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Middle English prophanen, from Anglo-French prophaner, from Latin profanare, from profanus

The term "profane" originates from classical Latin "profanus", literally "before (outside) the temple". It carried the meaning of either "desecrating what is holy" or "with a secular purpose" as early as the 1450s CE.


  • 1: to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt : desecrate
  • 2: to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use


Profanity, also known as swearing, cursing, foul speech, and cussing, is speech that shows disrespect, a desecration or debasement of someone or something, or the expression of intense emotions. Profanity can take the form of words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, obscene, obnoxious, foul, desecrating or other forms.

The original meaning of the adjective profane (Latin: "in front of", "outside the temple") referred to items not belonging to the church, e.g., "The fort is the oldest profane building in the town, but the local monastery is older, and is the oldest building," or "besides designing churches, he also designed many profane buildings". The meaning has changed over time.

Profanity represented secular indifference to religion or religious figures, while blasphemy was a more offensive attack on religion and religious figures, considered sinful, and a direct violation of The Ten Commandments.

Profanities in the original meaning of blasphemous profanity are part of the ancient tradition of the comic cults, which laughed and scoffed at the deity or deities. An example from Gargantua and Pantagruel is "Christ, look ye, its Mere de ... merde ... shit, Mother of God.[1]