Eymology of the Word, “Holy”

Hebrew:  qodesh קֹדֶש 

 Most scholars view the etymology of qodesh to be based on either the idea of separateness or the related idea of cutting.

Greek: hagios  (ἅγιος)    hier     (hagiazo: to make holy, or to set apart as holy)

 The  word has the idea of being set apart for God’s use; secondarily, it also implies moral goodness. Examples of English based on the Greek:

Hagiography: Writings about the lives of saints.

Hagiolatry: The worship of saints

Hierarch: One who has rule or authority in holy things

Hierarchy 1. Rule or dominion in holy things; 2. A body of persons or things ranked in grades, orders, or classes, one above another.

Latin:  sanctus, sacr, sacer

The latin usage reflected the biblical usage, with the idea of someone or something being set apart for God’s use dominating. Examples of English words based on the Latin:

Sacred

Sanctuary

Sanctify

Consecrate

Desecrate

Sanction

Sanctimonious

Sanctity

Sacerdotal

Sacrament

Sacrifice

Sacrilege

 

English:

The English word holy dates back to at least the 11th Century with the Old English word hālig, an adjective derived from hāl meaning whole and used to mean ‘uninjured, sound, healthy, entire, complete’. The Scottish ‘hale’ (health, happiness and wholeness.) is the most complete modern form of this Old English root. The modern word ‘health’ is also derived from the Old English hal. As “wholeness”, holiness may be taken to indicate a state of religious completeness or perfection.

In English, then, the word “holiness” is used to primarily describe a moral quality (sinless, pure, whole).  This is the secondary, not primary, use of the concept of holiness in the Bible.