I was watching a video in which the host used the word 'devout'... for those who say their prayers regularly. When I see the dictionary I found this:

(of a person) believing strongly in a particular religion and obeying its laws and practices

a devout Christian/Muslim


Link is: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/devout?q=DEVOUT

My question is, shouldn't this be 'practicing'?

  • 1
    'Practising/practicing' refers to outwardly visible actions (prayers, attending church/mosque/synagogue, obeying diet rules, declaring faith, etc), whereas 'devout' refers to inner belief. A person can be practising but not devout, and vice-versa. Note: I am British, and in British English, the noun is practice and the verb is practise. In US English the tendency is to use 'practice' for both. Jun 13, 2019 at 7:56
  • Actually this is what I think, I mean for a man who says prayers regularly despite the fact he may be flexible in his inner belief 'devout' doesn't seem to fit best.
    – xeesid
    Jun 13, 2019 at 8:01
  • 1
    Another word like 'practising', meaning habitually or regularly carrying out rituals, prayer, diet, etc, is 'observant'. Jun 13, 2019 at 8:08
  • I think someone who is devout, is dedicated to their religion - following all the rules, whether internal(strong belief in values), or external (praying etc). Being in prison or on a desert island, wouldn't typically prohibit you from praying - you would try to find a way, rather than give up - that's the difference between devout, and non-devout.
    – Smock
    Jun 13, 2019 at 10:40

1 Answer 1


Someone can be any of the following:

  • practicing Christian
  • devout Muslim
  • practicing, devout Jew
  • non-practicing Christian
  • (non-devout is not usually used, and usually only people practicing a religion I would describe as devout)

"Practicing" refers to doing the actions associated with, such as praying, going to places of worship, participating on holy holidays.

a "non-practicing Christian" is someone who mostly identifies as Christian (might believe in the Christian god, went to church as a kid but doesn't go as an adult) but doesn't go to church regularly or only on Christmas and Easter. They also probably don't spend too much time reading the Bible, saying Grace before eating, or regularly formally praying.

"devout" refers to someones conviction, and means that they deeply believe and adhere to their religious belief and specific religious teachings. I would argue with @Michael Harvey that I would not use "devout" for a non-practicing religious person who is has a very high conviction to their religion. Obvious exception if there are obstacles to practicing like being held in a prison and not being allowed to do religious acts.

  • Being on a desert island or a ship would prevent practice or observation temporarily at least, and there are certainly Christian sects that believe that only belief is necessary (e.g. Quakers). Jun 13, 2019 at 9:52

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