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I would like to know if there is an opposite word for sin in English.

I mean, how could I say the opposite of

I committed a sin

other than using a negation?

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arcsin? (just kidding) –  fortran Feb 2 '11 at 11:32
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@fortran: your user name makes it even better –  Claudiu Feb 2 '11 at 15:10
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@Claudiu Made more sense in StackOverflow :-p But actually, that's how my colleagues at the university called me xD –  fortran Feb 2 '11 at 15:24
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@fortran: I'd go for cosecant, myself. –  Charles Sep 23 '11 at 6:09
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The opposite of sin is uᴉs. –  tchrist Mar 1 '12 at 22:00
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23 Answers

up vote 39 down vote accepted

English does not have a precise word for the opposite of sin in the sense you mean, so you'll have to be content with adjectives: the opposite of "I committed a sin" would be "I performed a good/virtuous/righteous/moral/meritorious  act/deed". (Note that the noun forms of these adjectives won't work: goodness has a very wide range of meanings; virtue refers to qualities inhering in a person and carries no connotation of action unlike virtuous act which does, etc.)

As you're writing for an Indian audience, the word you have in mind that's already familiar to your audience (puṇya) is a perfectly good choice to use. The criterion should not be whether a certain word exists in an English dictionary or not, but whether your audience will understand the word or not.


Further thoughts: English doesn't have have a word for the opposite of sin, because sin is a religious concept, and mainstream Christianity doesn't have a concept that's the opposite of sin; neither have English speakers found it necessary (yet? :p) to invent a word for the concept. In a non-religious framework for ethics, of course, there is no such thing as sin either; though certain acts may still be called unethical or wrong or by other terms.

I'm no expert on Christian theology, but it seems that according to that framework, one is born in a state of some sin, and although one can commit further sins (acts against God's commandments), one cannot automatically reduce the effect of those sins simply by performing other good acts. Judaism has a concept of mitzvah, an act that carries out a commandment of God, which may be an opposite of sin in that sense. The concept you may be getting at, prominent in Indian religions (Hindu/Buddhist/Jain/Sikh) comes from a different model, in which there's something like a moral bank balance (karma) in which you can either lose credit through sin (pāpa, acts against some cosmic order of right and wrong) or gain credit/merit through good deeds (puṇya).

All that is not important, but if by the opposite of sin you're referring to something like the latter concept as informally understood by your audience—with a slight theological connotation as something that brings merit to the doer—then the term puṇya you were thinking of is precisely the right term to use. Using a generic phrase like "good deed" may not convey the intended meaning unless the context is understood (such as in translations etc., where "good deed" and "meritorious act" are indeed used).

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That's a very satisfying answer.Solves my purpose , plus now I know why there isn't any (real) antonym for the word sin. Also thanks to "Ray" for his explanation –  Clyde Lobo Feb 3 '11 at 7:37
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For what it is worth, Christianity does have a concept for the opposite of sin but the nuances and details are not remotely on-topic for this site. Also, the different denominations all bicker about the details, terms and implications... so, yeah. –  MrHen Apr 5 '11 at 17:00
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Indeed, the Hebrew word mitzvah is exactly the opposite of "sin" as the words are understood by Jews. Interestingly, there are several Hebrew words for "sin" (of various types) but only one for its opposite. I imagine Woody Allen would say something entertaining about that. –  Jeffiekins Oct 12 '12 at 15:40
    
Speaking of different denominations bickering about the details, the idea that everyone is born in a state of sin is only accepted by some sects; Many protestants reject the idea. Other than that, this is a great answer. –  user867 Nov 21 '13 at 3:43
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The antonym of sin is virtue.

In the sentence you reported, I am not sure you can replace sin with virtue, though.

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This was my thought on reading the title, as well, but it does not work in the context the OP suggests. –  dmckee Feb 2 '11 at 17:58
    
...not quite but close, I would think. The nouns, Virtue and vice, seem more the opposites. Virtue as well as vice can manifest as a sin or as sinning, which is not so simplistic a word or concept as some would have us believe. Also sin is closely connected with belief, as in an independent guiding principle that ought to lead one away from error. Belief is not a necessary component of all virtues. Just an idea to think about; not trying to sin you out. –  lex Nov 22 '12 at 18:42
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The closest that I can think of is "virtue." The Roman Catholic Church contrasts the Seven Deadly Sins with the Seven Cardinal Virtues. However, the word is not normally used by itself to describe a particular act, only a trait (or set of traits: patience, prudence, courage, etc.). It is commonly used in the adjectival form "virtuous", so you could say:

I have committed a sin.

I have performed a virtuous act.

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I think virtue is the antonym of vice rather than being an antonym for sin. –  Manoochehr Feb 4 '11 at 9:13
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I've seen mitzva used.

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@Clyde: It's present in many dictionaries (usually under the spelling mitzvah) with a variety of meanings. The criterion for using a word isn't really whether it's present in a dictionary, but whether your audience understands it. If you're writing for a primarily Jewish religious audience, then it's fine, and it would have been fine even if it hadn't been in any dictionary. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 2 '11 at 8:10
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The NOAD reports mitzvah. –  kiamlaluno Feb 2 '11 at 8:11
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@ShreevatsaR well my audience would be Indian , and that's what made me ask this question as there is a word in Hindi (derived from Sanskrit) puṇya which is the opposite of sin –  Clyde Lobo Feb 2 '11 at 9:14
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@Clyde: Yeah, I saw your location as India in your profile and that's why I mentioned puṇya in my answer. :-) If your audience will understand it, then it's fine to use. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 2 '11 at 9:30
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Mitzvah (מצווה) literally means "commandment." It has come to mean, mostly in Ashkenazi and American Jewish usage to mean "a good deed." At the risk of making a mess of mixing Christian and Jewish theological concepts, I presume that to sin in Christianity is to go against G-d's commandments. So it might be a suitable antonym. (And because the Hebrew ends in a ה, I can't imagine transliterating it as "Mitzva", @msh210) –  ראובן Feb 2 '11 at 13:51
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The antonym of sin is good deed. Sin means an action that is against religious rules, so the antonym should be in accordance with religion.

According to many dictionaries virtue is the antonym of vice. Because it's referring to something moral rather being religious.

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There is a bit of a theological question here. In my religious tradition, sin is something we do (or fail to do) that brings us guilt before God, but there is nothing we can do that can remove that guilt or restore that relationship. That's why Christ came and died for our sins—to remove that guilt which we could not by our own good works, and to turn away God's wrath.

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I don't mean to get so deep here. The question sort of begs it, though. –  Ray Feb 2 '11 at 12:56
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The opposite of sinful would be good (as in καλος), holy or maybe just. –  Trinidad Feb 2 '11 at 13:33
    
I really liked your answer. –  Clyde Lobo Feb 3 '11 at 7:28
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I believe that the word 'sin' has links to archery in the sense of missing the bulls-eye. So, in that sense, hitting the bulls-eye might be the opposite term. Just not sure if the meaning comes across as you intend :-)

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The Greek word ἁμαρτία (hamartia) is one of the words used in the Bible for sin, and it does come from archery as paul mentioned. I don't believe the connection remains in English, however. –  Ray Feb 2 '11 at 12:55
    
Wait, paul is telling us this? –  GEdgar Aug 3 '11 at 13:30
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Sin is so completely tied into religious terms and meanings that finding a direct opposite begins to imply much about how you are using the word. Opposites of sin do very much exist but most of them require a specific form of the word:

This is a sinful act / This is a holy act

I am full of sin / I am full of righteousness

But the most direct opposite comes from the old term indulgences:

In Catholic theology, an indulgence is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. (Wikipedia)

Actually using the word in a sentence is a bit of a pain and really won't satisfy a daily opposite of sin:

I committed a sin / I was granted an indulgence

Part of the problem comes from the source of the act being performed: Humans perform sins; God or the church performs indulgences.

The next best term would be repentance:

I committed a sin / I performed a repentance

Likewise with penance:

I committed a sin / I performed penance

Absolution, protection or recovery from sin is also implied in the religious terms sanctification, justification, baptism, confession, forgiveness, holiness, righteousness. These terms hold their own chapters in Christian theology and to even summarize them here would be futile.

All of these, however, come at this term from the religious angle. If you simply want an antonym for "bad deed" you will find a similar difficultly in looking for an antonym for "crime." Any number of phrases will work but a specific word for the opposite of a crime will be hard to find because the concept of a crime doesn't really have an opposite.

I committed a legal act

I committed a good act

I committed a virtuous act

The best I can think of is referring to a character trait as the action itself:

I performed a kindness

I performed an altruism

These have mixed success.

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"a kindness" or "a goodness" probably have the best fit for a one-word solution, but it depends where it's used. –  Andrew Vit Sep 22 '11 at 4:17
    
Didn't indulgences go the way of the dodo a few centuries back? –  user867 Nov 21 '13 at 3:47
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I agree with Paul though I’d render the word as ‘perfection’ (bull’s-eye being simply one type of perfection). Sinning in many religious traditions is simply not living up the standard, not getting it right, or falling short.

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The English word "sin" is very much tied up in Christian ideology. In traditional Christian belief human beings are inherently sinful, and can't help but sin continually. As such, there really isn't much need for an opposite because the opposite condition does not (in fact, can not) exist.

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I don't know what church you belong to, but this certainly isn't the position of mainstream western (or as far as I know, eastern) churches. –  Marcin Sep 22 '11 at 22:56
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No, in fact it is. There's good discussion of this issue here: drurywriting.com/keith/augustine.conception.of.sin.htm . According to the author, Wesleyan traditions don't nessecarily believe that, but they are rather unique that way. My personal faith happens to be Wesleyan, but you'll notice I was talking about traditional Christian ideology, not mine (or in fact anybody else today's). –  T.E.D. Sep 23 '11 at 14:23
    
Err, no. If you were correct, there would be no need for the religious use of the word "grace" to refer a state absent sin. –  Marcin Sep 23 '11 at 15:18
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@Marcin - Dunno where you got that. Grace is defined by most Christians as something along the lines of "God's unmerited favor". It generally has nothing to do with sin whatsoever, but rather as something separate that perahps interacts with sin. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_in_Christianity. I'd also suggest looking over en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_depravity. Perhaps you don't agree with them, but these are very common doctrines of Christian theology going back at least to St. Augustine. –  T.E.D. Sep 23 '11 at 18:34
    
@Marcin - BTW: If you have further theological issues with stuff I said, might I suggest taking them to christianity.stackexchange.com ? I have an account there too, and they'd probably be much more generally useful there than in comments on a question about antonyms here. –  T.E.D. Sep 23 '11 at 18:40
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Sin is primarily a religious concept, which takes various forms. As noted above, certain religious traditions have an antonymous concept (such as mitzvah in judaism), but there is no generally accepted term, because there is no generally accepted concept.

In the judaeo-christian context, perhaps the best approach is to translate mitzvah into English; I understand that the closest translation is "duty".

Essentially, this is the wrong question to ask, because English is used by many, many sub-cultures which all have very, very different ideas about this area.

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In Islam, there is the concept of a "sin" and a "charity." At the end of days, your sins and charities are tallied and the math worked out. Generally speaking, a charity is any good dead or deed that brings happiness. Interesting, pleasuring your wife is considered a charity.

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If we're using the Biblical definition of sin, then sin is transgression of God's law. Many versions translate the Greek as "Lawlessness".

http://bible.cc/1_john/3-4.htm

Therefore, the opposite would be "lawful".

Interpreted another way, sin can also be said to be disobedience to God's law, so "Obedience" is another possible antonym for sin.

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In religious contexts that I'm aware of you can't "pay forward" on sins. Therefore, any opposite for "sin" would have to be considered as a repeal or undoing of that sin.

For "sin" used as a noun, some suitable antonyms would be "atonement" or "expiation." The drawbacks of these two terms is that they are often interpreted as acts of personal suffering rather than acts of morally good deeds.

  • First I committed a sin,
  • Then I made an atonement.

For the verb "sin", the verb forms of the aforementioned terms, "atone" and "expiate," should be equally suitable. Another verb that can be used as the undoing of sin is "redeem," as in:

  • "...and don't come back until you've redeemed yourself!"

Of course, all of these terms can be used outside of the context of religious sin, so how much "oppositeness" they have with "sin" would depend on the context in which they're used.

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Although it comes from a different tradition, I would say "Dharma"

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Abide, I say this because you are following a rule. If there were no rule, then you could not sin.

To abide, comply, follow.

There is no direct antonym e.g. unsin etc.

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To atone, that would be the opposite of "to sin". –  Arthor Oct 15 '13 at 19:22
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This comes up in Bible translation. "Righteousness" is the correct antonym in many contexts:

  • "It is considered a sin"
  • "It is considered a righteousness"

This is a close parallel to the Hebrew "tzedek" or "tzdaka", with the same root.

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Sin can be both a verb and a noun. The opposite of the verb sin is Repent or atoned.

eg.

First I sinned, then I repented so now God loves me - yea!

The opposite of the noun form can be any of the following: good deed, help, redeemed, basically anything that means you did a good thing.

eg.

I made up for that sin by doing a good deed, now God owes me one, right?

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My action was without error.

I erred not.

I acted faultlessly.

...and so on, error (okay, existential error) being the essential substance of sin.

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Some hand holding: the word is faultlessly. Seems to be sinful not to take heed and avoid topics prone to hysteria. Thanks for the validation points –  lex Nov 25 '12 at 2:22
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If you have sinned, then you have done something wrong. If you have done nothing wrong then you have behaved.

conduct oneself in accordance with the accepted norms of a society or group.

If you want a Christian twist then I would add moral.

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The Hebrew word mitzvah, which combines "commandment" and "good deed", is the opposite of sin in that language. There isn't a single word in English with the same nuance.

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This answer was suggested by the top answer, then offered by msh210-- english.stackexchange.com/a/10998/44619 and finally by @Marcin-- english.stackexchange.com/a/36665/44619 –  Mari-Lou A Oct 13 '13 at 16:46
    
@Mari-LouA Wow. Just... wow. Major Stack Exchange malfunction? I swear on a stack of OEDs that when I saw this question and answered it, it had no answers. For some reason, the question was being displayed with no answers at all. –  Ernest Friedman-Hill Oct 14 '13 at 0:50
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It depends what you mean by sin.

If you are using sin to mean disobedience to one of the Ten Commandments or to 'God's laws', then the opposite must be obedience to or obeying the Commandments.

If you are using sin to mean 'doing wrong' in general, then it depends how you perceive 'right and wrong'. If you perceive them as 'black and white', i.e. one or the other, then the opposite must be right.

But if you perceive 'right and wrong' as two extremes with a whole area in the middle that is neither right nor wrong, then there can be no exact opposite. For example, it might be considered wrong (sinful) to hate your neighbour, and right to love you neighbour. But you might actually be indifferent to your neighbour, neither loving nor hating him. In that case, are you sinning; are you doing right or wrong: or are you in the middle?

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You could argue that "to love thy neighbour" is such a herculean task that anyone who truly achieves this status is doing the exact opposite of sinning. And if you are indifferent to the plight of your neighbour isn't that almost as bad as someone who causes that suffering? –  Mari-Lou A Oct 13 '13 at 16:58
    
1. Yes - the 2 extremes are opposites. 2. I didn't say "indifferent to the plight of ..." - you can 'rub along' with your neighbour, neither loving nor hating them, but still be concerned & help them when they are in difficulty. But really I was just making a point and using a not very good example, that there may not be a absolute opposite of "sin". (The neighbour example is not from personal experience!) And maybe you're playing 'devil's advocate'? –  TrevorD Oct 13 '13 at 17:44
    
Yes, didn't you hear my tail swishing back then? :) But to be indifferent is nevertheless a selfish act, (I wouldn't go as far as calling it a sin) for example, how would you know if your "neighbour" were in difficulty if you didn't take an interest? –  Mari-Lou A Oct 13 '13 at 17:59
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I feel the opposite of Sin is " Heavenly deed". Sinners go to hell and people who does good deeds and obtain " Punya" ( Indian opposite word for Sin) will go to Heaven. Good and Ban are are set by each society differently. Some societies view Homosexuality is sin and some view it opposite. How can one define, good or bad, but what ever society or parts of the Country set is decisive factor. Some tribal areas Smoking etc, is natural and legal for them, but not in certain areas. One can not set the exact meanings for Beauty, wind or smell, as how one perceives. Good virtues or deeds is how the particular place or part of the World set the rules and view. Even the above words Heaven or Hell are also if one believes

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