What does ‘piety’ mean? Meaning of 5 letter word, what is it, definition, define ‘pious’ - and etymology

Piety is the ‘strong belief in a religion... shown in the way someone lives’ - and has nothing to do with pie

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The English language is full of weird and wonderful words. Some you’ll be familiar with. Others, not so much.

One such five-letter word that has been stumping people of late is “piety”.

The word was recently an answer to popular online puzzle game Wordle, and despite being only a few short letters in length, is one that many people may not have come across before.

So what does it mean, and where does the word come from?

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What does piety mean?

Despite how the word looks at first glace, “piety” actually has nothing to do with hot meats surrounded by pastry.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “piety” as the “strong belief in a religion that is shown in the way someone lives.”

Merriam-Websters’ online dictionary gives the definition of the word as “the quality or state of being pious.”

To be pious means to strongly believe in a religion, but it can also mean to live in a way that shows off this belief to others.

The word has been used to describe people who are genuinely devoted to their religion since the 15th century, but it has also been used to describe those who make a show of their religiousness and use it to demonstrate their superiority over others.

Similar, more common words include “devout”, “religious” and “orthodox”.

Where does the word come from?

The word “piety” comes from the Middle English word “piete”, meaning “mercifulness, compassion, sympathy”.

It turn, that word was borrowed from the Middle French “pieté”, which itself derives from the Latin word, “pietās”, meaning a “dutiful conduct, sense of duty”.

Pietas was a complex, highly valued Roman virtue in its old Latin usage; a man with pietas acknowledged his commitments to the gods, his country, parents, and kin.

What is an example of its use?

Pious and piety can be used in a positive sense to describe people who are obedient, moral and honourable.

But it can also be used in a negative sense to describe hypocrisy.

Merriam-Webster gives us a couple of examples of its use:

  • “He was admired for his extreme piety.”
  • “Her piety is quiet but profound.”