From my readings what I concluded is that the words renegade, dissenter and heretic have an archaic or religious sense (2) and modern day figurative sense which is likely to have derived from religious sense.Especially I came across the word dissenter in the news, I think, they used it as a meaning like rebel or mild form of defiant in a political sense.But I don't know how strong the word defiant comparing to the others.

1.A person who behaves in a rebelliously unconventional manner or A person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted.

2.Having abandoned one’s religious beliefs or A person believing in or practising religious heresy.



Could you please explain what are difference between them in terms of meaning (religous briefly and modern day)

1 Answer 1


All of these are words for people who oppose or disagree with a view, but they do have differences:

A dissenter is simply anyone who disagrees with some group on some opinion that that group otherwise shares. It does not have the strong negative connotations of the other two words - you can say someone dissents without expressing an opinion on whether they are right to do so or not. Even in a religious context, dissent is not always considered bad - there are many minor points on which some members of a faith disagree.

Renegade or rebel suggest that the person so described not only disagrees with the group, but has (perhaps violently) disassociated themselves from it as a result. While one can dissent from a group and still be a part of that group, a renegade has almost certainly either been kicked out of the group, or quit it because of their disagreement. This is particularly true in a religious context - a renegade member of a faith has a disagreement with the other members of that faith so profound that those others no longer consider them 'one of us'. Unlike 'heretic', renegades and rebels are not exclusively religious - one can be a renegade from a political party or a nation just as easily.

Heretic is very strongly associated with religious dissent. Originally, it would exclusively have been used in this way, and described someone whose opinions were so contrary to the established orthodoxy that the leadership of the faith declared that anyone who believed it was no longer a member of that faith. In modern usage, the word is used to deliberately evoke those religious associations. This can be either to express extreme distaste for the dissenter's view (they're so wrong that it's as bad as heresy) or to imply that the mainstream view from which they dissent is like a religion. Given these associations, 'heretic' is probably the strongest of the three descriptors.

Defiant is usually an adjective, and could be applied to any of the above nouns. Defiant means 'boldly resistant to or refusing to obey some authority'. A dissenter may or may not be defiant when presented with the official opposition to their view. If they are defiant enough, they may become a renegade, rebel, or heretic.

  • Nicely done. It would be even better if you were to describe what defiant actually means. Aug 21, 2015 at 10:16
  • Whoops. Good point. Aug 21, 2015 at 17:30

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