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Related to cardinal sin: mortal sin
A major transgression. It is interesting that this phrase should have become a modern cliché, in that “cardinal” appeared in a much earlier medieval concept of the cardinal virtues (justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude, on which all other virtues depend). Their counterpart in evil was known as the seven deadly sins, described by Chaucer (among others) in The Persones [Parson’s] Tale: “Of the roote of thise seyene sinnes thanne is Pryde, the general rote of alle harmes; for of this rote springen certein braunches, as Ire, Envye, Accidie or Slewthe, Avarice or Coveitise (to commune understondinge), Glotonye, and Lecherys”—that is, pride, anger, envy, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lechery. By Shakespeare’s time the term had less specific meaning; in Henry VIII (3.1) Queen Katharine chides Wolsey and Campeius, “Holy men I thought ye . . . but cardinal sins and hollow hearts I fear ye.”
See also: sin