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List of religious slurs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The following is a list of religious slurs or religious insults in the English language that are, or have been, used as insinuations or allegations about adherents of a given religion or irreligion, or to refer to them in a derogatory (critical or disrespectful), pejorative (disapproving or contemptuous), or insulting manner.



Term Location of Origin Targeted Demographic Meaning Origin and Notes References
Bible beater also known as Bible basher North America Christian's pentecostal denomination A dysphemism for people who believe in the fundamentalist authority of the Bible, particularly those from a Pentecostal or fundamentalist denomination.[1] It is also a slang term for an evangelising Christian. Commonly used universally against Christians who are perceived to go out of their way to energetically preach their faith to others. [1][2][3]
Bible thumper United States Christian people Someone perceived as aggressively imposing their Christian beliefs upon others. The term derives from preachers thumping their hands down on the Bible, or thumping the Bible itself, to emphasize a point during a sermon. The term's target domain is broad and can often extend to anyone engaged in a public show of religion, fundamentalist or not. The term is most commonly used in English-speaking countries. [4]
Cafeteria Christian United States Selection of Christian doctrines Used by some Christians, and others, to accuse other Christian individuals or denominations of selecting which Christian doctrines they will follow, and which they will not. [5]
Fundie United States Christian fundamentalist Shortening of fundamentalist. Usually used to mean a Christian fundamentalist. [6]
Rice Christian United Kingdom Material benefiting Christians Someone who has formally declared themself a Christian for material benefits rather than for religious reasons. [7]


Term Location of Origin Targeted Demographic Meaning Origin and Notes References
Campbellite United States Followers of Church of Christ Followers of the Church of Christ, from American Restoration Movement leaders Thomas Campbell and Alexander Campbell, the latter being one of two key people considered the founders of the movement. [8]
Holy Roller United States Christian people Named after a common orange-flavoured cake/biscuit in the ROI and UK. [9]
Jaffa United Kingdom Christian people Named after a common orange-flavoured cake/biscuit in the ROI and UK. [9]
Prod United Kingdom Christian Catholics Particularly a rival child from a Protestant school. "Proddywhoddy" and "proddywoddy" are used in children's school rhymes in Cork. [10]
Russellite United States Christian people Jehovah's Witness from American religious leader Charles Taze Russell. [11][12]
Shaker United States Christian people Member of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing. Originated as "Shaking Quakers", in reference to their similarity to Quakers as well as their charismatic worship practices, which involved dancing, shouting, and speaking in tongues. The term was originally derogatory, but very early on was embraced and used by the Shakers themselves. [13][14][15]
Soup-taker Ireland Christian who sold their belief Person who has sold out their beliefs, referring to the Great Famine of Ireland when some Catholics converted to a Protestant faith in order to gain access to a free meal. [16]


Term Location of Origin Targeted Demographic Meaning Origin and Notes References
Left-footer United Kingdom Roman Catholics An informal phrase for a Roman Catholic particularly amongst the armed forces in the UK. [17][18]
Fenian United Kingdom Roman Catholics a term which was originally used to refer to the Fenian Brotherhood and the Irish Republican Brotherhood, organizations which supported a united Ireland. Today the term is used as a sectarian slur by Protestants, especially in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Australia. [19]
Mackerel Snapper North America Roman Catholics The term originated in the U.S. in the 1850s and refers to the custom of Friday abstinence. The Friday abstinence from meat (red meat and poultry) distinguishes Catholics from other Christians, especially in North America. [20][21]
Mick United Kingdom Irish Catholic Usually an Irish Catholic (a reference to the common "Mc'" patronymic of Irish surnames, or a hypocorism of Michael). [22]
Paptist Northern Ireland Roman Catholic Usually Irish Catholic.[23] [23]
Red letter tribe North America Roman Catholics A name given to Catholics for their keeping so many holy days marked in their almanacks with red letters. [24]
Redneck Ireland Roman Catholics Roman Catholic person, nowadays somewhat dated. [25]
Roman Catholic England Roman Catholics Term brought into use by adherents of the Church of England in regard to Branch Theory as well as distaste to the Catholic Church’s association with the term Catholic. [26]
Shaveling Earth Roman Catholics Usually disparaging: a tonsured clergyman, priest. [27]
Taig Northern Ireland Roman Catholics From tadhg, Irish for "Timothy". [28]

Latter Day Saint movement

Term Location of Origin Targeted Demographic Meaning Origin and Notes References
Mormon United Kingdom Latter Day Saint Term for a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) which was coined by early opposition and put into use by newspapers in Missouri and Illinois who didn't want to refer to the Latter-day Saints as Christians or Saints, and so used a word from one of their books of scripture, the Book of Mormon. Early leaders spoke out against this use of the term due to revelation given about the church's name,[29] but because of broad use in the press and by locals who opposed the church, it remained in colloquial use. To this day, many refer to the LDS Church as the "Mormon Church," though leaders have been asking to be referred to by their proper name since 1838. However, the term "Mormon" has been used in the church's television advertising to refer to its members. There has been a renewed effort starting in 2018 to avoid the use of the term. There is some disagreement within the LDS Church if the term is offensive, or just less preferred. Some style guides consider "Mormon" to be the appropriate term in many historical (Mormon pioneers, Mormon Battalion, Mormon Trail) and demographic contexts, as Mormons are not exclusively members of the LDS Church. There are other denominations in which the term is not offensive and may be preferred. (List of denominations in the Latter Day Saint movement) [30][29][31][32][33][34]
Molly Mormon United Kingdom Latter Day Saint Term for the stereotype of a "perfect" female member of LDS Church. [35]
Jack Mormon United Kingdom Latter Day Saint A non-faithful LDS person or a non-Mormon altogether. Jack Mormon is usually used by non-Mormons to describe Mormons that do not follow the Word of Wisdom (dietary and health practices that exclude the use of tobacco or alcohol) and by Mormons to describe members that do not sufficiently follow practices. It is also used by Mormons to describe those who were Mormon but remain friendly to the church. It may be applied to ex-Mormons who have repudiated the church and its teachings but that is a rare usage. [36]


For the word Jew itself as a perceived or actual slur, see Jew (word).

Most of these 'slurs' are of Jewish origin and part of the Yiddish language as referenced beside each word.

Term Location of Origin Targeted Demographic Meaning Origin and Notes References
Abbie North America Jewish male A Jewish male. From the proper name Abraham. Originated before the 1950s.[37] [37]
Heeb United States Jews Derived from the word "Hebrew". [38][39]
Hymie United States Jews Derived from the Hebrew Chaim ("life"). Also used in the term Hymietown, a nickname for Brooklyn, New York, and as a first name. [40]
Ikey United States Jews Derived from the word "Isaac". [41]
Jewboy United States Young Jewish boy For a young Jewish male, originally young Jewish boys who sold counterfeit coins in 18th century London. [42][43]
Kike United States Jews From the Yiddish word for "circle" is kikel, illiterate Jews who entered the United States at Ellis Island signed their names with a circle instead of a cross because they associated the cross with Christianity. [44][45]
Mocky United States Jews First used in the 1930s, possibly from the Yiddish word makeh meaning "plague".[46] [46][47]
Moch United States Jews A Jew, first used in the 1960s, as an abbreviated form of mocky (q.v.). [41]
Red Sea pedestrian Australia Jews A Jew, from the story of Moses leading the Jewish people out of Egypt. [48]
Sheeny Europe Jews From Yiddish sheyn or German schön meaning 'beautiful'. [49]
Shylock Earth Jews Jewish people as shrewd and money-loving; named after the famous character from Shakespeare's play "Merchant of Venice". [50]
Yakubian North America Jews Jewish people; it is often mistaken as describing white people, as the Nation of Islam believes all white people are descended from Yakub, the biblical Jacob. Therefore, white people and Jewish people are considered one and the same. [51]
Yid Earth Jews Yiddish word for Jew. [52]
Zhyd Russia Jews From Russian and other Slavic languages, originally neutral, but became pejorative during debate over the Jewish question in the 1800s. Its use was banned by the Soviet authorities in the 1930s. [53]


Term Location of Origin Targeted Demographic Meaning Origin and Notes References
Raghead North America Islamic turban wearers From Islamic wearing of turbans. [54]
Osama North America Islamic men From Osama bin Laden. [54]
Qadiani Pakistan Ahmadiyya The term originates from Qadian, a small town in northern India, the birthplace of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement. The use of Qadiani is primarily in Pakistan. The term has even been used in official Pakistani documents. It is also known as the Q-word. [55][56][57]


Term Location of Origin Targeted Demographic Meaning Origin and Notes References
Raghead North America Islamic turban wearers In reference to Sikh headgear (usually turbans), often used in the belief that Sikhs are connected to terrorism. Also used against anyone wearing turbans or keffiyehs. [58][59]


a Scientologist, referring to a passage about clam engrams in L. Ron Hubbard's 1952 book, What To Audit, later renamed Scientology: A History of Man.[60]

General non-believers

Word for a person who isn't Muslim, but especially for a Christian. Adapted from the Turkish gâvur. In the Ottoman Empire, it was usually applied to Orthodox Christians.[61][62]
A person who does not belong to a widely held religion (especially one who is not a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) as regarded by those who do.[63]
A term used generally for non-believers.[64]
A person who is a non believer.[65] Widely used in Muslim majority countries.[citation needed]
A person who holds religious beliefs that differ from main world religions. Synonymous with heathen.[66]
Shiksa (female), Shegetz (male)
(Yiddish) A non-Jewish girl or boy or one who is of Jewish descent, but does not practice Orthodox Judaism.[67][68]

Religious practitioners in general

Cult, Cultist
Used as an ad hominem attack against groups with differing doctrines or practices.[69][70][71]

See also


  1. ^ a b Garner's Modern American Usage (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, US. 2009. p. 286. ISBN 978-0199888771. Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  2. ^ Eble, Connie (1996). Slang & sociability in-group language among college students. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 157. ISBN 978-1469610573. Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  3. ^ Dalzell, Tom (2007). The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. London: Routledge. p. 51. ISBN 9780203962114.
  4. ^ Gilbert, Robert E. (1 October 2008). "Ronald Reagan's Presidency: The Impact of an Alcoholic Parent". Political Psychology. 29 (5): 737–765. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9221.2008.00662.x.
  5. ^ Odermann, Valerian (February 2002). "Pass it on: Encouraging the heart". The American Monastic Newsletter. 32 (1). Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 14 November 2018. Yet a danger does still remain. It is the danger of "cafeteria Christianity," which lets people mix and match traditions any way they want, without discipline and without accountability. Unless we transcend cafeteria Christianity, our practices will be more sarabaite or gyrovague than Benedictine.
    - "Archbishop calls on Costa Ricans to abandon "cafeteria Christianity" and defend life". San Jose: Catholic News Agency. 29 March 2005. Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Urena of San Jose, Costa Rica, told Costa Ricans in his Easter message to embrace the faith without conditions or short-cuts and to defend the life of the unborn against efforts to legalize abortion. The archbishop warned that “based on a relativistic understanding of the Christian faith and a conditional adherence to the Church, some Catholics seek to construct a Christianity and, consequently, a Church to their own liking, unilateral and outside the identity and mission that Jesus Christ has fundamentally given us.”
  6. ^ Shuy, Roger W. (2009). The Language of Defamation Cases. Oxford University Press. p. 81. ISBN 9780199742318.
  7. ^ "Rice Christians". Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898. Archived from the original on 16 November 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2007.
  8. ^ The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary describes the term as "sometimes offensive". Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc. Entry on "Cambellite."
  9. ^ a b Hughes, Brendan (18 April 2017). "'Sponger' is slang for Catholic, says PSNI language guide". The Irish News. Archived from the original on 12 December 2017. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  10. ^ Share, op. cit. p. 253.
  11. ^ "Russellite - Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias". Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2015. Russellite /rus"euh luyt'/, n. Offensive. a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses. [1875-80, Amer.; after C. T. Russell; see -ITE1]
  12. ^ "russellite - Useful English Dictionary". Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2015. russellite ˈrəsəˌlīt noun (-s) Usage: usually capitalized Etymology: Charles Taze Russell died 1916 American religious leader + English -ite : one of the Jehovah's Witnesses — often taken to be offensive
  13. ^ "Shaker Farms Country Club - Westfield, MA". Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  14. ^ Paterwic, Stephen J. (11 August 2008). Historical Dictionary of the Shakers. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810862555. Archived from the original on 1 May 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  15. ^ ""Let us labor": The Evolution of Shaker Dance". Shaker Heritage Society. 4 April 2012. Archived from the original on 23 September 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  16. ^ Hughes, "Ireland" p. 78
  17. ^ "Left-footer definition and meaning - Collins English Dictionary". Archived from the original on 24 September 2017. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  18. ^ Partridge, Eric (2 May 2006). A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. p. 674. ISBN 9781134963652.
  19. ^ "Socialist Worker page". 11 November 2011. Archived from the original on 11 November 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  20. ^ The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English Archived 9 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine p. 1250 (2005 Taylor & Francis)
  21. ^ Morrow, Maria C. (2016). "To Eat Meat or Not?: Paenitemini, The NCCB's Pastoral Statement, and the Decline of Penance". Sin in the Sixties: Catholics and Confession, 1955-1975. Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-8132-2898-3. Retrieved 4 August 2017. So finally abstinence from meat on Friday became just a kind of badge of the fact we were Catholics
  22. ^ Dalzell, Tom; Victor, Terry (2014). The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. p. 514. ISBN 9781317625124. Archived from the original on 16 February 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  23. ^ a b Simpson, "papist" op. cit.; Share, op. cit. p. 237.
  24. ^ Kersey, John (1772). A New English Dictionary.
  25. ^ Appleton, William (Reporter) (1902). "Wise v Dunning 1901 KB 169". In Pollock, Frederick; Stone, Arthur Paul (eds.). The Law Reports. 1902. Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales. At the meeting the appellant called Roman Catholics "rednecks," a name most insulting to them, and challenged them to get up.
  26. ^ "Roman Catholic" Archived 1 April 2019 at the Wayback Machine at Catholic Encyclopedia online.
  27. ^ "Shaveling". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  28. ^ Simpson, "teague"
  29. ^ a b "Doctrine and Covenants 115:4". 26 April 1838.
  30. ^ "BYU Studies: Volume 2 Chapter 5". 1960.
  31. ^ Russell M. Nelson (October 2018). "The Correct Name of the Church". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  32. ^ "Mormons don't want you calling them Mormons anymore". CNN. 17 August 2018.
  33. ^ "History, 1838–1856, volume D-1 [1 August 1842–1 July 1843]". Joseph Smith Papers.
  34. ^ Trevor Holyoak (15 November 2018). "A "Mormon" By Any Other Name". FairMormon.
  35. ^ Lori G. Beaman, "Molly Mormons, Mormon Feminists and Moderates: Religious Diversity and the Latter Day Saints Church Archived 23 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine" "Sociology of Religion", Vol. 62, No. 1 (Spring 2001), pp. 65–86
  36. ^ Spears (2001), "Jack"
  37. ^ a b Spears, p. 1.
  38. ^ Madresh, Marjorie (28 May 2004). "Founder of 'Hip to be Heeb' magazine speaks to students". The Triangle Online. Archived from the original on 8 December 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2007.
  39. ^ "Hebe". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  40. ^ Hymie, Eric Wolarsky, Rhetoric of Race Dictionary Project, College of New Jersey. Retrieved 6 November 2007.
  41. ^ a b John A. Simpson, Oxford Dictionary Of Modern Slang ISBN 0-19-861052-1. "ikey", "ikeymo", "mock"
  42. ^ Stone, Bryan Edward (1 May 2013). The Chosen Folks: Jews on the Frontiers of Texas. University of Texas Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-292-75612-0. Archived from the original on 7 May 2019. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  43. ^ Shalev, Chemi (22 January 2016). "Israeli anti-Semites and American Jewboys, From Dan Shapiro to Wyatt Earp". (Elul 15, 5778). Amos Schocken, M. DuMont Schauberg. Archived from the original on 25 August 2018. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  44. ^ Leo Rosten: The Joys of Yiddish, cited in Kim Pearson's Rhetoric of Race by Eric Wolarsky. The College of New Jersey.
  45. ^ Encyclopedia of Swearing: Social History of Oaths, Profanity, Foul Language, and Ethnic Slurs in the English Speaking World/ Geoffrey Hughes. Armonk, N.Y. : M.E. Sharpe, c2006
  46. ^ a b Stevenson, Angus (2010). Oxford Dictionary of English. Oxford University Press. p. 1137. ISBN 9780199571123. Archived from the original on 13 February 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2015. ORIGIN 1930S: perhaps from Yiddish makeh, 'a plague'.
  47. ^ "English contemporary dictionary - Mocky". Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2015. mocky adj. (Offensive slang) Jewish, of or pertaining to the Jewish religion or race in a derogatory manner
  48. ^ Red Sea pedestrian - Green's Dictionary of Slang. Oxford University Press. 2010. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199829941.001.0001. ISBN 9780199829941.
  49. ^ Rockaway, Robert A. (2000), But He Was Good to His Mother: The Lives and Crimes of Jewish Gangsters, Gefen Publishing House Ltd., p. 95, ISBN 978-965-229-249-0
  50. ^ Rothman, Lily (17 September 2014). "When Did 'Shylock' Become a Slur?". TIME Magazine. Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015. The word "shylock," [...] is an eponym from a Jewish character in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. [...] Today, "shylock" is considered an antisemitic slur.
  51. ^ Deutsch, Nathaniel (2000), Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism, Oxford University Press, p. 100–104
  52. ^ "Yid - Origin and history of Yid by Online Etymology Dictionary". Archived from the original on 23 September 2017. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  53. ^ Klier, John D. (1982). ""Zhid": Biography of a Russian Epithet". The Slavonic and East European Review. 60 (1): 1–15. ISSN 0037-6795. JSTOR 4208429.
  54. ^ a b Peek, Lori (2011). Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans After 9/11. Temple University Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-59213-984-2. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  55. ^ Farahnaz Ispahani (2 January 2017). Purifying the Land of the Pure: A History of Pakistan's Religious Minorities. Oxford University Press. pp. 105–. ISBN 978-0-19-062167-4.
  56. ^ Pakistan Penal Code Chap. XV "Of Offences Relating to Religion" pp. 79–81
  57. ^ "Constitution (Second Amendment) Act, 1974". The Constitution of Pakistan. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  58. ^ Sidhu, Dawinder S.; Gohil, Neha Singh (23 May 2016). Civil Rights in Wartime: The Post-9/11 Sikh Experience. Taylor & Francis. pp. 104–107. ISBN 978-1-317-16560-6. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  59. ^ Stevenson, Angus (19 August 2010). Oxford Dictionary of English. OUP Oxford. p. 1881. ISBN 978-0-19-957112-3. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  60. ^ Scientology Critical Information Directory [1] Archived 23 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  61. ^ Roumen Dontchev Daskalov; Tchavdar Marinov (2013). Entangled Histories of the Balkans - Volume One: National Ideologies and Language Policies. BRILL. p. 38, 44. ISBN 9789004250765.
  62. ^ Murray, James A.H.; Bradley, Henry (1900). A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, Volume 4. Clarendon Press at Oxford. p. 794.
  63. ^ Hobson, Archie (2004). The Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words. Oxford University Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-19-517328-4. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  64. ^ "Infidel". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  65. ^ Sevinç, Kenan; Coleman, Thomas J.; Hood, Ralph W. (25 July 2018). "Non-Belief: An Islamic Perspective". Secularism and Nonreligion. 7: 5. doi:10.5334/snr.111.
  66. ^ Peter Brown (1999). "Pagan". In Glen Warren Bowersock; Peter Brown; Oleg Grabar (eds.). Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World. Harvard University Press. pp. 625–626. ISBN 978-0-674-51173-6.
  67. ^ "shegetz". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  68. ^ "shiksa". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  69. ^ Compare: T.L. Brink (2008) Psychology: A Student Friendly Approach. "Unit 13: Social Psychology". pp 320 [2] Archived 26 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine - "Cult is a somewhat derogatory term for a new religious movement, especially one with unusual theological doctrine or one that is abusive of its membership."
  70. ^ Chuck Shaw – Sects and Cults Archived 25 March 2018 at the Wayback Machine – Greenville Technical College. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  71. ^ Bromley, David Melton, J. Gordon 2002. Cults, Religion, and Violence. West Nyack, New York: Cambridge University Press.


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