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Word of the week: latitudinarian

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


The original Latitudinarians were Church of England divines during the reign of Charles II. With the destruction of the English Civil War and attendant religious disputes fresh in memory, they were disposed to be indulgent of differing religious views. Though maintaining episcopal church government (they were, after all, mainly bishops), they did not insist on strict forms of worship or creedal adherence.

Over time, latitudinarian (pronounced lat-i-TOOD-n-ar-ee-uhn) came to describe anyone who tolerates differing religions or beliefs, who does not adhere to strict observance of code or principles, who tolerates free thought, who is liberal in interpretation, who is free from narrow restrictions, who is in general tolerant.

The word developed from latitude, "breadth."

Of course, when you congratulate yourself on your liberal, accepting, latitudinarian views, remember that the strict observers will say that you are merely lax.

Example From William Wycherly's The Plain-Dealer: "Why, thou art a Latitudinarian in Friendship, that is no Friend; thou dost side with all Mankind, but will suffer for none."

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