Definition: Schism

From New World Encyclopedia


From Middle English scisme, from Old French cisme or scisme, from Ancient Greek σχίσμα or skhísma (division), from σχίζω or skhízō (I split).

This word was historically pronounced /ˈsɪzəm/; the pronunciations /ˈʃɪzəm/, /ˈskɪzəm/ are due to the spelling (the latter may have been reinforced by learned influence).


schism (plural schisms)

  1. A split or separation within a group or organization, typically caused by discord.
  2. (religion) A formal division or split within a religious body.
    The schism between Sunnis and Shias happened quite early in Islamic history.
  3. (Catholicism) a split within Christianity whereby a group no longer recognizes the Bishop of Rome as the head of the Church, but shares essentially the same beliefs with the Church of Rome. In other words, a political split without the introduction of heresy.

Related terms

  • schismatic


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