Damnation (from Latin damnatio) is the concept of everlasting divine punishment and/or disgrace, especially the punishment for sin as threatened by God (e.g. Mark 3:29). A damned being "in damnation" is said to be either in Hell, or living in a state wherein they are divorced from Heaven and/or in a state of disgrace from God's favor. Those Christians in purgatory, the "Church Suffering", are not considered damned, because their stay there is not eternal, while people who are damned to Hell will.

Following the religious meaning, the words damn and goddamn are a common form of religious profanity, in modern times often semantically weakened to the status of mere interjections.



Classical Latin damnum means "damage, cost, expense; penalty, fine", ultimately from a PIE root *dap-. The verb damnare in Roman law acquired a legal meaning of "to pronounce judgement upon".

The word enters Middle English usage from Old French in the early 14th century. The secular meaning survives in English "to condemn" (in a court of law), or "damning criticism". The noun damnation itself is mostly reserved for the religious sense in Modern English, while condemnation remains common in secular usage.

During the 18th century and until about 1930, use of damn as an expletive was considered a severe profanity and was mostly avoided in print. The expression "not worth a damn" is recorded in 1802.[1] Use of damn as an adjective, short for damned, is recorded in 1775. Damn Yankee (a Southern US term for "Northerner") dates to 1812.


In some forms of Western Christian belief, damnation to hell is what humanity deserves for its sins, and only by the grace of God and salvation through Jesus Christ, can one atone for their sins and escape damnation. One conception is of eternal suffering and denial of entrance to heaven, often described in the Bible as burning in a Lake of Fire. Another conception, derived from the scripture about Gehenna is simply that people will be discarded (burned), as being unworthy of preservation by God. The reasons for being damned have varied widely over the centuries, from murder to dancing.

In Eastern Christian traditions (Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy), as well as some Western traditions, it is seen as a state of opposition to the love of God,[2] a state into which all humans are born but against which Christ is the Mediator and Redeemer.


Islam has inherited the notion of damnation from Christianity . Similar to the Christian God, God in Islam is depicted as forgiving (Al-Ghafir), but certain sins, such as apostasy or idolatry are considered unforgivable.[original research?]

As profanity

Historically, from the 19th century until the 1930s, the exclamation "damn" was mostly considered unprintable. The use of "damn" in Rhett Butler's parting line to Scarlett O'Hara in the film Gone with the Wind in 1939 challenged sensitivities at the time.

"Damn" today is a mildly profane word used in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia, although "God damn," or "Goddamn," is still considered highly blasphemous by religious people, taken either as a condemnation of God or as a violation of the commandment against taking God's name in vain. The term is mostly broadcast in the United Kingdom (usually through American imports, but it is not considered blasphemous. "Dang" or "darn" are sometimes used as euphemisms, specifically minced oaths, for "damn".

"Damn" is also used colloquially as an emphatic exclamation; e.g. "Damn, he/she is fine" or perhaps "Damn, he has a nice car!" "Hot damn" may be used similarly, but it is somewhat distinct; for example, if one says, "Joe just won the lottery," a response of "Damn!" on its own can indicate disapproval, but "Hot damn!" indicates approval or surprise or pain. "Damned" is also used as an adjective synonymous with "annoying" or "uncooperative," or as a means of giving emphasis. For example, "The damn(ed) furnace isn't working again!" or, "I just washed the damn(ed) car!" or, "The damn(ed) dog won't stop barking!" (The word "damned" is usually only used in North America, whereas in other English speaking countries the word is simply "damn".)

In Indian English, there is a folk etymology connecting "I don't give a damn" with the dam, a 16th-century copper coin. Salman Rushdie, in a 1985 essay on the dictionary of Anglo-Indian terms 'Hobson-Jobson', ends with this:

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a small copper coin weighing one tolah, eight mashas and seven surkhs, being the fortieth part of a rupee'. Or, to put it more concisely, a dam."[3]

See also


  1. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=zbcTAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22worth%20a%20damn%22&pg=PA187#v=onepage&q=%22worth%20a%20damn%22&f=false
  2. ^ This interpretation concerning Paradise and Hell is not only that of St. Isaac the Syrian and St. Basil the Great, but is a general teaching of the Fathers of the Church, who interpret apophatically what is said about the eternal fire and eternal life. When we speak of apophaticism we do not mean that the Fathers distort the teaching of the Church, speaking abstractly and reflectively, but that as they interpret these themes they try to free them from the categories of human thought and from images of sensory things13. On this point too one can see how the Orthodox-Greek Fathers differ from the Franco-Latins who considered these realities as created14.[1]
  3. ^ Salman Rushdie's Hobson-Jobson essay, in the book Travelers' Tales India by James O'Reilly and Larry Habegger

Further reading

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