sacrilegious » sacreligious

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • “…but some stuff is too blatantly sacreligious even for someone like me who … The following is a list of the ten best sacreligious songs that you can…” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Paul Brians (Common Errors in English Usage)
  • James Cochrane (Between You and I)

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage cautions, about sacrilegious: “For obvious reasons, it is easy to misspell this word as sacreligious. One way to avoid the error is to remember that religious and sacrilegious are not etymologically related to each other.” Easy for them to say; a great many speakers simply can’t believe that an adjective with a meaning ‘contrary to or offensive to religion’ doesn’t have the adjective religious in it.

Despite this, spellings in -legious still dominate on Google: a 10 April 2005 web search got these raw numbers:

-legious: 178k sacrilegious, 237 sacrelegious, 51 sacralegious;

-ligious: 20.5k sacreligious, 6,380 sacriligious, 957 sacraligious.

Sacreligious is a great favorite in lists of commonly misspelled words in English; the two listed above are just a sample.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/04/10 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by porges , 2005/04/11 at 8:12 am

    “sacrelegious » sacreligious”…

    Do we now get an entry on “sacrilegious » sacrelegious”? :)

  2. 2

    Commentary by Arnold Zwicky , 2005/04/11 at 7:02 pm

    In answer to Porges: no, of course not. The only real competitors are the historical “sacrilegious” and the eggcorn “sacreligious”. The other variants are (relatively uncommon) misspellings, perhaps promoted by the competition between these two, plus the spelling “sacra-” in “sacrament”.

  3. 3

    Commentary by Arnold Zwicky , 2005/04/12 at 9:38 pm

    Oh, ack! Chris Waigl points out that I misspelled the original in the header, and that’s what Porges was alluding to. I have fixed this.

    I plan on avoiding all uses of this word in my writing from now on.

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