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Kenny Merriken wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Are venerate, worship, and deify synonyms according to the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus?

Merriam-Webster Thesaurus entry for venerate

Kenny Merriken, age 69.

  { Are 'venerate', 'worship', and 'deify' synonyms according to the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus? }

Bob replied:


Not necessarily, context is everything.

Venerate and worship can mean to hold in high regard, respect, and be afforded to a dignitary, king or someone worthy of praise and honor. Catholics venerate saints and give special veneration to the Blessed Virgin Mary because of her special role as mother of our Lord.

The worship given to God is unique because all goodness emanates from Him; ultimately all veneration and worship point to the source of the goodness lauded: God. To acknowledge goodness in all that God created, is a blessing to God like telling a parent you are so inspired by the beauty of their children. He does not find veneration of saints to detract from his singular place, but it expands it in some sense.

To deify, is generally a bit different.

In a Catholic context, deification is becoming like God. Peter said in his first epistle that we are partakers of the divine nature (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). We believe that what God is by nature, we become by grace. In other words, since God adopted us into His Family, He has made us more like Him through the Spirit. The things God does we will also be able to do. There is a mystery here that no one can fully explain, but we take it on faith because that is what Christ taught and what we have received. If God is our Father, we are truly His children, and will live eternally with Him.


Bob Kirby

Eric replied:

Hi, Kenny —

Not all sources agree. Google, for example, says:

  1. regard with great respect; revere.
    "Mother Teresa is venerated as a saint."
    synonyms: revere, regard highly, reverence, worship, hallow, hold sacred, exalt, vaunt, adore, honor, respect, esteem

No one would claim that respect is equivalent to worship even though they are listed as synonyms. You have to understand that the connotations of synonyms vary; they aren't interchangeable words.

The Oxford English Dictionary, the highest authority, has this to say: 

  1.  translated: to regard with feelings of respect and reverence; to look upon as something exalted, hallowed, or sacred; to reverence or revere.  
  2. To pay honour to (something) by a distinct act of reverence.

I think that Merriam-Webster is off in adding the divine power component.


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