I have read a similar sentence to my provided example below somewhere (maybe with a little bit different phrasing.)

  • He was blasphemous to Bible and I think, irrespective of being religious or not, he has offended the sanctity of an entire nation.

However, as you can see within the link, the verb "offend" has nothing to do with using offensive remarks or actions; while the word "insult" exactly refers to this sense.

I was wondering whether they are interchangeable in this particular example or there have different shades of meaning.

P.S. Personally, I would say that "insulting somebody" sounds to be an intentional action to me, while "offending someone" is often something unintentional. Also, I think "offending" is something more in common use; but after all, I cannot figure out why the word "offend" had been used within my mentioned sentence (as I've already brought up my reasons!)?

Please kindly enlighten me.

  • 2
    I upvoted since it is curious. But "insulting the sanctity of an entire nation"? Doesn't it sound strange?
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 10:33
  • Thank you very much @KentaroDonatesForMonica, but it doesn't sound strange to me while I lack the required native-like sense. But apparently it is as you mentioned. I have no idea! :(
    – A-friend
    Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 11:11
  • Lol. I am not a native speaker either.
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 11:12
  • 2
    Sanctity is the quality of being holy; we can't really speak of an entire nation as being holy. Perhaps you mean 'offended the religious sensibilities of an entire nation'? Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 11:19
  • Good point @KateBunting. Yes, that was exactly what I meant. But supposing that I what to mention other values of a nation (like the culture of a country which is not a holy thing,) then I was wondering if I should know another fitting word here.
    – A-friend
    Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 11:20

1 Answer 1


I think the verb "insult" does not apply to the "mass". Let's think about the examples like below.

Jeff insulted Tom. (It's OK)

Jeff offended Tom (OK)


Jeff insulted the United Kingdom (? How? Is Jeff a president of some country or some existence bigger than the UK?)

Jeff offended the United Kingdom (Sounds OK. Jeff's word or action could've offended many people in the U.K).

Thus the matter is not intentional or unintentional, but the matter of the broadness of the scope of the effect that the verb "insult" can encompass.


I was wondering whether they are interchangeable in this particular example or there have different shades of meaning.

They are not interchangeable in this case because of the stated reason above.

Since the OP requires, I checked my dictionary. Merriam Unabridged says,


transitive verb

1 a : to treat with insolence, indignity, or contempt by word or action : affront wantonly

b : to make little of : affect offensively or depreciatively

2 obsolete : to make an attack on : assault, assail; especially : to make a sudden military attack on without the usual preliminaries or formalities

Either if 1a or 1b is used, in my example Tom has to "affront" ∽ "confront" with the United Kingdom or make little of the United Kingdom, Tom's size needs to be as big as the United Kingdom, which is impossible. I hope my understanding is correct to native speakers :).


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