An oath (from Anglo-Saxon āð, also called plight) is either a statement of fact or a promise calling upon something or someone that the oath maker considers sacred, usually God, as a witness to the binding nature of the promise or the truth of the statement of fact. To swear is to take an oath, to make a solemn vow. Those who conscientiously object to making an oath will often make an affirmation instead.
The essence of a divine oath is an invocation of divine agency to be a guarantor of the oath taker's own honesty and integrity in the matter under question. By implication, this invokes divine displeasure if the oath taker fails in their sworn duties. It therefore implies greater care than usual in the act of the performance of one's duty, such as in testimony to the facts of the matter in a court of law.
A person taking an oath indicates this in a number of ways. The most usual is the explicit "I swear," but any statement or promise that includes "with * as my witness" or "so help me *," with '*' being something or someone the oath-taker holds sacred, is an oath. Many people take an oath by holding in their hand or placing over their head a book of scripture or a sacred object, thus indicating the sacred witness through their action: such an oath is called corporal. However, the chief purpose of such an act is for ceremony or solemnity, and the act does not of itself make an oath.
Famous quotes containing the word oath:
“If its individual citizens, to a man, are to be believed, it always is depressed, and always is stagnated, and always is at an alarming crisis, and never was otherwise; though as a body, they are ready to make oath upon the Evangelists, at any hour of the day or night, that it is the most thriving and prosperous of all countries on the habitable globe.”
—Charles Dickens (18121870)
“Here I swear, and as I break my oath may ... eternity blast me, here I swear that never will I forgive Christianity! It is the only point on which I allow myself to encourage revenge.... Oh, how I wish I were the Antichrist, that it were mine to crush the Demon; to hurl him to his native Hell never to rise againI expect to gratify some of this insatiable feeling in Poetry.”
—Percy Bysshe Shelley (17921822)
“Figure a mans only good for one oath at a time. I took mine to the Confederate States of America.”
—Frank S. Nugent (19081965)