic.
Gnostic is related to the Greek word gnosis, "knowledge," which was used by
early Christian writers to mean "higher, esoteric knowledge of spiritual
things"; hence, Gnostic referred to those with such knowledge. In coining the
term agnostic, Huxley was considering as "Gnostics" a group of his fellow
intellectuals - "ists," as he called them - who had eagerly embraced various
doctrines or theories that explained the world to their satisfaction. Because he
was a "man without a rag of a label to cover himself with," Huxley coined the
term agnostic for himself, its first published use being in 1870.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by
Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009.
1. (Christian Religious Writings / Theology) a person who holds that knowledge
of a Supreme Being, ultimate cause, etc., is impossible
2. a person who claims, with respect to any particular question, that the answer
cannot be known with certainty
of or relating to agnostics
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers
1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003