Sculpture Für Toleranz ("for tolerance") by Volkmar Kühn, Gera, Germany

Toleration is the allowing, permitting, or acceptance of an action, idea, object, or person which one dislikes or disagrees with. Random House Dictionary defines tolerance as "a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one's own".[1] Toleration may signify "no more than forbearance and the permission given by the adherents of a dominant religion for other religions to exist, even though the latter are looked on with disapproval as inferior, mistaken, or harmful."[2]

Historically, most incidents and writings pertaining to toleration involve the status of minority and dissenting viewpoints in relation to a dominant state religion.[3] In the 20th century and after, analysis of the doctrine of toleration has been expanded to include political and ethnic groups, LGBT individuals and other minorities, and human rights embodies the principle of legally enforced toleration.


Originally from the Latin tolerans (present participle of tolerare; "to bear, endure, tolerate"), the word tolerance was first used in Middle French in the 14th century and in Early Modern English in the early 15th century.[4] The word toleration was first used in English in the 1510s to mean "permission granted by authority, licence" from the French tolération (originally from the Latin past participle stem of tolerare, tolerationem), moving towards the meaning of "forbearance, sufferance" in the 1580s.[5] The notion of religious toleration stems from 1609.[5]