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If you are sitting tongue-tied with somebody, ask him the greatest conversation-starter on earth—‘Do you believe in God?’ Then disagree with his answer. The sun will fall down, the stars will fly up and vice versa, but you two will still be debating.


A man who believes in God is called a ‘theist’, and the one who does not is an atheist. Worship of one God is called monotheism. On the other hand is pantheism. The song Zarre zarre mein usi ka noor hai from the movie Delhi-6 (lyrics: Prasoon Joshi) neatly explains the pantheistic philosophy.


The remaining theos words are: pantheontheologytheocracyapotheosis


Latin sacer   holy

The most common word from this root is ‘sacred’. Next, we have the word ‘sacrifice’. Sacrifice is built from sacer + facere, to make. So, it means ‘to make sacred.’ And, how can you make an ordinary animal or human sacred? By offering him to god!



To make something sacred is called consecration. Its opposite is desecration or sacrilege. Almost everyone execrates the evil guy who commits sacrilege. If that guy is found out, they beat him black and blue. “You did such an execrable deed. Now suffer!” they say and kick him some more.


Try speaking sacer through the nose. You will speak something like sa-n-cr. This leads us to the nasalised version of the root, sancire, which means ‘to make holy’.

The words built on this root are:

Sacred Sancire-1: saint, sanctify

Sacred Sancire-2: sanctuarysacrosanct

(The similarity between the English word ‘saint’ and the Hindi ‘sant’ is accidental.)


Atheist: (n) one who denies the existence of god or gods.

Origin: Gk a-, without + theos.

  • Prince Prahlad believed in god. His atheist father, Hiranyakashipur, tried many things to make him change his belief but all failed.

Monotheism: (n) the belief that there is only one God.

Origin: Gk monos, alone + theos+ -ism, belief => ‘belief in one god alone’

Pantheism: (n) the belief that God does not have any personality; rather, he is present in everything. God is in all, and so, all is God.

Origin: Gk pan-, all + theos+ -ism => ‘belief that all is god’

Pantheon: (n) a temple dedicated to all the gods; all the gods of a religion considered collectively.

Origin: Gk pan-, all + theos => ‘all gods’

  • Indra is the king of the Hindu pantheon.

Theology: (n) study of religion.

Origin: Gk theos + –logy, study

Theocracy: (n) a state ruled by religious leaders and in which the religious law is dominant over civil law.

Origin: Gk theos + –cracy, rule.

The suffix –cracy is also found in democracy. Gk. demos means people. So, democracy=> ‘rule of people.’

Apotheosis: (n) elevation to godhood; the ideal example of something.

Origin: Gk apo-, change + theos + -osis, action => ‘action of changing into god.’

  • “The central fact of Hinduism is cow protection…Why the cow was selected for apotheosis is obvious to me. The cow was in India the best companion. She was the giver of plenty. Not only did she give milk, but she also made agriculture possible (through the bull)…”
    Mahatma Gandhi on ‘Gau-mata’. In fact, calling the politician M.K. Gandhi a ‘Mahatma’ is itself an example of apotheosis.
  • Amar Akbar Anthony is the apotheosis of the masala Hindi films.

Consecration: (n) the act of making sacred, setting apart as sacred or devoting oneself to something.

Origin: L con-, com-, intensive prefix+ sacer +-ate => ‘to make sacred’

  • He consecrated his life to music.
  • Sohni still loved her dead husband. Like a child, she treasured every trifle which had been consecrated by his touch.

Trifle: (n) a thing of very little value. See trivial.

Desecration: (n) the act of violating the sacredness of.

Origin: L de-, remove+ sacer+ -ate => ‘to remove the sacredness of ’

  • The sanctity of the temple was desecrated by its own priest when he raped a minor girl there.
  • Trisha Oberoi, the famous Bollywood heroine, was charged with desecrating the national flag when she posed for a magazine wearing nothing but just a smaller version of the tricolor draped suggestively around her body.

Sacrilege: (n) the act of violating the sacredness of.

Origin: L sacer+ legere, to pick up => ‘to pick up something sacred’ => ‘to steal something that was consecrated to god’ => ‘to not treat the things consecrated to god with respect’

  • There was tension at Madgarh’s masjid after a man threw away the Holy Quran during the afternoon prayers. The infuriated worshippers immediately gathered around him to beat him to pulp for his sacrilege but the Imam of the masjid asked them to spare the man because he was deranged.

Execrate: (v) to hate someone or something so much that you curse him or it.

Origin: L ex-, out + sacer => ‘to throw out of the sacred things’ => ‘to throw out of the things blessed by God’ => ‘to curse’

The act of execrating is called an execration. The curse that is given is also called an execration.

  • All of us have some secrets which we tell no one, or the entire black truth of which we tell no one, because we know how everyone would execrate us if we did.

Execrable: (adj) very bad, deserving to be hated or cursed.

Origin: execrate+ -able

  • John took Saisha to a five star hotel to celebrate her gold medal. “How’s the food?” he asked her during the dinner. “Good,” she smiled and privately thought that the food was expensive and execrable.
  • Billo ke badan ki aag was an execrable C-grade movie.
  • Please note that execrate, execration and execrable are not related with excrete, excretion and excreta.

Sanctify: (v) to make holy, consecrate; to impart religious sanction to.

Origin: L sanctus, holy + facere, to make => ‘to make holy’

  • Sachin felt that the serene and saintly presence of his mother sanctified their troubled home.
  • The priest sanctified the marriage.

Serene: (adj) calm, peaceful. (n): serenity

Sanction: (n) official approval, permission; a punishment, especially for violating a moral principle or an international law.

Origin: L sancire, to make sacred => ‘an order that makes something sacred’ => ‘an authoritative order’

  • Rhea’s father refused to sanction her modeling ambitions. Even when she bagged her first ramp show, he did not attend it.
  • The United States imposed economic sanctions on India in the wake of the Pokhraan nuclear tests.

Wake: (n) the visible track of disturbance left by something moving through water, and by extension, the consequences of something that has itself passed. We can talk about the wake of a ship or of an aeroplane or of a war. This wake is of course different from the wake in ‘wake up early.’

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