The Cyber Hymnal™

Special Terms in Hymns


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.

TermMeaning
abide, abidethwait, remain
abodehome
accordbestow, grant; agreement, opinion
actuateinfluence, guide
addrestaddressed
ÆthiopEthiopian
affordProvide, make available
AlphaFirst 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]
alasExpresses sorrow or regret
anewagain, once more
anointsanctify or consecrate
apacequickly, immediately
apostolicRelating to the 12 Apostles, their faith or their teaching
apple (of eye)pupil (of eye)
archangelA high ranking angel
artare
ascendethascends
assailattack
asunderinto separate parts
athirstthirsty, or strongly desiring
atonepay the penalty for (a crime), make amends
attendaccompany
ayeyes, ever
barkship
badecommanded, invited
barebore
becloudeddarkened by clouds
befallhappen
belfrybell tower
benedictionblessing, praise
BethelA site in Israel which was formerly a major center of worship
betidehappen
BeulahIsrael
bidutter a greeting or command
biddensee “bid”
bidstgreeted, commanded
blestblessed
boardtable
brethrenbrothers
buildedbuilt
CalvaryThe hill outside Jerusalem where Jesus was executed
CanaanThe previous name of the land now occupied by Israel
canstcan
camestcame
carkTo burden or be burdened with trouble; worry
centoA hymn made up of separate verses from a longer original
changestchanges
chapletA wreath or garland for the head
cherub, cherubimAn angel or celestial being
climeclimate, region
clothethputs clothes on
clovensplit
comestcome
comethcomes
contemndespise
covenanta contract or binding agreement
crucifyTo execute a person by hanging him on a cross until he dies
crucifixionthe act of crucifying
cumberedBurdened, weighed down
darksomedark
DavidThe second king of Israel
daystarmorning star
deigncondescend to give or grant
descendethdescends
descryTo see
didstdid
diethdies
diversvarious
doethdoes
dostdo
dothdoes
drawethdraws, comes
dreardreary, dark
drearysad
dwellethlives
dweltdwelled
EdomA region in the ancient Mideast, south of the Dead Sea
e’erever
employuse
EmmanuelA special name for Jesus, meaning “God with us”
encampSet up or live in a camp
enthroneput on a throne
entreatrequest
erebefore
eveevening, the night before
eventideevening
evermoreforever
failethfails
faingladly
fanetemple, church, shrine
fastOne meaning is “tightly” or “securely”
feedethfeeds
felicityhappiness
fenswamp, marsh
fetterchains, shackles
flowereta small flower
flowethflows
foldflock or pen, as in “sheep fold”
for ayeforever
fore’erforever
forevermoreforever
foretasteadvance sample, hint
forsakethforsakes, abandons
fraught (with)filled with, having
frowardstubborn, willful
gainstagainst
GethsemaneA garden near Jerusalem where Jesus spent His last night before being arrested
givethgives
gladsomehappy
GolgothaSee Calvary
goodlyOf pleasing appearance; of large number
graceThe theological sense is special favor, protection or forgiveness given by God
greenwoodwoods, forest
guilelessfree of deception and trickery; innocent
halleluia, hallelujah, halleluyahPraise the Lord
hallowsanctify, make holy
hallowedholy
hasthave
hastenmake something come or go more quickly
hathhas
hearesthear
hearethhears
heedethpays attention to
henceforthfrom now on
hereafterImmediately after; “the hereafter” means life after death
hidethhides
hiego quickly
hitherto or toward this place
hithertoUp to this time; until now.
holdethholds
hosannaA shout of praise
hostA large multitude, or army
illume, illumineilluminate, light up
ImmanuelSee Emmanuel
inlyinwardly
intercedethintercedes
IsaiahAn Old Testament prophet
JesseFather of King David
justifyIn a religious sense, to remove the guilt or punishment due for sin.
kindredRelated people, such a family or tribe
knowethknows
laudpraise
laysong
leadethleads
legionA large number, thousands
lestfor fear that
listlisten
loExpresses surprise or attracts attention
MacedoniaA region in ancient Greece
madestmade
mainocean, sea (e.g., “the main”)
manifestshow, demonstrate; be evidence of
mannaMiraculous food God gave the Israelites in the desert
meeda gift or payment
meetsufficient, appropriate
methinksI think
methoughtI thought
mid, midstIn the middle of
millennialReferring to a 1000-year period, or specifically to the 1000-year reign of Christ described in the book of Revelation.
minstrelsyBallads and lyrics sung by minstrels
miteA very small amount of money
moilToil, drudgery, confusion, turmoil
mornmorning
morrowtomorrow
myrrhAn expensive incense or perfume made from the resin of a Middle Eastern plant
naughtnothing
NazareneSomeone from Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up. Usually refers to Jesus.
’neathbeneath
needfulnecessary, required
ne’ernever
nighnear; almost
noontidenoon, noontime
obtestbeg for, beseech, supplicate
o’erover
o’ershadeovershadow
o’ertakeovertake
ordain, ordainethproclaim as a law or command
ordinancelaw, command
oftoften
oldenold
Omegalast letter of the Greek alphabet: Ω
opeopen
overborneoverwhelmed, defeated
ownacknowledge
ParacleteThe Holy Spirit
pavilionedcovered, as if by a tent
peculiarappropriate
PentecostThe day, 50 days after Passover, when the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles.
pineto grieve or mourn for
pinionswings
PisgahThe mountain from which Moses viewed the Promised Land into which he would not enter.
plenitudeabundance
plightedpromised, pledged
psalteryAn ancient stringed instrument similar to a harp.
quickalive, living
quicken, quickeningbring to life, vitalize
quirechoir
receivethreceives
reignestreign
reignethreigns
remainethremains
repairgo to frequently
repinecomplain, be discontented
reposerest
roodcrucifix, cross
’roundaround
rulethrules
sabaothIn Hebrew, plural form of “army” or “host.”
saithsays
seemlysuitable, appropriate
seestsee, sees
seraph, seraphimAn angelic or celestial being
shaltshall
sharethshares
shinethshines
shouldstshould
showethshows
SionSee Zion
sittestsits
sorefull of sorrow or distress
soundethsounds
spakespoke
stablishestablish
steadPlace or position usually occupied by someone else
steadfastreliable, trustworthy
strandshore, beach
strowncovered with, scattered
succorhelp in time of distress
sunderIn parts, or break into parts
sufferundergo pain; permit
supeat
supernalheavenly, blessed
supplicationprayer, request
sustainethsustain
swaddling clothsStrips of cloth wrapped around a baby to keep it still
swayinfluence, power
takethtakes
tempterUsually, Satan, the devil
th’the
theeyou
thineyours
thitherthere
tho’though
thouyou
thro’through
thyyour
thyselfyourself
tidingsnews
tilluntil
timbrelAn ancient musical instrument similar to a tambourine
’tisit is
TrinityThe three-in-one Godhead
TriuneThree-in-one, referring to the Godhead
trodwalked
trumptrumpet
’twasit was
’twereit were
’twillit will
’twixtbetween
unbeliefLack of belief or faith
unctionAnointing, as part of a religious ritual
untoto, until, by
unweariednot weary
valevalley
visitantvisitor, guest
vouchsafeCondescend to give or bestow
wealhappiness, prosperity
wertwere
whate’erwhatever
’whelmoverwhelm
whencefrom where
whene’erwhenever
where’erwherever
wherewithThe thing or things with which; by means of which.
whitherwhere
whosoeverwhoever
wiltwill
withersoeverwherever
wontedCustomary, usual
worldlingA person preoccupied with worldly pleasures or concerns
wouldstwould
yeyou
yeayes, truly
yonderdistant, over there
zephyrbreeze
ZionThe land or people of Israel. Mount Zion is the hill on which Jerusalem is located.