Bible belt n. A region in the southern and southeastern United States where conservative, fundamentalist Christian religion holds a privileged place in culture, economy, and politics. The exact boundaries of the Bible belt are open to debate.
The coining of the term is credited to H.L. Mencken (see 1924 citation). Mencken may have been inspired by similar terms that were in use at the time, such as corn belt, wheat belt, snow belt, rain belt, rust belt, and borscht belt.
Several cities in the Bible belt where the religious influence is particularly noteworthy have been nicknamed the *buckle of the Bible belt.
Those cities in the Bible belt where the religious influence is asserted to be less strong have been nicknamed a *hole in the Bible belt.
Also used attributively (as in 1977 citation).
See also *resistant belt.
• 1924 Mencken in Chicago Daily Tribune (19 Nov.) : The old game, I suspect, is beginning to play out, even in the Bible Belt. 1926 Am. Mercury (Feb.) 141/2 : The Baptist Record, of Jackson, Mississippi, [is] in the heart of the Bible and Lynching Belt. 1926 Lewis in Frankau My Unsentimental Journey 000 : I’m collecting parsons, Gilbert…. That’s why I’ve been living in Kansas City. It’s the centre of the Bible belt. 1951 Mathews DA : A term coined about 1925 by H.L. Mencken to designate those parts of the country in which the literal accuracy of the Bible is credited and clergymen who preach it have public influence. 1959 The Listener vol. 62 983 : In the southern part of the United States, in what is often called the “Bible belt,” there is a very conservative atmosphere. 1977 Texas Monthly (May) 91 : Leo Corrigan, Sr., who bought the hotel in 1946, was a wheeler-dealer, but he never forgot his Bible Belt background. On the fourteenth floor he installed a chapel, which hotel guests may still use, if they feel in need of spiritual guidance. 1982 Foxfire 7 14 : The camp meeting, anchored firmly in the American past, continues as a reality in West Virginia, Georgia, the Carolinas, and throughout the Bible Belt of the American heartland.