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Sin Is a 4-Letter Word

by Linda Jenkinson

Picture credit: Gellinger


Sin is the negative aspect of the human rationale of right and wrong and varies from culture to culture.

First recorded in 1895-1900, sin is from the Hebrew word śīn. It is the 22nd letter of the Hebrew alphabet and the 12th letter of the Arabic alphabet1.

In Esperanto it is peko and that is four letters. In Spanish it is pecado. In fact there are at least 80 words for sin.

I prefer the Spanish word mostly because I can't decide if it's like a peck of sins or if the word peccadillo was born in sin, just like my old Sunday school teacher tried to convince her class that we were all born in sin. Doesn't peccadillo sound like a bunch more birthday party fun than "sin?"

Did you realize that "i" is at the center of sin? That's another thing that short-sighted Sunday school teacher taught when I was a child. Well, "i" is also the central letter of "win" as well as many other 3-letter English words. In Hungarian sin is "bűn" so is ű a significant factor in Hungarian sin?

I think the greatest sin is to co-opt some long gone culture’s ideas of how people should live today. Sentience is more than mimicking through the ages. It must involve progress that comes from new lessons learned.

In the Western World, genital mutilation is considered not only a sin, but a crime, yet it is still practiced in some modern African, Asian, and Middle Eastern cultures2. Capital punishment in the U.S is legal in some states and not in others. Is killing or maiming a "sin" only depending on how the laws of the land are defined?

If a man steals a loaf of bread for his starving child is that more of a sin than allowing the child to starve when there is bread available to be stolen? Like beauty, sin is in the eye of the beholder and the perspective of the perpetrator and the victim can radically differ.

We need not look to other humans for a definition of right and wrong, sin and virtue. We need not seek forgiveness for our errors from some invisible being. We only need to recognize our mistakes, rectify them as much as possible, and learn from them.


  1. “Sin | Define Sin at Dictionary.Com.” Accessed March 13, 2018.
  2. “Female Genital Mutilation.” Wikipedia, March 7, 2018.

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