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Late Latin anathema (a curse, a person cursed, an offering) < Greek ανάθεμα (1.a votive offering; 2. to be formally set apart; 3. banished, exiled, excommunicated 4. denounced, later corrupting into cursed) < Greek ἀνατιθέναι (anatithenai) (to dedicate, set apart) < Greek ἀνά (ana-) (up) < Proto-Indo-European *an- (“‘on’”) + Greek τιθέναι (tithenai) (to put, to place) < Proto-Indo-European *dhe- (“‘to set, put’”).
The Greek term was used to translate the Biblical Hebrew term חרם (herem), after which the Greek term took on some of the meanings of the Hebrew. However, it was not a calque, as the Greek word was already in use before.
In earlier Greek usage and in Hebrew, the term indicated offerings made to the divinity which were suspended from the roof or walls of temples for the purpose of being exposed to view. Thus herem signifies a thing offered to God. The word (herem or its Greek equivalent) is sometimes used in this sense in the Old and New Testaments: because it was associated with setting apart (for God), it gradually came to have the meaning as set apart (from God).
- A ban or curse pronounced with religious solemnity by ecclesiastical authority, and accompanied by excommunication. Hence: Denunciation of anything as accursed.
- An imprecation; a curse; a malediction.
- Any person or thing anathematized, or cursed by ecclesiastical authority.
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