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Hearsay vs. Heresy: What's the Difference?

By Aimie Carlson || Updated on May 28, 2024
Hearsay is information received from others that cannot be substantiated, while heresy is a belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious doctrine.

Key Differences

Hearsay refers to the act of sharing information that one has not personally verified, often seen in legal contexts where such evidence is generally inadmissible due to its unreliable nature. Heresy, on the other hand, pertains to beliefs or opinions that deviate from established religious doctrines, typically within a specific religious tradition.
In legal proceedings, hearsay is often excluded because it is second-hand information that lacks direct witness testimony, making it difficult to verify its accuracy. Heresy, meanwhile, historically led to severe punishments within religious communities as it represented a challenge to established beliefs and authorities.
Hearsay can be part of everyday conversation, where people pass on stories or rumors they've heard from others. Conversely, heresy involves a more deliberate stance against prevailing religious teachings and often has significant implications for those who propagate such views within their faith communities.
While hearsay deals with the credibility and admissibility of information, heresy deals with doctrinal purity and adherence within religious contexts. The consequences of hearsay are generally legal or social, affecting the credibility of statements, whereas heresy can lead to excommunication, persecution, or social ostracism within religious groups.

Comparison Chart


Unverified information from others
Belief contrary to orthodox religious doctrine


Legal, everyday conversation
Religious, doctrinal


Affects credibility, often inadmissible
Can lead to excommunication or persecution


Difficult to verify
Defies established beliefs


Legal or social
Religious or social ostracism

Hearsay and Heresy Definitions


Information received from other people that one cannot substantiate.
The court ruled the testimony inadmissible because it was hearsay.


Adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church doctrine.
The church declared his writings to be heresy.


Unverified, unofficial information or gossip.
Most of what you hear about celebrities is just hearsay.


Opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted.
Galileo was accused of heresy for his heliocentric views.


Evidence based on reports of others rather than personal knowledge.
The hearsay evidence was dismissed by the judge.


An opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine.
Heresy was severely punished in medieval times.


Second-hand evidence not based on personal experience.
The lawyer objected, citing the statement as hearsay.


Dissent or deviation from a dominant theory or practice.
Her innovative ideas were considered heresy in the conservative field.


An item of idle or unreliable talk.
Rumors spread quickly, but they’re often just hearsay.


An opinion or a doctrine at variance with established religious beliefs, especially dissension from or denial of Roman Catholic dogma by a professed believer or baptized church member.


Unverified information heard or received from another; rumor.


Adherence to such dissenting opinion or doctrine.


(Law) Evidence that is not within the personal knowledge of a witness, such as testimony regarding statements made by someone other than the witness, and that therefore may be inadmissible to establish the truth of a particular contention because the accuracy of the evidence cannot be verified through cross-examination.


A controversial or unorthodox opinion or doctrine, as in politics, philosophy, or science.


Information that was heard by one person about another that cannot be adequately substantiated.


Adherence to such controversial or unorthodox opinion.


(law) Evidence based on the reports of others, which is normally inadmissible because it was not made under oath, rather than on personal knowledge.


(religion) a doctrine held by a member of a religion at variance with established religious beliefs


(law) An out-of-court statement offered in court for the truth of the matter asserted, which is normally inadmissible because it is not subject to cross-examination unless the hearsay statement falls under one of a number of exceptions.


A controversial or unorthodox opinion held by a member of a group, as in politics, philosophy or science.


Report; rumor; fame; common talk; something heard from another.
Much of the obloquy that has so long rested on the memory of our great national poet originated in frivolous hearsays of his life and conversation.


An opinion held in opposition to the established or commonly received doctrine, and tending to promote a division or party, as in politics, literature, philosophy, etc.; - usually, but not necessarily, said in reproach.
New opinionsDivers and dangerous, which are heresies,And, not reformed, may prove pernicious.
After the study of philosophy began in Greece, and the philosophers, disagreeing amongst themselves, had started many questions . . . because every man took what opinion he pleased, each several opinion was called a heresy; which signified no more than a private opinion, without reference to truth or falsehood.


Gossip (usually a mixture of truth and untruth) passed around by word of mouth


Religious opinion opposed to the authorized doctrinal standards of any particular church, especially when tending to promote schism or separation; lack of orthodox or sound belief; rejection of, or erroneous belief in regard to, some fundamental religious doctrine or truth; heterodoxy.
Doubts 'mongst divines, and difference of texts,From whence arise diversity of sects,And hateful heresies by God abhor'd.
Deluded people! that do not consider that the greatest heresy in the world is a wicked life.


Heard through another rather than directly;
Hearsay information


An offense against Christianity, consisting in a denial of some essential doctrine, which denial is publicly avowed, and obstinately maintained.
A second offense is that of heresy, which consists not in a total denial of Christianity, but of some its essential doctrines, publicly and obstinately avowed.


Any opinions or doctrines at variance with the official or orthodox position


A belief that rejects the orthodox tenets of a religion


Belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious doctrine.
During the Inquisition, many were punished for heresy.


Can hearsay be used in everyday conversations?

Yes, hearsay is common in everyday conversations where people share stories or rumors they've heard from others.

Why is hearsay often inadmissible in court?

Hearsay is often inadmissible because it is second-hand information that cannot be directly verified.

How does hearsay affect credibility?

Hearsay affects credibility because it is based on second-hand information that may not be accurate.

What is hearsay?

Hearsay is information received from other people that one cannot substantiate.

What does heresy mean in a religious context?

Heresy in a religious context means a belief or opinion that contradicts established religious doctrines.

What are the consequences of heresy?

Consequences of heresy can include excommunication, persecution, or social ostracism within religious communities.

Can heresy lead to legal penalties?

Historically, heresy has led to legal penalties in certain religious societies, though this is less common in modern secular states.

What is an example of heresy?

An example of heresy is someone in the Middle Ages proclaiming that the Earth orbits the Sun, contrary to the Church’s teachings.

How was heresy dealt with historically?

Historically, heresy was often dealt with harshly, including punishments like excommunication, imprisonment, or execution.

What is an example of hearsay?

An example of hearsay is someone recounting a story they heard from a friend about an event they did not witness themselves.

Why is hearsay considered unreliable?

Hearsay is considered unreliable because it cannot be directly substantiated by the person relaying the information.

How do religious institutions handle heresy now?

Many modern religious institutions may address heresy through dialogue or education rather than severe punishment.

What is a historical example of heresy?

A historical example of heresy is the trial of Joan of Arc, who was executed for heresy by the Church.

What role does hearsay play in journalism?

Hearsay in journalism can be problematic because it lacks verification and can spread misinformation.

Can hearsay ever be admitted in court?

There are exceptions where hearsay can be admitted in court, such as when the original speaker is unavailable, and the information is deemed reliable.

Can heresy apply to non-religious contexts?

Yes, heresy can apply to non-religious contexts when someone holds an opinion that significantly deviates from the accepted norm.

Can someone be accused of heresy today?

While less common, individuals can still be accused of heresy within certain religious communities that maintain strict doctrinal adherence.

Is all second-hand information considered hearsay?

Not all second-hand information is hearsay; it specifically refers to unverified information from others.

What is the difference between hearsay and gossip?

Hearsay refers to unverified information, often in a legal context, while gossip typically involves casual or idle talk about others.

What is a legal exception to the hearsay rule?

A legal exception to the hearsay rule is the "dying declaration," where statements made by a dying person about the cause of their impending death can be admissible.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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