Meaning of “holy” in the English Dictionary

"holy" in British English

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uk /ˈhəʊ.li/ us /ˈhoʊ.li/

holy adjective (RELIGIOUS)

C1 related to a religion or a god:

very religious or pure:

a holy person

More examples

  • He was regarded as a righteous and holy man.
  • She believes that the union of man and woman in holy matrimony is for ever.
  • The soldiers deliberately defiled all the holy places.
  • He doesn't believe in the holy estate of marriage.
  • The area is a holy site for many Muslims.

holy adjective (FOR EMPHASIS)

holy cow/mackerel/smoke! also offensive holy shit mainly US informal

used to show that you think something is surprising, shocking, or impressive:

Holy cow! How did you get that black eye?

(Definition of “holy” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"holy" in American English

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us /ˈhoʊ·li/

holy adjective (GOOD)

considered to be pure or good because of being related to what a religion values:

Jerusalem is a holy city to Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

holy adjective (EMPHASIS)

infml used to emphasize another word, and sometimes to avoid swearing:

My nephew is a holy terror (= a child who behaves very badly).


(Definition of “holy” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)