Is Saying a "Four-Letter Word" a Mortal Sin?

I’ve only said it a couple times lately in private, mostly out of habit. I feel bad about it but I don’t know if it is a mortal sin or not. I didn’t use it in an explicit way or anything.

I would think no, but I am not a Priest and you will probably get your best answer there.

I see so many of these types of post here. It often strikes me that those asking these questions are trying to walk some tight rope of personal shame and fear. God love and Jesus’ salvation are gifts, go out and share them with the world. Obsessing over your imperfections make it hard to share this gift. You are imperfect and God knows it. That’s where Jesus and forgiveness come in; especially on the small stuff.

Probably a venial sin, unless you are cursing God or your parents, in which case it would be elevated to grave matter (I hesitate to call ANYTHING a mortal sin in and of itself, because even if something is grave matter, without full knowledge and freedom of the will, it can’t be a mortal sin).

If you’re concerned, go to confession or talk to your pastor or spiritual director about it.

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I agree cussing is a sin, but probably Venial (maybe saying the really bad ones are Mortal or if saying it at someone). I agree about asking a Priest.

I find vulgar words repulsive and don’t know why a good Christian would want to say “bad words” even if they are just a Vienal sin.

I don’t know which four-letter word you’re talking about, but if it’s the “f” bomb, I would say probably venial, especially if you’re saying it without thinking. However, it is offensive to the Lord because it takes a very holy act, given to a married couple to express their love and to conceive children and turns it into something vulgar and crass.

“Venial sin” doesn’t mean “license to do it whenever you want because it’s okay”. Far from it. ALL sin separates us from God.

Often profanity is venial matter (or even not sinful matter at all).

Circumstances though of course could make it grave -like expressing hatred for God for example.

It depends on what the “use” was - how it was said etc:

(regarding profanity in different sense than just “bad words”

It’s not any more sinful than saying “sex!” or “poop!” (I’m not sure which 4 letter word you used) as an expletive. They are just offensive because they are German words, which became seen as crass after WW2.

It’s not a sin, but it’s not in good taste either.

The only ones that would be sinful is using God’s name in vain or damning something.

Try not to do it. God doesn’t expect you to be a miracle worker. It takes time, and it takes effort.

I swore like a sailor before coming back to the Church. I slowly but surely whittled them away. Now I’m at the point where I slip up every now and again without thinking. It’s like any bad habit - it takes time, and you WILL slip up. There are certain times you wouldn’t do it no matter what (it’s unlikely you’re going to say “pass the &%$# salt” when your pastor is over for dinner, for example), so just try to stretch that into ALL the time.

Yes, if you saw the four letter word s-n-o-w in North East Ohio, it could be construed as a mortal sin. :eek::eek:

Okay, all joking aside, I don’t know the right answer here. After all, it is just a word. I think a lot of it comes down to intent. Meaning, was I angry, upset or hateful in the way I said it? I think there, it would most certainly be a sin. But what is the difference between the saying of “Oh Fudge” or the other phrase that is very similar “Oh F----”? Both imply that something is wrong, but one uses a word that he is a food, and another uses a word that we consider quite foul in our modern societies.

I think the best advice that I have seen here though is talk with a priest. I have a feeling though it will have to do with how you said the word and what your intent was.

God Bless,


Thanks, Bookcat!
The answer you linked was really informative. And I love the phrase “rude but not necessarily sinful”. I think that might be the best I can aspire to due to the combination of my love of colourful language and the various computers in my life that occasionally deserve such… :takethat:

It is not a mortal sin, unless you direct it to God or a person. Jesus says that if one calls his neighbor a fool is worthy of judgment.
It is a sign of a bad habit, to say the least, and should be slowly, but surely removed from one’s habit. It is a venial sin, for venial sins decrease our love in us and make us more likely to do a mortal sin. If one has a habit of cursing, then at one point or another, in a fit of anger he will curse, either God, or his neighbor. Hope this help. God bless!

Such is not necessarily a mortal sin (but of course ought not be done).

It could be if grave matter etc. But not necessarily.

Not sure where a couple of you heard that Cussing isn’t a sin at all, but it is.
In catholic pamphlets about how to make a good confession, Swearing is listed as something to confess.

Why would something that is called a bad word, and is considered the rude/offensive/vulgar version of a word be a Christian thing to say?

“Cussing” / cursing / swearing (i.e., taking the Lord’s name in vain or directing an oath at someone) is a different thing than contemplated by most of these comments, which I think are talking about “barnyard” expressions or crude language.

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Matt 5,22

I think Jesus is quite clear on the matter. Just because you call your brother a fool is enough to be worthy of hell.

To me the sin of using bad language depends on effect and intent.
Effect - Is there someone nearby that will be harmed by hearing these words?
Intent - Is the person trying to harm someone by using these words?

If the person both causes harm and intends to harm, I consider it mortal sin.
If the person unintentionally harms another with their words (saying bad words in spontaneous anger), it can only be venial in my eyes.
If there is no one around to be harmed by the word and the person doesn’t intend to harm anyone, I still consider it venial but much less serious.

In addition, there are cases where it is not a sin at all, such as a witness in the courtroom repeating what they heard someone say.

For me, I don’t make a distinction between different types of bad words. I try to avoid using them entirely. I make mistakes like everyone though, but that is my goal.

Then what about when cursing someone in your heart. Does this not constitute a grave matter? Your intent is clearly to harm him, but the person next to you, or at a thousand miles away, isn’t apparently harmed. He doesn’t even know it. So, are you to say that you didn’t commit a mortal sin, by wishing the harm of your brother? Because cursing, swearing is in fact this, wishing the other’s harm. There is such a thing as mortal sin done in secret, you know.

Yes I understand where the confusion comes in there.

The term there is an extremely abusive term (not easily translatable I would think) it does not mean “fool” in the English way it gets used commonly …

rather- it was a very serious insult “implying a person had lost all moral and religious sense to the point of apostasy” (Navarre Bible Gospels and Acts - Fourcourts Press and Scepter Publishers).

Can it happen that someone commit a serious sin via abusive language? Yes.

Does that mean that abusive language or bad words per se involve grave matter for mortal sin.


2073 Obedience to the Commandments also implies obligations in matter which is, in itself, light. Thus abusive language is forbidden by the fifth commandment, but would be a grave offense only as a result of circumstances or the offender’s intention.

(such is referring to abusive language directed at another person…and yes it can be light matter).

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