"Sacred cow" doesn't completely cover what I'm looking for (and I think it might be a bit insensitive).

What I'm looking for is a word or a short phrase that would mean something like, "an idea or creed that is beyond reproach, upon which all other ideas must agree or be either be discarded or redefined."

My use for it is in a religious sense, something like "dogma", but maybe not quite. It would be nice if it would work well in a secular setting, too.

  • 1
    You could say it's an article of faith - or if you don't fancy the "religious" allusions, just say it's a given. Nov 14 '17 at 18:07
  • Before I read the last paragraph, i was thinking "dogma." It is frequently used in non-religious contexts. The "Dogma School" of film making has among its dogmata "no backrgound music" and "no steadicam". Nov 14 '17 at 18:07
  • Possible duplicate of A word that means an undeniable statement, stated emphatically, where the word 'axiom' is given. Nov 15 '17 at 0:09
  • Please read: “single-word-requests tag wiki”. In the question, we need to see exactly in what context you want to use the word or phrase – generally we want a sample sentence. Specify the criteria you'll use for accepting answers. Detail the research you've already done (trips to the thesaurus, etc.). List words or phrases you've already considered but rejected, and explain why. Provide information about the connotation, register, and part of speech you are looking for.
    – MetaEd
    Nov 15 '17 at 15:41

An Axiom is a formal statement within a system that is taken as true and upon which all other things within the system must agree.

Something that is Axiomatic is something that is unquestionable (or at least seen as self-evidently true).

  • Definitions I found would say that an axiom would be correct and widely accepted, perhaps proven. I'm looking for something that would say that the idea is more of an opinion worthy of scrutiny. Am I understanding that correctly?
    – Steve Kerr
    Nov 14 '17 at 18:33
  • I think you understand correctly, but "an idea or creed that is beyond reproach, upon which all other ideas must agree or be either be discarded or redefined" is basically the definition of axiom, and stronger than the intent in your comment. In the Greek sense, postulate might be closer.
    – Yorik
    Nov 14 '17 at 19:00

The word oracle conveys the idea of something (or someone) that is fundamentally reliable ideologically. Merriam Webster quotes a very recent use of the word in this shade of meaning :

Spicer was trying to convince America that the most prodigious liar in presidential history was some oracle of consistent truth.

Leonard Pitts, Alaska Dispatch News, "Sean Spicer . . . ." 19 Sep. 2017

Wiktionary gives the etymology as Old French, originally from Latin oraculum.

The word carries a number of associations from Greek mythology, from Latin and from Jewish roots. The word appears in both Old and New Testament writings.

One could refer to 'an oracle', as in the 2017 quote, or the adjective 'oracular' might be employed.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.