Thankfully, though, Hitchens' score-settling asides to the believoisie don't take up the bulk of Mortality.

It has something to do with a litany of grievances against the believoisie so rote that it might well (or ironically) be styled a catechism.

Even Urban Dictionary doesn't know it, but nevertheless, it seems to be a quite known slang word in certain circles. I guess that it roughly means believers, but what are the implications? Is it a portmanteau word?—if so, I can't discern the second part.

  • Such a strange word. I think this would be a good question on ELU too.
    – IS4
    Nov 1, 2017 at 12:09

3 Answers 3


It is a recent coinage, with very little currency. I.e almost nobody will know the word, and you won't be understood if you use it. The earliest use I can find on the internet dates from 2005, by Chris Lehmann in a review of Sam Harris's The End of Faith

The secular set accuses the believoisie of superstition and antiscientific senselessness.

It is a portmanteau of Believe and Bourgeoisie. The Bourgeoisie are, in Marxist use, the middle classes who own much of the wealth (contrasted with the proletariat or working classes, and the aristocracy). The Believoisie are the people who believe in God, and are said to control the morals of society in the way that the Bourgeoisie control the Captial. As a portmanteau, the pronunciation would be something like /bɪˈliːvwɑːˌziː/, that is "believe" followed by the last two syllables of "bourgeoisie".

In the American context, it refers to the "religious right" in America, that have influence over many politicians, particularly Southern Republicans

The implications are negative, just as Marxists use "Bourgeoise" as a term of abuse.

  • 4
    "almost nobody will know the word" Quite true. I'm a native English speaker who is fairly interested in this sort of "religion vs secularism" topic, and I've never heard of this.
    – yshavit
    Nov 1, 2017 at 19:09
  • @yshavit same, but I additionally have almost no idea on how to pronounce it. "bell-liv-woir", "bell-leave-oh-see", "bell-lif-`oi-zee"... nothing seems right to me.
    – Jeutnarg
    Nov 1, 2017 at 20:17
  • 4
    I would guess "bell-EEV-wah-zee." Basically "believe" plus the last two syllables of "bourgeoisie." But I definitely had to look at it for a few moments and break the word down to get there.
    – yshavit
    Nov 1, 2017 at 20:39

Believoisie is a term of aspersion for theists used in some atheistic circles.

The earliest reference I can find to it is in a January 2005 Reason magazine article by Chris Lehmann, "Among the Non-Believers," reviewing the 2004 Sam Harris book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, a criticism of religious faith.

The faithful, meanwhile, take some understandable offense at this broad caricature of their mental capacity and ability to face life's harder truths. So each side retreats to its corner, more convinced than ever that the other is trafficking in pure, self-infatuated delusion for the basest of reasons: Believers accuse skeptics and unbelievers of thoughtless hedonism and nihilism; the secular set accuses the believoisie of superstition and antiscientific senselessness.

Lehmann is the source of your first quotation. The second is from Sam Kriss, a London-based writer and controversialist. Lehmann probably intended to use it as a nonce word, and there is probably no way to know who was the first person to coin it. It does not appear in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, nor even in the News on the Web Corpus, but as you note there are any number of blogs and other websites which employ it.

The word is a blend of believe, belief, or believer, referring to people who believe in religious tenets like the existence of God, and -oisie, extracted from the French word bourgeoisie. According to the OED, its earliest use in English is from around 1593:

Yet can nothing be done before ye Bourgeoisie being enformed of the fact agree also thereto.

Originally, it referred to the residents of a town (akin to burgess). By the time of the French Revolution it was associated with the urban middle class, and then to the tastes and conventions of the middle class, and then Karl Marx used the term to decry the capitalist class which control the means of production and exploit the proletariat.

The -oisie ending is not a true English suffix, but has been adopted in coinages referring to broad social groups. A dictionary example is booboisie, popularized by the critic H.L. Mencken (ca. 1920) as a humorous term for uncritical or small-minded people as if they were a discrete social class. There is latterly the hipoisie, for people seen to dictate tastes and fashion, found at least as far back as 1988, but used more recently perhaps because of the familiarity of the term hipster.

  • 1
    It's worth mentioning that etymologically -oisie is not a suffix in English but always a part of French borrowing bourgeoisie (so all such words are portmanteaux), which (in French) is a combination of an adjective bourgeois and a suffix -ie , used to create abstract nouns. Oct 31, 2017 at 22:30
  • @MvLog Good point. Is it better now?
    – choster
    Oct 31, 2017 at 22:39

The sources seem sparse (most Google hits link to or quote a small handful of sources), but it appears to be a newish word composed of

belief and bourgeoisie

So it apparently means “a group or elite that belongs to or identifies itself through a belief or religion”.

Unless you want to participate in a discussion of Atheism and impress your audience by quoting a certain author, believoisie is probably a word you should not actively use.

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