• selfish pettiness or narrowness
  • limited and narrow character or tendency
  • excessive narrowness of interests or view

Synonyms & Related words:

  • provincialism
  • insularity
  • narrow-mindedness


  • universalism

Parochialism is usually the result of lack of broad experience.  But parochialism can also be the result of intentionally closing one’s eyes and silencing the voices of others.  Parochialism results in the locking of the mind and its eventual atrophy.  Parochialism is usually used pejoratively.  Of course it is a natural conservative reflex to protect that with which you are familiar and trust.   The reflex is to guard that which you find precious.

Some hold things precious after much reflection, some reflexively  out of fear of the unknown.  But it is important to understand that the parochial reflex can be useful.  It is an evolved adaptive strong module in the human mind.   But when better perspectives or methods present themselves, or when one’s world is changing, then such reflexes can blind oneself to better options — at that time we need the flexibility to rely on other modules.  But if they are atrophied in us, we must then look to others.See this TED lecture (2008) by Jonathan Haidt. (HT to Leah’s comment) Etymology
  • Classical Greek:
    para- “near” + oikos, “house” = neighbor (paraoikos)
  • Late Greek:
    Paroikos = sojourner (in Christian writers)
  • Late Latin:
    Parochia = a diocese
  • Anglo-French (13th c):
    Diocese and Perish become synonymous
  • Present English:
    Parish is even more narrow than a diocese.  A Dioceses is made of perishes.


See other “Word!” posts, here.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

7 responses to “Parochialism

  1. Great post, Sabio! Made me think of this talk.

  2. Sounds very familiar.

  3. TED! TED! TED! TED!

  4. Steve Wiggins

    Makes me think of parochial schools — there may be more to the name than just neighborhood haunts? I suppose we all indulge in a little parochialism now and then, but if we are aware of it, it seems less dangerous.

  5. CRL

    Parochial schools certainly can be parochial.

  6. @ Leah : Great link, thanx

    @ Steve : If you get a chance to see the video, it agrees with you totally. A little parochialism is good and being aware of its limitations is the trick. I try and wonder about religion in this way at times.

  7. Earnest

    The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.

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