The Name of God
, or Holy Name
is the name in Eastern
or Western spiritual traditions or religions that is used in practice or prayer. Conceptions of God
can vary widely, but the word God
in English and its counterparts in cognate languages are normally used for all or many of them. Other languages have similar generic names or concepts, and a common experience is for the word for "God" in one language to be perceived by speakers of other languages as the name of a specific deity worshipped by speakers of that one language. However some names refer almost exclusively to the supreme being of a single religion, while others are shared among many traditions.
The belief systems of Africa
are varied and complicated and therefore the following can only provide a basic reference for the monotheistic religions of Africa
, whereby Islam
are not dealt with specifically.
- God is called Igzi'abihier (lit. "Lord of the Universe") or Amlak (lit. the plural of mlk, "king" or "lord") in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
- The Maasai name for "God" is Ngai, (also spelled:'Ngai, En-kai, Enkai, Engai, Eng-ai) which occurs in the volcano name Ol Doinyo Lengai ("the mountain of God").
- The Shona people of Zimbabwe refer to God primarily as Mwari. They also use names such as Nyadenga in reference to his presumed residence in the 'heavens', or Musikavanhu, literally "the Creator".
- The Khoi names for God are much disputed but generally the following are accepted, Thixo, Uthixo, Tsui, Tsui Goab, Gunab, and Touqua although it must be remembered that the actual concept of God may vary from people to people or individual to individual.
- The Bushmen or AbaThwa name for God is generally quoted as being /Cagn, the mantis God, however this is also disputed and varies from group to group.
- The Zulu name for God is Nkosi Yezulu (lit. the Lord of the Sky) and Nkulunkulu.
- The Yoruba of West Africa refer to the highest god, that is the God of gods, the Almighty as Olodumare.
As it is with many translations by early missionaries, the existing names of God existing in many African languages were employed in the Christian Bible such as Olodumare in the Yoruba version.
- The Xhosa take their name of God from the Khoi, Uthixo, and this is considered a powerful and sacred name.
This is a brief list of Ethiopian tribes and their respective names for the Supreme Being.
- Shangdi 上帝 (Hanyu Pinyin: shàng dì) (literally King Above) was a supreme deity worshipped in ancient China. It is also used to refer to the Christian god in the Standard Mandarin Union Version of the Bible. Likewise, Korean Christians and Vietnamese Christians also use cognates of this name, to refer to the Biblical god.
- Shen 神 (lit. God, spirit, or deity) is commonly used to refer to various spirits, including gods, and was adopted by Protestant missionaries in China to refer to the Christian god. In this context it is usually rendered with a space, " 神", to demonstrate reverence.
- Zhu, Tian Zhu 主,天主 (lit. Lord or Lord in Heaven) is translated from the English word, "Lord", which is a formal title of the Christian god in Mainland China's Christian churches.
- Tian 天 (lit. sky or heaven) is used to refer to the sky as well as a personification of the sky. Whether it possesses sentience in the embodiment of an omnipotent, omniscient being is a difficult question for linguists and philosophers.
, there are a number of names of God which are generally in Sanskrit
, each supported by different traditions within the religion. Brahman, Bhagavan, Ishvara, and Paramatma are among the most commonly used terms for God in the scriptures of Hinduism
- Bhagavan (bhagavān) means "God".
- Ishvara (īśvara) means "Cosmic Controller" or "Lord".
- Maheshvara (īśvara) means "Great Lord".
- Parameshvara (īśvara) means "Supreme Lord".
- Paramatma (paramātma) means "Super Soul".
- Brahman (brahm) means "The Ultimate Reality". Saguna Brahman refers to the personal Brahman with infinite qualities, whereas Nirguna Brahman refers to the impersonal Brahman without any attributes.
- Para Brahman (parabrahm), an ineffable entity, best translated as "The Absoute Truth", Supreme Brahman, or Supreme Cosmic Spirit.
- Adi Purusha (ādipuruṣa) means "Timeless Being", or "Primordial Lord".
- Vishnu is seen as Para Brahman within Vaishnava traditions, and the Vishnu Sahasranama enumerates 1000 names of Vishnu, each name eulogizing one of His countless great attributes. The names of Vishnu's Dasavatara in particular are considered divine names.
- Krishna (Kṛṣṇa) is associated with Vishnu and certain Vaishnava traditions also regard Him as Para Brahman and Svayam Bhagavan (svayambhagavān) or the Lord Himself. In Krishna-centered schools of Vaishnavism, which includes the Nimbarka, Vallabha and Caitanya schools Krishna is held as the Supreme Personality of Godhead based on the descriptions of Him within the Bhagavata Purana and Mahabharata, with particular reference to the Bhagavad-Gita.
- Rama (Rāma) is associated with Vishnu and is especially venerated in bhakti literature, such as that of Kabir and Ravidas, and more recently in the writings of Mohandas Gandhi.
- Shiva is regarded as Saguna Brahman in Shaivism. The Shiva Sahasranama enumerates 1000 names of Shiva as Ishvara.
- Ganapatyas focus on worship of Ganesha (also called Ganapati), and Shaktas worship Shakti as the Supreme.
- Smartha sect considers Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, Ganesha, and Surya as equal reflections of Nirguna Brahman as Saguna Brahman.
There are multiple names for God in Sikhism. Some of the popular names for God in Sikhism are:
- Ek Onkar meaning One Creator. "Ek" means "One"; "Onkar" means "Creator".
- Satnam meaning True Name, some are of the opinion that this is a name for God in itself, others believe that this is an adjective used to describe the 'Gurmantar', Waheguru (See below)
- Waheguru, meaning Wonderful Teacher, this name is considered the greatest among Sikhs, and it is known as 'Gurmantar', the Guru's Word.
- Bhagat Vachhal meaning Lover of His Saints
- Hari meaning Glowing, Shining, Vitalising - Absolute Name of God
- Govinda meaning Preserver of the World
- Bhagavan meaning Lord or Supreme Being
God according to Guru Nanak is beyond full comprehension by humans; has endless number of virtues; takes on innumerable forms; and can be called by an infinite number of names thus "Your Names are so many, and Your Forms are endless. No one can tell how many Glorious Virtues You have.
There are no direct names of God in Jainism
. However, Mahavir
and other 'prophets' or 'perfected beings' are known as Tirthankar
(literally 'Fordmaker', meaning one who becomes enlightened) or Jina
Buddhism of the Theravada tradition is nontheistic and doesn't see the Buddha as divine, however in many Mahayana schools Adibuddha is conceived as the eternal, imperishable essence of all phenomena.
The Pure Land schools of Buddhism in China and Japan revere the Nembutsu, the formulaic name of Amida Buddha (Namu Amida Butsu), as the sole method in this latter age of "degenerate Dharma" (mappo) for birth in the Pure Land after earthly death. Shinran, the founder of the Japanese Pure Land sect of Jodo Shinshu, went so far as to declare the Name as the same as Amida and his characteristics (Infinite Light and Infinite Life).
Religions in classical antiquity
- Aten is the earliest name of a supreme being associated with monotheistic thought, being the solar divinity which Akhenaten had declared the only god of the state cult, as part of his wholesale absolutist reforms, thereby threatening the position on the various temple priesthoods, which had the old polytheism restored immediately after his death. See also the Great Hymn to the Aten .
While some of the older deities have names long pre-dating the Latin
people the Romans
belong to, and even more were adopted with their autochthonous
names (or Latinized in a recognizable way), many minor divinities were named simply as personifications of various minor aspects of daily life. Latin
also prominently used an abstract word for god, deus
(hence deity and, from its adjective divinus
, divinity), from Proto-Indo-European
, also the root of words for "sky" and "day" – the god-sense is originally "shining," but "whether as originally sun-god or as lightener" is not now clear; the epithet Deus Optimus Maximus
, DOM "Best and Greatest God", coined for Jupiter
, the pater familias
of the Roman pantheon
, was later adopted in Christianity, as well as Deus
The name of this Persian
god of light, one of the earliest Indic words we possess, being found in clay tablets from Anatolia
dating to about 1500 B.C, reported in English only since 1551, is from Latin, derived from the Greek Mithras
. This was in turn derived from Avestan Mithra-
, possibly from an Indo-Iranian
"contract," whence mitras
"contractual partner, friend," conceptualized as a god, or, according to Kent, first the epithet
of a divinity and eventually his name; from proto-Indo-European root base mei-
"to bind"; related to Sanskrit Mitra
, a Vedic deity associated with Varuna
In the Hebrew scriptures (i.e. the Law Torah
, plus the Prophets [Nevi-im] and the Holy Writings /Hagiographa [Kethuvim] the Jewish
name of God is considered sacred and, out of deep respect for the name, Jews do not say it.(See Exodus 20:7) The tetragrammaton
, these Hebrew consonants named, reading right to left: "yod...heh...vahv...heh.") is the name for the group of four Hebrew symbols which represent the name of God. The Tetragrammaton occurs 6,828 times in the Hebrew text printed in Biblia Hebraica and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Neither vowels nor vowel points were used in ancient Hebrew writings, but are usually taken to be "a", "e", "i", "o" or "u." From the Hebrew tetragrammaton modern Christians have adopted pronunciations such as "Yahweh
" and "Jehovah
Some claim the pronunciation of YHWH has been lost, other authorities say it has not and that it is pronounced Yahweh. References, such as The New Encyclopædia Britannica, validate the above by offering additional specifics:
Early Christian writers, such as Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century, had used a form like Yahweh, and claim that this pronunciation of the tetragrammaton was never really lost. Other Greek transcriptions also indicated that YHWH should be pronounced Yahweh.
Clement of Alexandria transliterated the tetragrammaton as Ιαου. The above claims were founded upon the understanding that Clement of Alexandria had transliterated YHWH as Ιαουε in Greek, which is pronounced "Yahweh" in English. However, the final -e in the latter form has been shown as having been a later addition. For a more in-depth discussion of this, see the article Yahweh.
“Strictly speaking Yahweh is the only ‘Name’ of God”.|20px|20px|(New Bible Dictionary J.D Douglas
is a common vocalization of God's personal name based on the Hebrew tetragrammaton
(above). Opinions differ as to the most appropriate vowels to be used with the four-letter tetragrammaton. Because of Jewish concerns for avoiding blasphemy, the name was often avoided and replaced with "
" (equivalent to the Hebrew Adonai). Also some other names for God used by Christians are Father, Lord, Heavenly Father, or the Holy Trinity.
'Iehovah', an English rendering of the tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters used by Bible writers to represent the personal name of the supreme deity, is found in Tyndale's Bible, in the King James Bible, and in many other translations from that time period onward. (See Jehovah for more details and examples of usage of this form.)
Some claim that the form Yahweh is an uncertain pronunciation, (in ancient Hebrew, the earliest forms of the tetragrammaton were written without vowels), but the article on Yahweh details why the traditionally used English word Jehovah also cannot be 'correct'.
Some avoid using either Yahweh or Jehovah altogether on the basis that the actual pronunciation of the tetragrammaton has been lost in antiquity. Instead they refer to him simply as God, or The Lord.
Jesus (Iesus, Yeshua, Joshua, or Yehoshûa) is a Hebraic personal name meaning "Yahweh saves/helps/is salvation",. Christ means "the anointed" in Greek. Khristos is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Messiah; while in English the old Anglo-Saxon Messiah-rendering hæland 'healer' was practically annihilated by the Latin Christ, some cognates such as heiland in Dutch survive.
In Messianic Judaism, generally regarded as a form of Christianity, YHWH (pre-incarnate) and Yeshua (incarnate) are one and the same, the second Person, with the Father and Ruach haQodesh (the Holy Spirit) being the first and third Persons, respectively, of ha'Elohiym (the Godhead). YHWH is expressed as "haShem," which means 'the Name.'
The less evangelical branch of the Quakers often refers to God as The Light. Another term used is 'King of Kings' or 'Lord of Lords' and Lord of the Hosts. Other names used by Christians include Ancient of Days, Father/Abba, 'Most High' and the Hebrew names Elohim, El-Shaddai, and Adonai. Principle, Mind, Soul, Life, Truth, Love, and Spirit are names for God in Christian Science. These names are considered synonymous and indicative of God's wholeness. The name, "Abba/Father" is the most common
term used for the creator within Christianity, because it was the name Jesus Christ (Yeshua Messiah) himself used to refer to God.
In the Russian Orthodox movement Imiaslavie ("Name glorification"), the name of God is God Himself and can be used to evoke miracles.
The Assemblies of Yahweh is currently the only Christian group to use the name Yahweh exclusively and consistently.
See also: Names and titles of Jesus in the New Testament.
is the most frequently used name of God in Islam
. Allah is an Arabic word meaning "the supreme creator" and is most often used in reference to God. It originally simply meant "the god" in Arabic, and was used in pre-Islamic times to refer to a divinity worshiped in Mecca
. The word is a linguistic cognate
of the Hebrew
and a translation of the English
", although there are some Christian sects
which claim that there is a distinction between their deity and the deity or deities worshiped in either Judaism
. Nevertheless, Allah
is the same word in Arabic
used by Arab Jews
when speaking of God.
A well established Islamic tradition enumerates 99 names of God, each representing an attribute.
Besides those names of Qur'anic origin, Muslims of non-Arabic peoples may also sometimes use some other names in their own language which refers to God, such as the Ottoman anachronism Tanrı (originally the pagan Turks' celestial chief god, corresponding to the Ancient Turkish Tengri), or Khoda in Persian language which has the same Indo-European root as god.
refer to God using the local word for God
in whatever language is being spoken.
Bahá'ís often, in prayers, refer to God by titles and attributes, such as the Mighty, the All-Powerful, the Merciful, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous, the All-Wise, the Incomparable, the Gracious, the Helper, the All-Glorious, the Omniscient. Since the languages in which the Bahá'í Faith was first authored were Arabic and Persian, the term Allah
and other "names" are used in some specific contexts, even by non-Arabic speakers. The above-mentioned attributes are sometimes referred to in their Arabic form - for instance Bahá'ís refer to "Bahá" (meaning Glory or Splendour) or any derivation thereof (ex. Al-Abhá, or The Most Glorious) as the Greatest Name
- Haile Selassie, refers to "Power of the Trinity". "His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia and Elect of God" (Ge'ez ግርማዊ፡ ቀዳማዊ፡ አፄ፡ ኃይለ፡ ሥላሴ፡ ሞዓ፡ አንበሳ፡ ዘእምነገደ፡ ይሁዳ፡ ንጉሠ፡ ነገሥት፡ ዘኢትዮጵያ፡ ሰዩመ፡ እግዚአብሔር; girmāwī ḳadāmāwī 'aṣē ḫāylē śillāsē, mō'ā 'anbassā za'imnaggada yīhūda nigūsa nagast za'ītyōṗṗyā, siyūma 'igzī'a'bihēr). King of Kings (nəgusä nägäst) is the name of God incarnate in the Rastafari movement. God is called Jah and Haile Selassie is called Jah Rastafari, from his precoronation name Ras Tafari Makonnen.
- Ahura Mazda "Lord of Light" or "Lord Wisdom" (wisdom and light being synonymous in either case) is the name of the supreme benevolent god in Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrians today may refer to Ahura-Mazda as 'Ormazd,' simply being a contraction of the original term.
Deism and Pantheism
, and in variations of these like Pandeism
, God is sometimes referred to as Deus
(pronounced Day-us), the Latin word for god
, which gave rise to the word Deism. Believers in Pantheistic or Pandeistic systems equate God with the Universe, and may refer to God by that term (sometimes using the definite article and referring to God as "the Deus").
Several religions advance taboos
related to names of their gods. In some cases, the name may never be spoken, or only spoken by inner-circle initiates
, or only spoken at prescribed moments during certain rituals
. In other cases, the name may be never freely spoken, but when written, taboos apply. It is common to regard the written name of one's god as deserving of respect
; it ought not, for instance, be stepped upon or dirtied, or made common ((slang)) in such a way as to show disrespect. It may be permissible to burn the written name when there is no longer a use for it.
Most observant Jews
forbid discarding holy objects, including any document with a name of God written on it. Once written, the name must be preserved indefinitely. This leads to several noteworthy practices:
- Commonplace materials are written with an intentionally abbreviated form of the name. For instance, a Jewish letter-writer may substitute "G-d" for the name God. Thus, the letter may be discarded along with ordinary trash. (Note that not all Jews agree that non-Hebrew words like God are covered under the prohibition.)
- Copies of the Torah are, like most scriptures, heavily used during worship services, and will eventually become worn out. Since they may not be disposed of in any way, including by burning, they are removed, traditionally to the synagogue attic. See genizah. There they remain until they are buried.
- All religious texts that include the name of God are buried.
- In Islam, the name (or any names) of God is generally treated with the utmost respect. It is referred to in many verses of the Qur'an that the real believers respect the name of God very deeply. (e.g. stated in 33/35, 57/16, 59/21, 7/180, 17/107, 17/109, 2/45, 21/90, 23/2 ) On the other hand the condition is openly stressed by prohibiting people from unnecessary swearing using the name of Allah. (e.g. stated in 24/53, 68/, 63/2, 58/14, 58/16, 2/224) Thus the mention of the name of God is expected to be done so reverently.
- In Christianity, God's name may not "be used in vain" (see the Ten Commandments), which is commonly interpreted to mean that it is wrong to curse while making reference to God. A more natural interpretation of this passage is in relation to oath taking, where the command is to hold true to those commands made 'in God's name'. (Jesus also makes it clear that a Christian should hold true to all their words - cf Matthew 5:37)
- Some Christians capitalize all references to God in writing, including pronouns. (ex. "The Lord, He is God, Holy is His Name.")
- God's name being used in vain can also be interpreted as trying to invoke the power of God, as a means to impress, intimidate, punish, condemn, and/or control others. Since "God is a loving God", any efforts to use God's name in vain will forever be fruitless. Love is not compelled into action by fear. Saying that God's name should not be used in vain is just a helpful reminder that doing so is just a waste of time and energy.
- Different Christian cultures have different views on the appropriateness of naming people after God. English speaking Christians generally would not name a son "Jesus", but "Jesús" is a common Spanish first name. This taboo does not apply to more indirect names and titles like Emmanuel or Salvador.
- The taboo on abuse of the name of God and religious figures like Mary, mother of Jesus leads to their frequent use in profanity (a clear case is Quebec French profanity, based mostly on Catholic concepts). More pious swearers try to substitute the blasphemy against holy names with minced oaths like Jeez! instead of Jesus! or Judas Priest! instead of Jesus Christ!.
- Traditionally, when a copy of the Bible is worn out, the book is burned, not simply thrown away.
Phrases and alternatives
or glorification are usually reasons not to refer to a deity directly by name.
In addition to capitalized pronouns
(e.g. He, Him), this can be split into two types: Phrases (such as King of Kings
) and alternatives (such as G*d
). Generally, phrases are used to extol, and alternatives are more direct replacements for words.
Literature and fiction
- Names of God in Old English poetry
- Aigonz is the word for God in the lingua ignota of Hildegard of Bingen
- Eru Ilúvatar, a name of monotheistic God in Quenya, a fictional language invented by J. R. R. Tolkien.
- "The Nine Billion Names of God", a short story by Arthur C. Clarke.
- Maleldil is the name of God (or, more accurately, of the allegorical character associated with Jesus) in Old Solar, the true language in the Space Trilogy books by C. S. Lewis
- In the movie Pi, the characters are looking for the true name of god, which is 216 letters long.
- In the movie Warlock the main character seeks out the pages of the Grand Grimoire which can be commanded to reveal the true lost name of God. If it can be spoken backwards, the universe will end. Viewers are shown the letters forming, but not the actual word, and the Warlock does not get beyond pronouncing the first (last) syllable before he is killed.
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana nearly gets killed trying to spell the name of God (Jehovah) in an ancient word puzzle. He had stepped on "J" and nearly fell to his death, then remembered that in Latin Jehovah begins with an "I".
- In the Cthulhu Mythos, speaking the name of the deity Hastur aloud can bring down a curse or other manner of divine retribution on the speaker. Similarly, if a person even reads the name of the god Y'golonac, even if the name is not read aloud, it can allow the Y'golonac to invade that person's mind and take over their body.