Something that is sacred is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity or considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspiring awe or reverence among believers. The property is often ascribed to objects (a "sacred artifact" that is venerated and blessed), or places ("sacred ground").
French sociologist Émile Durkheim considered the dichotomy between the sacred and the profane to be the central characteristic of religion: "religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden." In Durkheim's theory, the sacred represented the interests of the group, especially unity, which were embodied in sacred group symbols, or totems. The profane, on the other hand, involved mundane individual concerns.
Although there are similarities between the terms "sacred" and "holy" and they are sometimes used interchangeably, there are subtle differences. "Holiness" is generally the term used in relation to persons and relationship, while "sacredness" is used in relation to objects, places, or happenings. Thus a saint may be considered as holy, but would not be viewed as sacred.
The word "sacred" descends from the Latin sacer, that is consecrated, or purified dedicated to the gods or anything in their power, and to sacerdos and sanctum, set apart.