Hymn Terms


English lang­uage hymns oft­en have words, terms, place names, id­i­oms and con­tract­ions not found in mo­dern speech. This page ex­plains some of them; it is es­pec­ial­ly re­com­mend­ed for those for whom Eng­lish is a se­cond lang­uage.

Term Meaning
abide, abideth wait, remain
abode home
accord bestow, grant; agreement, opinion
actuate influence, guide
addrest addressed
Æthiop Ethiopian
afford Provide, make available
Alpha First let­ter of the Greek al­pha­bet. Oft­en used to re­fer to God, in the phrase “Al­pha and Ome­ga,” mean­ing “the be­gin­ning and the end [of all things]”
alas Expresses sorrow or regret
anew again, once more
anoint sanctify or consecrate
apace quickly, immediately
apostolic Re­lat­ing to the 12 Apos­tles, their faith or their teach­ing
apple (of eye) pupil (of eye)
archangel A high rank­ing an­gel
art are
ascendeth ascends
assail attack
asunder into separate parts
athirst thirsty, or strongly desiring
atone pay the penalty for (a crime), make amends
attend accompany
aye yes, ever
bark ship
bade commanded, invited
bare bore
beclouded darkened by clouds
befall happen
belfry bell tower
benediction blessing, praise
Bethel A site in Israel which was for­mer­ly a ma­jor cen­ter of wor­ship
betide happen
Beulah Israel
bid utter a greeting or com­mand
bidden see “bid”
bidst greeted, commanded
blest blessed
board table
brethren brothers
builded built
Calvary The hill out­side Je­ru­sa­lem where Je­sus was ex­e­cuted
Canaan The pre­vi­ous name of the land now oc­cu­pied by Is­rael
canst can
camest came
cark To burden or be bur­dened with trou­ble; wor­ry
cento A hymn made up of separate verses from a longer original
changest changes
chaplet A wreath or garland for the head
cherub, cherubim An angel or ce­les­ti­al be­ing
clime climate, region
clotheth puts clothes on
cloven split
comest come
cometh comes
contemn despise
covenant a contract or binding agreement
crucify To execute a person by hang­ing him on a cross un­til he dies
crucifixion the act of crucifying
cumbered Burdened, weighed down
darksome dark
David The second king of Israel
daystar morning star
deign condescend to give or grant
descendeth descends
descry To see
didst did
dieth dies
divers various
doeth does
dost do
doth does
draweth draws, comes
drear dreary, dark
dreary sad
dwelleth lives
dwelt dwelled
Edom A region in the an­cient Mid­east, south of the Dead Sea
e’er ever
employ use
Emmanuel A spe­cial name for Je­sus, mean­ing “God with us”
encamp Set up or live in a camp
enthrone put on a throne
entreat request
ere before
eve evening, the night before
eventide evening
evermore forever
faileth fails
fain gladly
fane temple, church, shrine
fast One meaning is “tight­ly” or “se­cure­ly”
feedeth feeds
felicity happiness
fen swamp, marsh
fetter chains, shackles
floweret a small flower
floweth flows
fold flock or pen, as in “sheep fold”
for aye forever
fore’er forever
forevermore forever
foretaste advance sample, hint
forsaketh forsakes, abandons
fraught (with) filled with, having
froward stubborn, willful
gainst against
Gethsemane A garden near Je­ru­sa­lem where Je­sus spent His last night be­fore be­ing ar­rest­ed
giveth gives
gladsome happy
Golgotha See Calvary
goodly Of pleasing appearance; of large number
grace The theological sense is spe­cial fa­vor, pro­tect­ion or for­give­ness giv­en by God
greenwood woods, forest
guileless free of de­cept­ion and trick­ery; in­no­cent
halleluia, hallelujah, halleluyah Praise the Lord
hallow sanctify, make holy
hallowed holy
hast have
hasten make some­thing come or go more quick­ly
hath has
hearest hear
heareth hears
heedeth pays attention to
henceforth from now on
hereafter Immediately af­ter; “the here­af­ter” means life af­ter death
hideth hides
hie go quickly
hither to or toward this place
holdeth holds
hosanna A shout of praise
host A large multitude, or army
illume, illumine illuminate, light up
Immanuel See Emmanuel
inly inwardly
intercedeth intercedes
Isaiah An Old Testament prophet
Jesse Father of King David
justify In a re­li­gious sense, to remove the guilt or pun­ish­ment due for sin.
kindred Related peo­ple, such a fam­i­ly or tribe
knoweth knows
laud praise
lay song
leadeth leads
legion A large number, thou­sands
lest for fear that
list listen
lo Expresses surprise or at­tracts at­tent­ion
Macedonia A region in ancient Greece
madest made
main ocean, sea (e.g., “the main”)
manifest show, demonstrate; be evidence of
manna Miraculous food God gave the Israelites in the desert
meed a gift or payment
meet sufficient, appropriate
methinks I think
methought I thought
mid, midst In the middle of
millennial Referring to a 1000-year per­i­od, or spe­ci­fic­al­ly to the 1000-year reign of Christ de­scribed in the book of Re­ve­la­tion.
minstrelsy Ballads and lyrics sung by min­strels
mite A very small amount of money
moil Toil, drudgery, con­fu­sion, tur­moil
morn morning
morrow tomorrow
myrrh An expensive incense or per­fume made from the re­sin of a Mid­dle East­ern plant
naught nothing
Nazarene Someone from Na­za­reth, the town where Je­sus grew up. Usual­ly re­fers to Je­sus.
’neath beneath
needful necessary, required
ne’er never
nigh near; almost
noontide noon, noontime
obtest beg for, beseech, supplicate
o’er over
o’ershade overshadow
o’ertake overtake
ordain, ordaineth proclaim as a law or command
ordinance law, command
oft often
olden old
Omega last letter of the Greek alphabet: Ω
ope open
overborne overwhelmed, defeated
own acknowledge
Paraclete The Holy Spirit
pavilioned covered, as if by a tent
peculiar appropriate
Pentecost The day, 50 days af­ter Pass­o­ver, when the Ho­ly Spir­it came to the Apos­tles.
pine to grieve or mourn for
pinions wings
Pisgah The mountain from which Mo­ses viewed the Prom­ised Land in­to which he would not enter.
plenitude abundance
plighted promised, pledged
psaltery An ancient stringed in­stru­ment sim­i­lar to a harp.
quick alive, living
quicken, quickening bring to life, vi­tal­ize
quire choir
receiveth receives
reignest reign
reigneth reigns
remaineth remains
repair go to frequently
repine complain, be dis­con­tent­ed
repose rest
rood crucifix, cross
’round around
ruleth rules
sabaoth In Hebrew, plur­al form of “ar­my” or “host.”
saith says
seemly suitable, appropriate
seest see, sees
seraph, seraphim An angelic or ce­les­ti­al be­ing
shalt shall
shareth shares
shineth shines
shouldst should
showeth shows
Sion See Zion
sittest sits
sore full of sorrow or distress
soundeth sounds
spake spoke
stablish establish
stead Place or position usual­ly oc­cu­pied by some­one else
steadfast reliable, trustworthy
strand shore, beach
strown covered with, scattered
succor help in time of distress
sunder In parts, or break into parts
suffer undergo pain; permit
sup eat
supernal heavenly, blessed
supplication prayer, request
sustaineth sustain
swaddling cloths Strips of cloth wrapped around a ba­by to keep it still
sway influence, power
taketh takes
tempter Usually, Sa­tan, the de­vil
th’ the
thee you
thine yours
thither there
tho’ though
thou you
thro’ through
thy your
thyself yourself
tidings news
till until
timbrel An an­cient mu­sic­al in­stru­ment sim­i­lar to a tam­bou­rine
’tis it is
Trinity The three-in-one Godhead
Triune Three-in-one, re­fer­ring to the God­head
trod walked
trump trumpet
’twas it was
’twere it were
’twill it will
’twixt between
unbelief Lack of belief or faith
unction Anointing, as part of a religious ritual
unto to, until, by
unwearied not weary
vale valley
visitant visitor, guest
vouchsafe Condescend to give or bestow
weal happiness, prosperity
wert were
whate’er whatever
’whelm overwhelm
whence from where
whene’er whenever
where’er wherever
wherewith The thing or things with which; by means of which.
whither where
whosoever whoever
wilt will
withersoever wherever
wonted Customary, usual
worldling A person preoccupied with worldly pleasures or concerns
wouldst would
ye you
yea yes, truly
yonder distant, over there
zephyr breeze
Zion The land or peo­ple of Is­ra­el. Mount Zi­on is the hill on which Je­ru­sa­lem is lo­cat­ed.


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