Glossary of Christian & Religious Terms
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Hebrew "grain" -- Babylonian god of the earth. Dagon, a variant of the Hebrew dagan, was a god of agriculture and the main god of the ancient Phillistines and Phoenicians, represented as half man and half fish.

Dalai Lama (Grand Lama)

Mongolian dalai, "ocean" + Tibetan blama, "chief" or "high priest" -- the traditional high priest of Lamaism, a form of Buddhism practiced in Mongolia and Tibet, characterized by elaborate ritual and a strong hierarchal organization.


Arabaic daman Israil, "sheep of Israel" -- (see Hyrax).

Daemon (Daimon)

Latin, demon or evil spirit (from the Greek daimon, divine power, fate, or god) -- any of the secondary divinities in Greek Mythology ranking between the gods and men; guardian, inspiring, or inner spirit; a demon.


Latin damnare, to condemn -- originally, to condemn as guilty; doom to an unhappy fate; condemn to endless punishment. Damnation comes from the Late Latin damnatio, "the displeasure of God," or condemnation.


Hebrew "a judge" -- the fifth son of Jacob and one of the twelve tribes of Israel, settled in northern Palestine.


A member of the Hebrew tribe of Dan (Judges 13:2); a member of a secret Mormon organization formed in 1838.


Born Durante Alighieri (1265-1321), Italian poet who wrote The Divine Comedy.

Dark Ages

The Middle Ages, especially the period from about A.D. 476 to the end of the 10th century, so called from the idea that this period in Europe was characterized by intellectual stagnation, widespread ignorance and poverty, and cultural decline.


Hindi darsan and Sanskrit darsana, "a seeing" (Greek derkomai, "I see") -- in Hindu belief, the virtue, uplifting, or blessing one receives in the presence of a great man.

Darwinian Theory (Natural Selection)

Theory of evolution from Charles Robert Darwin (1809-82), which holds that all species of plants and animals developed from ealier forms by hereditary transmission of slight variations in successive generations and that the forms which survive are those that are best adapted to the environment. Also known as Natural Selection or Survival of the Fittest. Darwinism is adherence to this theory.


Latin, to be given away (Medieval Latin datarius, official of the Roman chancery) -- the Roman Catholic office of the Curia that examines candidates for papal benefices and handles the claims of those with rights to pensions; the cardinal in charge of this office.


Yiddish davnen, to pray -- to recite the prayers of the daily or a holiday liturgy in Judaism.

Davy Jones

The spirit of the sea, a humorous name given by sailors. Davy Jones's locker is the bottom of the ocean, which is the grave of those drowned or buried at sea.

Day of Atonement

(see Yom Kippur)

Day of Judgment

(see Judgment Day)


Late Latin diaconus, a servant of the church (Greek diakonos, servant or messenger) -- a Christian elder or church officer who helps the minister, primarily in matters not having to do with worship; a cleric ranking just below a priest in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches; to read a verse aloud before it is sung by the congregation. A deaconess is a female deacon, usually appointed to assist members of the congregation or parish, such as the sick and poor. Diaconal is of a deacon or deacons (adjective). Diaconate is the rank office, or tenure of a deacon, or a board of deacons.

Deadly Sins

The seven capital sins that lead to spiritual death: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth

Dead Sea

Inland body of salt water between Israel and Jordan, about 370 square miles and 1,290 feet below sea level.

Dead Sea Scrolls

A number of scrolls discoverd at various times since 1947, in caves near the Dead Sea, dating between 100 B.C. and A.D. 70 and containing Jewish Scriptual writings and religious writings from an Essenelike community.


Latin decem, "ten" (Late Latin decanus, chief of ten soldiers, Late Latin Ecclesiastic for monks) -- the presiding official of a cathedral or collegiate church; a Roman Catholic priest chosen by his bishop to supervise a number of parishes within the diocese; the head administrator of a college or university. Deanery is the position, authority, jurisdiction, or official residence of a dean. Decanal is of a dean or deanery.


Greek dekalogos, "Ten Commandments"


A decree issues by the Pope on some matter of ecclesiastical discipline; any collection of such decrees, formerly a part of canon law.

Defender of the Faith

A title used by English sovereigns, originally conferred upon Henry VIII by Pope Leo X.


Latin term of faith, used to designate Roman Catholic doctrines held to be revealed by God and so requiring the uconditional assent of faith by all.

Defrock (Unfrock)

To deprive of the rank or function of priest or minister.


A punishment whereby a Roman Catholic priest is permanently deprived of the rights of his office.


Scottish variant of devel, the devil or a mischievous person.


French déisme, from the Latin deus, "god" -- belief in the existence of a God on purely rational grounds without reliance on revelation or authority; 17th and 18th century doctrine that God created the world and its natural laws, but takes no further part in its functioning. A deist is a believer in deism (as opposed to an atheist).


Late Latin deitas, "divinity" (from the Latin divinitas) -- the state of being a god; of divine nature or goodhood; a god or goddess. Deific is deifying or making divine; godlike or divine in nature. Deify is to make a god of, or to look upon or worship as a god; to gloriy exalt, or aodre in an extreme way (idolize).


A lesser god of mythology or minor deity; the offspring of a god or goddess and a human; a godlike person.


Greek demiourgos, one who works for the people, skilled workman, creator -- in Plato's philosophy, the deity as creator of the material world; in Gnosticism, a deity subordinate to the supreme deity, sometimes considered the creator of evil; a ruling force or creative power.


In ancient mythology, a terrifying and mysterious god or demon of the underworld (see Gorgon).

Demon (Daemon)

Latin daemon,, demon or evil spirit (from the Greek daimon, divine power, fate, or god) -- a devil or evil spirit. A demoniac (Greek daimoniakos) is a person possessed or influenced by a demon. Demonism is belief in the existence and powers of demons. Demonolatry is the worship of demons. Demonology is the study of demons or the beliefs about them. To demonize is to make into a demon or bring under the influence of demons.


In theology, to discount mythological elements in the Bible or Christian doctrine in order to facilitate understanding and acceptance.


Latin denominatio, to name -- the name of a class of things; a particular religious sect or body with a specific organization and name. Denominational is of, sponsored by, or under the control of a religious denomination (sectarian). Denominationalism is division into denominations, their system and principles, or acceptance or support of such systems and principles.


From the Greek deon, that which is binding or of necessity -- the theory of duty or moral obligation (ethics).

Deo Volente

Late Latin, "God willing" or "if God is willing."


Late Latin, "out of the depths" -- from the opening passage of the Latin version of Psalm 130 ("Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD"), from the deepest sorrow, misery, or despair.

Depth Psychology

Any system of psychology dealing with the processes of the unconscious, such as psychonalysis.


Turkish (from the Persian darvesh, beggar) -- a member of any of various Muslim orders dedicated to a life of poverty and chastity. Some practice whirling and howling as religious acts.


The doctrine that everything, especially one's choice of action, is determined by a sequence of causes independent of one's will.


Latin, God.


From the Greek deutero, second -- of or constituting a second or subsequent canon; specifically, designating certain Biblical books accepted by the Roman Catholic Church as canonical but held by Protestants to be apocryphal.


Sanskrit, god -- a god or good spirit in Hindu Mythology.


Greek diabolos, "slanderous" -- the chief evil spirit, a supernatural being subordinate to, and the foe of, God and the tempter of man; any such subordinate beings who rebelled against God and now reside in hell (demons); referred to in the Septuagint as Satan, in the New Testament as the devil. The devil as an individual, demonic angel is often depicted as a man with horns, a tail, and cloven feet. A devilkin is a small devil, or imp. Devilry is a British term for witchcraft or black magic.

Devil's Advocate

Medieval Latin advocatus diaboli -- a Roman Catholic official selected to critically examine the facts and make objections in the case of a deceased person named for beatification or canonization; a person who upholds the wrong side or an indefensible cause, perversely or for the sake of argument.


Medieval Latin devolutio, a rolling back -- biologically, evolution of structures toward greater simplicity or disappearance (degeneration).


Latin devotio -- extreme committment, dedication, loyalty, or concecration; piety or devoutness; private prayers or religious worship (devotional).


Latin devotus, devoted -- very religious or pious; showing reverence; earnest, sincere, or heartfelt in faith to one's religion or convictions. ("Pious" suggests scrupulous adherence but may connote hypocrisy. "Religious" stresses constant devotion to religious tenets. "Sanctimonious" implies smugness or haughtiness.)


Sanskrit, law or custom -- in Hinduism and Buddhism, the cosmic order or law, including the natural and moral principles that apply to all beings and things; dutiful observance of this law in one's life; right conduct.

Diabolic (Diabolical)

Late Latin diabolicus, derived from the Latin diabolus, "devil" -- of the Devil or devils; wicked, cruel, or fiendish. Diabolism is dealings with the Devil or devils by sorcery or witchcraft, or worship of such creatures; the character or condition of such a develish being. Diablerie is similar, but includes lore about the Devil.

Dialogue Mass

A Low Mass in the Roman Catholic Church at which the congregation makes the responses aloud and in unison.


Greek, a scattering -- the dispersion of the Jews after the Babylonian exile; the Jews thus dispersed; the places where they settled; any scattering of people with a common origin, background, or beliefs.


Greek, "the teaching" (didache ton dodeka apostolon, the teaching of the twelve apostles) -- an anonymous Christine treatise of the early second century A.D. Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, is a collection of early manuscripts dating back to A.D. 1056 (individually composed as early as the second century), compiled into one volume consisting of 16 chapters of basic Christian teachings, with references to the material of the Gospels. Discovered in a monastery in Constantinople and published by P. Bryennios in 1883, its primitive teachings resemble those in the Apostolic Constitutions.

Dies Irae

Latin, "Day of Wrath" -- a medieval Latin hymn about Judgment Day and a part of the Requiem Mass.


Scottish, a day's session of an assembly, from the Latin dies, "day" -- a formal assembly of royalty and the elect in the Holy Roman Empire. The Diet of Worms was an assembly in the city of Worms on the Rhine River in Hesse, West Germany, where Martin Luther was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church for heresy in 1521.


Latin dimensio, a measuring -- there are four known dimensions, the three space coordinates of length, width, and depth, along with the fourth dimension of time in the theory of relativity. The space-time continuum is a four-dimensional continuum with four coordinates, the three dimensions of space and that of time, in which any event can be located.


Latin diocesis, district, government (Greek dioikesis, administration) -- the district under a bishop's jurisdiction. A diocesan is the bishop of a diocese.

Dionysius Exiguus

Roman monk and Christian theologian of the sixth century A.D., believed to have introduced the current system of numbering years on the basis of the Christian Era.


Latin dirige, imperitive of dirigere, "to direct," the first word of an antiphon in the Office for the Burial of the Dead (Psalm 5:8) -- a funeral hymn; a slow, sad song, poem, or musical composition expressing grief, mourning, or lament.


To annul the anointing of.


Latin discalceatus, unshod or without shoes -- barefooted, as members of certain religious orders.


Latin discipulus, "learner" -- a pupil or follower of any teacher or school of religion, learning, art, etc.; an early follower of Jesus.

Disciples of Christ

A Christian denomination, organized in 1809, that makes the Bible the only basis for faith and practice and baptizes by immersion.


Member of a former Spanish Christian sect who flagellated and otherwise tortured themselves publicly as a means of discipline.


To free from bodily existence or make incorporeal.


Latin, scattered parts or fragments, as of an author's writings.


Latin dispensatio, management or charge -- theologically, the ordering of events under divine authority; an exemption or release from the provisions of a specific Roman Catholic Church law; any religious system.


Latin dissentire, apart from thinking or feeling -- to differ in belief or opinion (disagree); to reject the doctrines and forms of an established church (religious nonconformity). Traditionally, a dissenter is a Protestant who refuses to accept the doctrines and forms of the Established Church in England or Scotland.

Ditheism (Dualism)

Belief in two supreme gods (dualism).


Latin diurnalis, daily -- a service book containing prayers for the daytime canonical hours.


Latin, rich -- parable of the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) from the Latin Vulgate Bible.


Latin divinatio, from divinare (divine) -- the act or practice of foretelling the future or unknown by occult means; a prophecy or augury. A divining rod is a forked branch or stick alleged to reveal hidden matter, such as water, minerals, treasure, or artifacts, by bending downward toward the desired object buried underground (also known as a dowsing rod).


Latin divinus, from divus (diety) -- of or like God or a god; given or inspired by God (holy or sacred); devoted to God (religious or sacrosanct); supreme qualities (good, almighty, etc.); having to do with theology or a theologian; a clergyman. The divine right of kings is traditionally the God-given right of kings to rule. Divinity is the quality or condition of being divine; a divine being, god, or deity; a divine power, virtue, trate, or characteristic; theology or the study of religion. To divinize is to deify.

Divine Liturgy

The Eucharistic rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Divine Office

The prayers assigned to each of the canonical hours.


Greek Doketai, name of an early Christian sect which held that Christ merely seemed to have a human body.


Latin doctrina, variant of doctor -- teachings or something taught as the principle or creed of a religion, political party, etc.; tenets (maintenance or defense of a theory or principle); dogma (handed down by authority as true and indisputable); a rule or theory of law, based on carefully worked out principles and advanced by its adherents.

Dog Latin

Incorrect or ungrammatical Latin.


Latin and Greek, an opinion or that which one believes (Late Latin, a decree or order) -- a doctrine, tenet, or belief (individually or collectively); a possitive, arrogant assertion of opinion; theologically, a doctrine or body of doctrines formally and authoritatively affirmed. Dogmatic is doctrinal; asserted without proof (a priori); stating opinion an an assertive or arrogant manner. Dogmatics is the study of religious dogmas, particilarly those of Christianity. Dogmatism (Greek dogmatizein, to lay down a decree) is dogmatic assertion of opinion, usually without reference to evidence. To dogmatize is to speak or write dogmatically, or formulate or express as dogma.


Latin dominus, a lord or master -- title given to certain monks and clerics; a title of respect formerly given to gentlemen of Brazil and Portugal, used with the given name.


Late Latin Dominicus, "of the Lord" (Latin dominus, of a lord) -- having to do with Jesus as the Lord; having to do with the Lord's Day (Sunday). Dominical letter is any of the first seven letters in the alphabet as used in church calendars to indicate Sundays -- the letters are assigned to the first seven days of January, and the letter falling to Sunday is the arbitrary symbol for Sunday the rest of the year.

Dominican Order

A mendicant order of friars or nuns founded in 1215 by St. Dominic (1170-1221), a Spanish priest (celebrated August 4).


From the Latin dominus, dominate -- a pastor of the U.S. Dutch Reformed Church; generally, any pastor or clergyman; a Scottish schoolmaster.


Latin, "the Lord," such as in Dominus vobiscum, "the Lord be with you."


Member of a North African Christian sect formed in the fourth century A.D. by Donatus, Bishop of Casae Nigrae, holding extremely rigorous views concerning purity and sanctity.


Greek doppel, double + ganger, goer -- the supposed ghostly double or wraith of a living person.

Dossal (Dossel)

Medieval Latin dossale, variant of dorsalis, dorsal -- an ornamental cloth hung behind an altar, at the back of a chancel, etc.; formerly, an ornamental upholstery at the back of a chair or throne.

Douay Bible (Douay Version)

English version of the Bible translated from the Latin Vulgate edition for the use of Roman Catholics. The New Testament was originally published at Reims in 1582 and the Old Testament at Douai from 1609-10.

Doubting Thomas

A chronic skeptic or a person who habitually doubts, so named after the Apostle Thomas.


Greek doxologia, a praising -- any of several hymns of praise to God, often beginning with "Praise God from whom all belssings flow." The greater doxology begins Gloria in excelsis Deo ("glory to God in the highest") and the lesser doxology begins Gloria Patri ("glory to the Father").


Abbreviation of orthodoxy: a doctrine or creed, particularly in religion.


Greek drachme, "a handful" -- an ancient Greek silver coin and a unit if weight approximately equal to this coin.


Latin and Greek drakon, "the seeing one" (dragon or serpent) -- a mythical monster, usually reperesented as a large, fire-breathing reptile with wings and claws; archaic term for a large serpent or snake; a word used in the King James Bible to translate several Hebrew words describing Satan (such as serpent, Old Serpent, jackal, etc.).


The persecution of the French Protestants by the troops of Louis XIV, especially by the use of dragoons (heavily armed cavalrymen).

Druid (Druidism)

From the Celtic drui, "oak-wise" -- a member of a Celtic religious order of priests, soothsayers, judges, poets, etc., in ancient Britain, Ireland, and France. A dryad is a wood nymph from Greek and Roman Mythology.

Druse (Druze)

A member of a secret Islamic sect in Syria and Lebanon, founded by Ismail al-Durazi (Arabic Duruz, "tailor").

Dualism (Dualistic)

The theological doctrine that there are two mutually antagonistic principles in the universe, good and evil; the doctrine that man has two natures, physical and spiritual; the philosophical theory that the world is ultimately composed of, or explicable in terms of, two basic entities, mind and matter.


Spanish, "goblin" or "spirit" -- a special quality or charm that makes one irrisistibly attractive.


A genus of large, whalelike, tropical mammals that live along the shores of the Indian Ocean and feed mostly on seaweed. Biblically, a sea cow.


Russian dukhobortsy, "spirit wrestlers" -- a Russian religious sect separated from the Orthodox Church in 1785, many of whom emigrated to Western Canada in the 1890's to escape persecution.


Greek douleia, "service" -- homage paid in the Roman Catholic Church to angels and saints. Hyperdulia is a homage paid to the Virgin Mary as holier than any other created being. Latria is worship due to God alone.

Dunkers (Dunkards)

Greek tunker, "dipper" -- Church of the Brethren, a sect of German-American Baptists opposed to military service and the taking of oaths, so named from their practice of baptismal immersion.


Italian, dome -- a cathedral.


Hebrew dibbuq, from dabhaq, to cleave or hold to -- in Jewish folklore, the spirit of a dead person that enters the body of a living person and possesses it.

        I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying tp pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galations 1:6-9)

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  Reference Sources: Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, published by Prentice Hall Press, ©1986 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.; Collier's Encyclopedia, ©1968 Crowell-Collier Educational Corporation; Larson's New Book of Cults, ©1982 and 1989 by Bob Larson, printed by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Jewish Virtual Library (