Word of the Day


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an occasion when one group divides into two groups because of a disagreement

Origin and usage

The noun schism comes ultimately from a Greek word meaning ‘rent’ or ‘cleft’. It came into Middle English in the 14th century, originally referring to division in the Christian church. The more general meaning came later, in the 15th century.


The term schism originally referred to the decision of a group to leave a Church they had belonged to, usually as a result of differences about religious doctrine, leading it to separate into two churches. Schism is more commonly used nowadays to refer to political splits. A corpus search shows that schisms are frequently said to be ‘precipitated’ or ‘provoked’ by a particular event. They are frequently ‘widened’ or ‘deepened’ but sometimes they can be ‘mended’, ‘bridged’ or ‘healed’.


“The root of almost every schism and heresy from which the Christian Church has suffered, has been because of the effort of men to earn, rather than receive their salvation.”
(John Ruskin)

Related words

breakup, fissure, fracture, split

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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