Looking for a word that defines the practice of borrowing religious concepts from one religion to another. The two best I found are 'plagiarize' or 'pirate' but they feel more commercial than religious.

Example concepts;

  • A great flood is shared by many religions.

  • Many winter holiday traditions have religions roots other than the currently popular ones.

Example Sentence

Much of our religious history is lost to antiquity but several popular religions (carry over our beliefs; plagiarize/pirate),


4 Answers 4


See the Wikipedia article on "syncretism" for a more in-depth understanding of the word, which is secular and can have either a positive or negative connotation, depending on our religious beliefs.

Although lacking a citation, I found this sentence helpful in providing other possible synonyms and ways of thinking about syncretism:

"Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism in ancient India have made many adaptations over the millennia, assimilating elements of various diverse religious traditions."


I am very grateful that my own religion, Vajrayana Buddhism of the Nyingma School, incorporated many of the local beliefs and practices when it was brought from India to Tibet in the 8th Century by Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, and considered by followers as "the second Buddha." Vajrayana Buddhism is highly syncretic and seeks "the truth," willing to assimilate not only indigenous religious beliefs, such as the earlier shamanistic religions of Tibet (often but mistakenly referred to as "Bon"), but also the latest discoveries of science as they become known.

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    I like that your quote includes "assimilate" which is a good option Dec 24, 2015 at 15:10

Being "inspired" or "influenced" by other religions?

Or maybe "incorporate" - eg. "incorporate ideas from other religions"?


You can also use the term "adopt" or "evolve" as well. Especially when speaking about a set doctrine that has been changed over time to accept other religions' aspects or culture.


Syncretism is the term used in cultural anthropology (and sometimes other social sciences) to describe this phenomenon. I will refer to the post by Mark Hubbard above, as he gives an excellent explanation.

Related words that revolve around similar concepts in religion, but have different meaning(s) may include:

  • Ecumenism
  • Perennialism
  • Pluralism

For more info on syncretism in anthropology, check out: What-When-How.com|Social and Cultural Anthropology

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