God (word)

God (word)

The English word "god" continues the Old English " _an. god" (" _go. guþ, gudis" in Gothic, " _ge. gud" in modern Scandinavian, " _nl. God" in Dutch, and " _de. Gott" in modern German), which derives from the Proto-Germanic "* _ge. ǥuđán".

Proto-Germanic meaning

The Proto-Germanic meaning of "* _ge. ǥuđán" and its etymology is uncertain. It is generally agreed that it derives from a Proto-Indo-European neuter passive perfect participle "PIE|*ǵʰu-tó-m". This form within (late) Proto-Indo-European itself was possibly ambiguous, either derived from a root "*PIE|ǵʰeu̯-" "to pour, libate" (Sanskrit "IAST|huta", see "IAST|hotṛ"), or from a root "*PIE|ǵʰau̯-" ("*PIE|ǵʰeu̯h2-") "to call, to invoke" (Sanskrit "IAST|hūta"). Sanskrit "hutá" = "having been sacrificed", from the verb root "hu" = "sacrifice", but a smallish shift of meaning could give the meaning "one who sacrifices are made to".

Depending on which possibility is preferred, the pre-Christian meaning of the Germanic term may either have been (in the "pouring" case) "libation" or "that which is libated upon, idol" — or, as Watkins [Watkins, Calvert, ed., The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, 2nd ed., Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000.] opines in the light of Greek _gr. χυτη γαια "poured earth" meaning "tumulus", "the Germanic form may have referred in the first instance to the spirit immanent in a burial mound" — or (in the "invoke" case) "invocation, prayer" (compare the meanings of Sanskrit "IAST|brahman) or "that which is invoked".

Germanic tribes

A significant number of scholars have connected this root with the names of three related Germanic tribes: the Geats, the Goths and the Gutar. These names may be derived from an eponymous chieftain Gaut, who was subsequently deified.Fact|date=March 2007 He also sometimes appears in early Medieval sagas as a name of Odin or one of his descendants, a former king of the Geats (" _no. Gaut(i)"), an ancestor of the Gutar (" _no. Guti"), of the Goths (" _no. Gothus") and of the royal line of Wessex ("Geats") and as a previous hero of the Goths (" _no. Gapt"). Some variant forms of the name Odin such as the Lombardic " _ln. Godan" show a clear derivation from the cognate Proto-Germanic "* _ge. ǥuđánaz".


The name "God" was used to represent Greek "Theos", Latin "Deus" in Bible translations, first in the Gothic translation of the New Testament by Ulfilas. For the etymology of " _la. deus", see "*PIE|dyēus".

Greek " _gr. theos" is unrelated, and of uncertain origin. It is often connected with Latin " _la. feriae" "holidays", " _la. fanum" "temple", and also Armenian " _hy. di-k`" "gods". Alternative suggestions (e.g. by De Saussure) connect "PIE|*dhu̯es-" "smoke, spirit", attested in Baltic and Germanic words for "spook," and ultimately cognate with Latin " _la. fumus" "smoke."


The development of English orthography was dominated by Christian texts. Capitalized, "God" was first used to refer to the Judeo-Christian concept and may now signify any monotheistic conception of God, including the translations of the Arabic "transl|ar|Allāh", Indic Ishvara and the African Masai " _ma. Engai".
* "transl|he|Adonai YHWH" as "Lord GOD"
* "transl|he|YHWH Elohim" as "LORD God"
* "transl|he|Adonai Lord Squall" as "Lord GOD"
* " _gr. κυριος ο θεος" As "LORD God" (in the New Testament)

The use of capitalization, as for a proper noun, has persisted to disambiguate the concept of a singular "God", specifically the Christian God, from pagan deities for which lower case "god" has continued to be applied, mirroring the use of Latin " _la. deus". Pronouns referring to God are also often capitalized and are traditionally in the masculine gender, i.e. "He", "His" etc. [However, in more recent times, some people have referred to God in feminine terms, such as "She" and "Her". (See: God and gender).]

ee also

See El (god) and YHWH for discussions of the Hebrew names for God.


ee also

*Names of God

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