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Last Judgement (detail)

Damnation (from Latin damnatio) is the concept of divine punishment and torment in an afterlife for actions that were committed, or in some cases, not committed on Earth.

In Ancient Egyptian religious tradition, citizens would recite the 42 negative confessions of Maat as their heart was weighed against the feather of truth. If the citizen's heart was heavier than a feather they would be devoured by Ammit.

Zoroastrianism developed an eschatological concept of a Last Judgment called Frashokereti where the dead will be raised and the righteous wade through a river of milk while the wicked will be burned in a river of molten metal.

Abrahamic religions such as Christianity have similar concepts of believers facing judgement on a last day to determine if they will spend eternity in Gehenna or heaven for their sin.[1] A damned human "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.

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 entered 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, the use of damn as an expletive was considered a severe profanity and was mostly avoided in print. The expression "not worth a damn" was recorded in 1802.[2] The use of damn as an adjective, short for damned, was recorded in 1775. Damn Yankee (a Southern US term for "Northerner") dates back to 1812.


Further information: Hell, Sin, Last Judgement, Christian eschatology, and Universal reconciliation

In most forms of Western Christian belief, damnation to hell is what humanity deserves for its sins. Catholic and many Protestant denominations hold that human sin is the product of the fall of man of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis. In some Christian denominations, only the sins that the Ten Commandments describe cause damnation, but others apply more strict terms. The reasons for being damned have varied widely through the centuries[citation needed], with little consistency between different forms of Christianity (i.e., Catholic or Protestant). "Sins" ranging from murder to dancing have been said to lead to damnation. Christian denominations have differing views on soteriology, but a mainstream view is that believers can only escape damnation by salvation from Jesus Christ. One conception is of suffering and denial of entrance to Heaven, often described in the book of Revelation 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.

Opinions in the Eastern Orthodox church differ on this subject matter. Question 383 of the Philaret Drozdov catechism asks: "What will be the lot of unbelievers and transgressors? Answer: They will be given over to everlasting death – that is, to everlasting fire, to everlasting torment, with the devils. Proof: Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. Rev. xx. 15. And, That is the second death. Rev. xx. 14. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. Matt. xxv. 41. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. Matt. xxv 46. It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Mark ix. 47, 48."[3]

However some view sin in less legalistic sense, but more as a spiritual illness that needs to be cured and purged.[4] It is seen as a state of opposition to the love of God, a state into which all humans are born but against which Jesus Christ is the Mediator and Redeemer. Eastern traditions have established their views on Paradise and Gehenna from theologians like Isaac of Nineveh and Basil of Caesarea and the Fathers of the Church. According to Orthodoxy, Heaven and Hell are relations to or experiences of God's just and loving presence, with often used analogy being how Sun melts wax and hardens the clay, with different reactions to sunlight depending not on sun but the matter that reacts to it. Similarly, Saints enjoy the loving presence of God, while the damned are enraged by it.[5][6][7] In the Eastern Orthodox tradition theologians can describe God by presenting negative descriptions of what God is not, and describe Gehenna in similar ways. Marcion of Sinope was deemed heretical for teaching that the holy figures of the Old Testament were damned to hell while sinners would receive salvation.[8]


In Hinduism, one of the three main acharyas, Acharya Madhva or Madhvacharya differed significantly from traditional Hindu beliefs owing to his concept of eternal damnation. For example, he divides souls into three classes. One class of souls, mukti-yogyas, qualifies for liberation, another, the nitya-samsarins, subject to eternal rebirth or eternal transmigration and a third class, tamo-yogyas, who are condemned to eternal hell (Andhatamas), since their guilt cannot be obliterated according to him. No other Hindu philosopher or school of Hinduism holds such beliefs.[9] In contrast, most Hindus believe in universal salvation, that all souls will eventually obtain moksha, even if after millions of rebirths.

As profanity

"Damn" is nowadays a mildly profane word for some people in English, although "God damn" (or "Goddamn") may be considered blasphemous by the religiously devout, who regard it as a violation of the commandment against taking God's name in vain. "Dang" (mainly US) or "darn" are common euphemisms, specifically minced oaths, for "damn". The profanity of "damn" and its derivatives (e.g. "damned", "damnation") is effectively limited to cases where the word is not used in its literal meaning, e.g., "The damned dog won't stop barking!" (but the line of Arthur Miller's character John Proctor[10] to his servant, "God damns all liars" uses the word in its literal sense and has not been seen as objectionable). Use of the word or its derivatives in their figurative forms may impact on the ratings of movies and television programmes.

In Indian English, there is an incorrect 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."[11]

See also


  1. ^ Mark 3:29
  2. ^ Wood, J. (1802). The History Of The Administration Of John Adams, Late President Of The United States. p. 187. LCCN 07013451. OCLC 21065740.
  3. ^ The Longer Catechism of The Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church: On the Twelfth Article.
  4. ^ Thus it is the Church's spiritual teaching that God does not punish man by some material fire or physical torment. God simply reveals Himself in the risen Lord Jesus in such a glorious way that no man can fail to behold His glory. It is the presence of God's splendid glory and love that is the scourge of those who reject its radiant power and light.
    ... those who find themselves in hell will be chastised by the scourge of love. How cruel and bitter this torment of love will be! For those who understand that they have sinned against love, undergo no greater suffering than those produced by the most fearful tortures. The sorrow which takes hold of the heart, which has sinned against love, is more piercing than any other pain. It is not right to say that the sinners in hell are deprived of the love of God ... But love acts in two ways, as suffering of the reproved, and as joy in the blessed! (St. Isaac of Syria, Mystic Treatises) The Orthodox Church of America website [1] Archived 2007-07-04 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Man has a malfunctioning or non-functioning noetic faculty in the heart, and it is the task especially of the clergy to apply the cure of unceasing memory of God, otherwise called unceasing prayer or illumination. "Those who have selfless love and are friends of God see God in light—Divine light, while the selfish and impure see God the judge as fire—darkness". [2] Archived 27 December 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Those who have selfless love and are friends of God see God in light—divine light, while the selfish and impure see God the judge as fire—darkness". [3] Archived 27 December 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Proper preparation for vision of God takes place in two stages: purification, and illumination of the noetic faculty. Without this, it is impossible for man's selfish love to be transformed into selfless love. This transformation takes place during the higher level of the stage of illumination called theoria, literally meaning vision – in this case vision by means of unceasing and uninterrupted memory of God. Those who remain selfish and self-centered with a hardened heart, closed to God's love, will not see the glory of God in this life. However, they will see God's glory eventually, but as an eternal and consuming fire and outer darkness. From FRANKS, ROMANS, FEUDALISM, AND DOCTRINE/Diagnosis and Therapy Father John S. Romanides Diagnosis and Therapy [4]
  8. ^ Green, B. (2010). Christianity in Ancient Rome: The First Three Centuries. Christianity in Ancient Rome: The First Three Centuries. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-567-03250-8. Retrieved 2023-06-21.
  9. ^ Helmuth von Glasenapp: Der Hinduismus. Religion und Gesellschaft im heutigen Indien, Hildesheim 1978, p. 248.
  10. ^ Miller, Arthur (1953). The Crucible (play). New York, Viking Press.
  11. ^ Salman Rushdie's Hobson-Jobson essay, in the book Travelers' Tales India by James O'Reilly and Larry Habegger

Further reading