What does ‘pantheistic’ mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: pantheistic…

As a writer and editor, I’m fascinated by issues of taste. People often ask me whether a particular book is any “good” and I try to be careful to reply whether I did (or didn’t) like it — emphasizing that I am a sample size of only one and others might feel quite differently.

De gustibus non est disputandum, is a Latin maxim meaning “In matters of taste, there can be no disputes” (literally “about tastes, it should not be disputed/discussed”), suggesting that everyone’s preference (taste) is a subjective opinion that cannot possibly be right or wrong.

As a result, I read a Louis Menand New Yorker review about books on taste with particular interest. The article even gave me my word of the week: pantheistic. Here is how Menand used it:

She [book author Virginia Heffernan] started using computers back in the days of Dungeons and Dragons, and she became fascinated by the pantheistic aura that surrounds electronic communication—the sense that a collective consciousness is being formed out there in the ether.

Of course I knew that pantheism is a doctrine involving a denial of God’s personality and expressing a tendency to identify God in the universe and specifically in nature. But I knew nothing about etymology of the word. Perhaps it was Greek, I guessed?

Of course it is. It is built from the Greek word pan meaning “all” and the Greek word theos meaning “god.”