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What is the source for not using the proper name of an avodah zara? How far does this halacha extend? For instance if thousands of years ago people worshipped an avodah zara named "XYZ" but no longer do so, may I use that proper name when referring to it? What about if only a select few people nowadays actually worship something as avodah zara, may I not use its proper name (let's say 7 people decide to worship, for example Bill Cosby, would I no longer be able to use his proper name even though the amount of people that worship him is miniscule)?

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Adding in a source for your premise that one may not use the name of an avoda zara will improve the quality of your question. – msh210 Jun 26 '12 at 0:03
Shemot 23:13 – Double AA Jun 26 '12 at 0:09
masechet avodah zara uses names for idols and idol-ologies that are manipulations of the names (turning them into insults) such as kulis to kilus. I knew that choosing to learn A"Z this summer would pay off. – Danno Jun 26 '12 at 0:33
@Dan ...in this world and the world to come! But what's the surprise? We say that every morning! – Double AA Jun 26 '12 at 0:53
I don't have a source right now, but any Avodah Zarah that is mentioned in the Torah is allowed to be said. - Also, as an example, I know people who say Harei Krishnif, or something like that. – Menachem Jun 29 '12 at 5:31
up vote 6 down vote accepted

There is a prohibition against mentioning the name of a foreign deity. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 147).

However, according to the sources cited by the Gra there (147:3), the prohibition only applies if the name was given for the purpose of idolatry. If the name is an ordinary name which has no inherent implication of divinity and which was not given for the purpose of deification, then there is no problem with using it.

In a very interesting teshuva, R' Esriel Hildesheimer details two additional limitations on the prohibition:

  • The prohibition applies only to speech, not to writing.
  • The prohibition does not apply to speech for the purpose of Torah study or psak halacha.
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