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Toleration - Conceptual Nuances, Related Concepts, Valence, Toleration In The Ancient World, The Rise Of Christian Persecution

word latin attitude endure

Toleration is a policy or attitude toward something that is not approved and yet is not actively rejected. The word comes from the Latin tolerare (to bear or endure), suggesting a root meaning of putting up with something. There is no single and widely accepted definition of the term, and it is hardly an exaggeration to say that every author uses it in his or her own way. Therefore it may be best to understand the many uses of the word in terms of family resemblances.

It should be clear that each of the languages that uses a variant of the Latin term (German, Toleranz; Dutch, tolerantie; French, tolérance; Spanish, tolerancia; Italian, tolleranza; etc.) adds its own slightly different connotations to the word, based on historical experiences. Languages that do not derive the word from Latin have synonyms, each with some overlap and some difference in usage.

Throughout much of the history of the concept, toleration referred largely to a policy or attitude toward different religions. Intolerance could mean burning at the stake of heretics or apostates and forced conversions of adherents to different religions, and tolerance could mean anything short of that. By the late twentieth century, demands for toleration could also refer to other disputed behaviors such as sexual orientations, clothing and dress, drug use, vegetarianism versus meat-eating, and more (although religion was often not far behind these disputes). Ethnic and cultural behaviors and language usage could be the subject of tolerance and intolerance as well. In medicine, toleration refers to an organism's capacity to absorb or endure something without untoward consequences.

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