Dictionary.com

Lexical Investigations: Dogma

dogma, lexical investigationsAt the turn of the 17th century, dogma entered English from the Latin term meaning “philosophical tenet.” The Greek word from which it is borrowed means “that which one thinks is true,” and comes ultimately from the Greek dokein which means “to seem good” or “think.”

The origin of the word dogma acts as a reminder to English speakers that now-established principles and doctrines were once simply thoughts and opinions of ordinary people that gained popularity and eventually found their way into the universal consciousness of society. 20th-century American academic and aphorist Mason Cooley concisely observed that “Under attack, sentiments harden into dogma,” suggesting that dogma is spawned as a defensive act. This idea implies that for every dogma that exists, there is a counter dogma. With so many “truths” out there, there is sure to be a dogma to conveniently fit every set of beliefs.

Popular References

—Dogma: A film written and directed by Kevin Smith, released in 1999
—Dogma 95: A movement in cinema started by Danish director Lars von Trier in 1995, which established filmmaking constraints such as no use of special effects

Related Quotations

“Let it be understood once for all that Catholic dogma does not fix a limit to the operations of reason in dealing with divine truth.”
—A. N. Littlejohn, “Catholic Dogma: Its Nature and Obligations,” Catholic Dogma (1892)

“Since the time of Moses Mendelssohn (1728–1786), the chief Jewish dogma has been that Judaism has no dogmas.”
—Israel Abrahams, Judaism (1907)

“To me there was no question so important as the emancipation of women from the dogmas of the past, political, religious, and social.”
—Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eighty years and more: Reminiscences 1815-1897 (1898)

“Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
—Steve Jobs, “Commencement Address at Stanford University,” American Rhetoric (delivered June 12, 2005)

Read our previous post about the word camouflage.
A motley combination of Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Germanic dialects, the English language (more or less as we know it) coalesced between the 9th and 13th centuries. Since then, it has continued to import and borrow words and expressions from around the world, and the meanings have mutated. (Awesome and awful once meant nearly the same thing.) Some specimens in the English vocabulary have followed unusually circuitous routes to their place in the contemporary lexicon, and this series, Lexical Investigations, unpacks those words hiding in our midst.

37 Comments

  1. busana muslim -  August 5, 2014 - 3:18 am

    he word itself doesn’t have negative connotations, the people who use it give it negative connotations. yes

    Reply
  2. Darmanto -  January 11, 2014 - 10:18 am

    dogma of a word that is quite interesting to talk about

    Reply
  3. Felix -  July 25, 2013 - 9:10 am

    Yep discussing about dogma can’t be never end

    Reply
  4. sickoftalking -  May 20, 2013 - 11:01 pm

    The word itself doesn’t have negative connotations, the people who use it give it negative connotations.

    It refers to established opinion. In most cases, people who speak about established opinion are people who complain about it it and complain about so-and-so organization’s ‘dogma’. In most cases, people who support the established opinion tend to substitute the word ‘dogma’ for something else, like ‘consensus’, ‘findings’, ‘doctrines’, or ‘principles’.

    But if people using words pejoratively made them negative words, then ‘liberal’ would be a negative word also.

    Reply
  5. Ben -  May 20, 2013 - 6:55 pm

    Right on Jon! you are right about your comment.

    | Hmm…gotta love the veiled post-modernism that will entice uneducated folk to relativism. Stop with the back-handed attacks on the Church.

    and Charles’ comment showing the example of post-modern thinking:

    | In reference to: “With so many ‘truths’ out there, there is sure to be a dogma to conveniently fit every set of beliefs”, what is Truth? How can there be truths that conflict? Wouldn’t one of them necessarily be false? For example, if one holds that the dogma of God’s existence as Creator is true, and one thinks that it is false, one of them has to be right.

    Reply
  6. Jacob -  May 20, 2013 - 11:54 am

    And even as I post a poorly thought through, narky comment, other people make the same point with more eloquence. The irony.

    Reply
  7. Jacob -  May 20, 2013 - 11:45 am

    Oh my goodness, a spelling mistake! The glee, the rapture! I think I’ll point it out before I even check to see if anyone else has done the same. I’m so clever.

    Reply
  8. yolo -  May 19, 2013 - 7:46 pm

    yolo

    Reply
  9. Vanessa -  May 19, 2013 - 10:40 am

    5/9 comments correcting the spelling of principles, and now it’s correct! Excellent! Top shelf!

    Reply
  10. Raul Padilla -  May 19, 2013 - 10:02 am

    You know, it’s common sense that since we’re on a dictionary website, why not look up the word ‘principal’ and ‘principle’ instead of criticizing someone else’s work. They both almost mean the same but with some differences. But in the context, I’m pretty sure it’s correct. People these days. Ignorance kills, wannabe critics get judged for judging.

    Reply
  11. Connie -  May 19, 2013 - 9:39 am

    wow…awesome and awful once meant the same thing? Did they both mean awesome or did they both mean awful? o.O

    Reply
  12. sarah -  May 17, 2013 - 12:36 pm

    the word is principle wow i can’t believe there was even a ??? Rosetta Stone lol

    Reply
  13. Yunuet -  May 17, 2013 - 8:53 am

    By “universal consciousness of society,” whose consciousness?

    Reply
  14. me -  May 17, 2013 - 7:08 am

    but I accidently didnt read it

    Reply
  15. me -  May 17, 2013 - 7:08 am

    and funny

    Reply
  16. me -  May 17, 2013 - 7:08 am

    its cool.

    Reply
  17. John Gammon -  May 17, 2013 - 6:11 am

    The word “dogmatic” seems to have kept the original sense of dogma. It is certainly a perjorative word these days, suggesting someone is clinging unreasonably to beliefs that may be untenable.

    PS: Billy Connolly once said his karma ran over his dogma.

    Reply
  18. Mattski -  May 17, 2013 - 4:49 am

    The movie “Dogma” was good, too. The whole film is an exercise of the theological definition. Irreverant and funny!

    Reply
  19. j beiber lover -  May 16, 2013 - 1:42 pm

    i rally could agree with the user i love justin beeb b/c JUSTIN BEIBER is so silly it’s just saucy

    Reply
  20. i love justin beeb -  May 16, 2013 - 1:40 pm

    these totes relates to the j-beez beecuz he’s so0o0o0 cutema

    Reply
  21. AnOldBlackMarble -  May 16, 2013 - 10:07 am

    What’s with all this dogma about “principals” and “principles” on here?

    Reply
  22. T. Ramakrishnan -  May 16, 2013 - 8:22 am

    I wouldn’t be dogmatic about semantics.

    Reply
  23. Jim Jordan -  May 16, 2013 - 3:43 am

    This is another example of a pseudo-intellectual playing with words in order to win an argument that didn’t exist in the first place. Among other pseudo-intellectuals he/she probably gains some modicum of praise and recognition.

    In fact, the “original” definition of dogma proposed in the article (that of “opinion”) has existed and continues to exist in the Catholic Church in numerous texts and dictionaries of official usage. It merely “changed” in secular dictionaries (which are largely biased and incorrect when it comes to defining words in Catholic usage). The co-existing original meaning of dokein, that of a public decree, which is also found in ancient biblical (see Luke 2:1 “there went out a decree (dokein) from Caesar Augustus” [hardly thought to be a mere opinion]) and extra-biblical text, also continues to exist in usage in the Catholic Church today.

    Reply
  24. Charles -  May 16, 2013 - 3:14 am

    In reference to: “With so many ‘truths’ out there, there is sure to be a dogma to conveniently fit every set of beliefs”, what is Truth? How can there be truths that conflict? Wouldn’t one of them necessarily be false? For example, if one holds that the dogma of God’s existence as Creator is true, and one thinks that it is false, one of them has to be right.

    Reply
  25. Jon -  May 15, 2013 - 10:06 pm

    Hmm…gotta love the veiled post-modernism that will entice uneducated folk to relativism. Stop with the back-handed attacks on the Church.

    Reply
  26. warren -  May 15, 2013 - 8:06 am

    Uh, the spelling of “principals”…should that be “principles”? hmmm Thanks
    wm

    Reply
  27. Namer -  May 15, 2013 - 5:14 am

    principals –> principles

    Reply
  28. Adam -  May 14, 2013 - 11:40 pm

    “principALS and doctrines” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  29. SensibleJoe -  May 14, 2013 - 6:12 pm

    “Now-established principals”? Shouldn’t that be “principles”?

    Reply
  30. swag -  May 14, 2013 - 3:19 pm

    swag

    Reply
  31. Nunung -  May 14, 2013 - 10:01 am

    Problems dogma has always been an interesting discussion

    Reply
  32. DOGMA | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  May 14, 2013 - 8:50 am

    [...] Karma ran over the ‘Dogma’ — If only the Rear Cameras had worked. — Some Hindsight rides over everything — [...]

    Reply
  33. gilbert -  May 14, 2013 - 7:09 am

    Dogma has a negative connotation, hasn’t it?

    Reply
  34. Felix Moses -  May 14, 2013 - 12:26 am

    The origin of the word dogma acts as a reminder to English speakers that now-established “principals.”

    I’m certain you meant “principles.”

    Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked (required):

Related articles

Back to Top