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  • 1. a. An act which is regarded as a transgression of the divine law and an offence against God; a violation (esp. wilful or deliberate) of some religious or moral principle.

The expression for my sins (see quot. 1842) is freq. employed in a trivial or jocular way. For the seven deadly sins

b. transf. A violation of some standard of taste or propriety.
  • 2. a. Without article or pl. Violation of divine law; action or conduct characterized by this; a state of transgression against God or His commands. original sin
b. Personified.
c. In phrases child, or man, of sin; as black, or ugly, as sin. Also like (or worse than) sin: vehemently, intensely, vigorously. Cf. like the devil s.v. DEVIL n. 16.
d. to live in sin: to cohabit outside marriage.
  • 3. a. A pity; a shame.

Still in colloquial use, esp. in Scotland

b. A fear of doing wrong. Obs. rare.
For lessons on the topic of Sin, follow this link.


Sin is a term used mainly in a religious context to describe an act that violates a moral rule, or the state of having committed such a violation. Commonly, the moral code of conduct is decreed by a divine entity, i.e. Divine law.

Sin is often used to mean an action that is prohibited or considered wrong; in some religions, sin can refer to a state of mind rather than a specific action. Colloquially, any thought, word, or act considered immoral, shameful, harmful, or alienating might be termed "sinful".

Common ideas surrounding sin in various religions include:

  • Punishment for sins, from other people, from God either in life or in afterlife, or from the Universe in general.
  • The question of whether an act must be intentional to be sinful.
  • The idea that one's conscience should produce guilt for a conscious act of sin.
  • A scheme for determining the seriousness of the sin.
  • Repentance from (expressing regret for and determining not to commit) sin, and atonement (repayment) for past deeds.
  • The possibility of forgiveness of sins, often through communication with a deity or intermediary; in Christianity often referred to as salvation.


The word sin derives from Old English synn, recorded in use as early as the 9th century.[1] The same root appears in several other Germanic languages, e.g. Old Norse synd, or German Sünde. There is presumably a Germanic root *sun(d)jō (literally "it is true").[2]

But in the biblical Hebrew, the generic word for sin is het. It means to err, to miss the mark. It does not mean to do evil.[3]

The Greek word hamartia (ἁμαρτία) is usually translated as sin in the New Testament. In Classical Greek, it means "to miss the mark" or "to miss the target" which was also used in Old English archery.[4] In Koine Greek, which was spoken in the time of the New Testament, however, this translation is not adequate.[5]


Sin must be redefined as deliberate disloyalty to Deity. There are degrees of disloyalty: the partial loyalty of indecision; the divided loyalty of confliction; the dying loyalty of indifference; and the death of loyalty exhibited in devotion to godless ideals.[1]


  1. Editorial board. Oxford English Dictionary (1971) ISBN 0198612125. Earliest citation c.825.
  2. Bartleby - Sin
  3. The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom by Gerald L. Schroeder
  4. Liddell and Scott: Greek-English Lexicon 9th ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  5. Danker, Frederick W. A: Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d ed. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.


  • Hein, David. "Regrets Only: A Theology of Remorse." The Anglican 33, no. 4 (October 2004): 5-6
  • Schumacher, Meinolf. Sündenschmutz und Herzensreinheit: Studien zur Metaphorik der Sünde in lateinischer und deutscher Literatur des Mittelalters. Munich: Fink, 1996
  • Paper 89 - Sin, Sacrifice, and Atonement