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What does Hallelujah Mean?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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Hallelujah is an English interjection derived from a Hebrew phrase meaning “praise God” or “praise the Lord.” The alternate spelling alleluia is taken from the Latin form of the original Hebrew. For both Jews and Christians, the term is often used as a joyful expression of praise and thanksgiving to God.

In the Bible

The Hebrew word is used several times in the Old Testament book of Psalms. In fact, Psalms 104-150 are frequently referred to as the Hallel Psalms or Praise Songs, due to their frequent repetition of hallelujah. The first part of the word, “hallelu” is an imperative verb, instructing hearers to praise. The last syllable, “jah,” is considered a shortened form of the name of God, often referred to as the Lord, Yahweh, Jehovah or the tetragrammaton.

In Worship

Worship services, prayers and hymns of many Christian traditions have used this word for centuries. In the Catholic church, a liturgical chant known as the Alleluia is given in every Roman Mass except during Lent. Evangelical churches often shout Hallelujah during services as a sign of approval or thanksgiving. This is often followed by phrases such as “amen” or “praise God!”

Non-Religious Usage

The word hallelujah is also featured in both religious and secular songs of all musical genres. One of the best known uses of the term is in Handel's Messiah, which contains the hallelujah chorus. In popular culture, one of the best known usages of the term is in Leonard Cohen's song of the same name. As a nonreligious interjection, this word signifies happiness, similarly to “hooray!” It can also be said sarcastically in situations where the speaker does not feel the gladness expected of him or her. Though this use of the term may be offensive to some religious people, many take it in stride and may use the term in this way themselves.

Related Terms

Words that are often used along with hallelujah in Christian worship include amen, kyrie eleison, hosanna, maranatha, and Abba. Amen is used to assert agreement with something or to confirm something, while kyrie eleison is used to invoke God to listen to a prayer or to help the worshipers. Hosanna can also be used in this way, but it can also be used as an expression of praise. Maranatha is said when a person wants to emphasize the return of the Lord's return to earth, or to ask him to come quickly, and Abba, the Hebrew word for father, is used as an alternative name for God.

Other religions have similar terms of praise and worship. For example, in Islamic worship, the term alhamdulillah, or "praise be to God," is commonly used, as is allahu akbar, which means "God is the greatest." Buddhists often chant during worship, and may repeat mantras like om mani padme hum, which is associated with compassion. Likewise, Sikhs often repeat Waheguru, which is the name of God; or the Ardas, which is an intercessory prayer, during worship.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon992120 — On Aug 15, 2015

I have a completely unrelated question: Why is it that people hate religion so much? I'm turning 16 soon and I've already seen tons of hatred that people--whom I assume are Atheists-- send to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.

Just to name a couple of the stuff they say, things against certain prophets and sometimes they beg the Lord to confer his "wrath" upon them. It offends me deeply, because I'm a very strong believer and I want to save them before it's too late, if that makes sense.

Have any of you on this thread experienced this hatred before, and what do you do to get over it? I'm Muslim by the way. Anyway, thanks to all those who might answer. Sending salaam from Toronto, Assalamu A..

By anon963368 — On Jul 29, 2014

Hallel = Sacrifice of El (Son); Yah= God. God's Son is sacrificed. This is the highest praise, because no one is sacrificed in this world to deliver mankind from death and to give them immortality. Only Yeshua did that. Hallel Yah.

By anon354988 — On Nov 12, 2013

Write "ya allah" (meaning "o allah") in Arabic script, which is written from right to left. It was read from left to right as in the Latin alphabet by a non Muslim as "hallelujah."

By anon348239 — On Sep 14, 2013

For what it's worth, Jehovah's witnesses don't use Jehovah as the only pronunciation of God's name. That's just in English. God's name is transliterated differently in different languages. Ye wo wah in cantonese, Ye he hua in mandarin, ehoba in Japanese, Giova in Italian.

People have different tongues and capabilities in the language they learned as a baby. Some Hebrew sounds don't exist in other languages. As such, it's best to use the closest approximation you can.

The bible puts more emphasis on the meaning of a name more than the exact pronunciation of it.

By flamble27 — On Apr 27, 2012

Amen. "Father, I love you. Thanks for everything. Always."

High praise? Low praise? Thus, 70 A.D.

By anon263954 — On Apr 26, 2012

When one is not obedient to the direction given by the most high God, this is exactly what happens: confusion and more confusion. Next comes lies and more lies.

By anon243993 — On Jan 30, 2012

If everyone would take the time and read all of the above comments. Before all of our times, like everything else in life there was something, somebody, or something else.

We can go back as far as biblical literature, webster, Mama said, the doctor said, professor said and somebody else said. It's still and always will be one God. Call it, not him what you may. But you will Honor and Respect him with the highest praise. Spell it like you want to. Stop trying to make it fit for your fleshly gratification. All comments above said high praise so, he knows your heart. Now praise him. He hears you if you are for real.

By anon235825 — On Dec 20, 2011

Hallelujah means praise ye jah.

By anon181124 — On May 28, 2011

I have read before (computer crash did away with the document i had) that Hallelujah refers to a special type of praise to God: a praise borne of pain; of going through deep trials and difficulties, but finally making it through and enthusiastically giving praise to God that you made it! Can anyone help me with this? I can't find it now. apparently from the hebrew. Thanks!

By flamble27 — On Mar 24, 2011

Look up 'Hallel prayer' online. Sheesh.

Elohim is not the Mormon God; they just borrowed it. To them every male is potentially a god. 'Jehovah' is pronounced 'Ye-ho-vah.' The German was mispronounced and the Millerites ran with it (y'know German, like the 'J' in Carl Jung). Anyway: Adonai, Lord, Elohim, Yahweh (I AM), all acceptable. I prefer 'Father'. To know God's name would allow some control over Him, thus we'll never know it. Bless you all by the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!

By anon153403 — On Feb 17, 2011

To anon85307: 'Jesus referred to his heavenly Father as Jehovah...' Where did you get this from, since the earliest surviving NT MSS are in Greek, not Hebrew/Aramaic?

The word Jehovah originated in a misunderstanding, since when the Masoretes added vowel pointings to the originally consonantal script they derived them from 'Adonai', the word which would be spoken, rather than from 'JHWH', which is what was written. Middle-ages translators, unaware of this, thought they were the vowels for YHWH and spelled accordingly.

By anon153121 — On Feb 16, 2011

To Anon 143052: Actually, Elohim is the name used when 'In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.' Definitely part of the Christian faith!

By anon153113 — On Feb 16, 2011

It means Praise Yah (Yahweh or Jehovah)

By anon151625 — On Feb 10, 2011

Hallel simply means praise. Hallelu means you (plural - you all) praise. Hallelujah means - everyone praise Yah.

This is used throughout the Tanak (the Old Testament) an example is Psalm 106:48 where it says in English "Praise ye the LORD" or in Hebrew Hallelu-jah. Look it up.

This is not theological or difficult. Just basic Hebrew.

By anon143052 — On Jan 14, 2011

to anon122600: Elohim is the mormon God. No place in Christianity for it.

By anon135521 — On Dec 19, 2010

You must go back to the ancient Hebrew writings. HalleluYAH means "praise ye YHWH"! YHWH is the father's name! There is no "J" in the Hebrew! James

By anon129294 — On Nov 23, 2010

can someone give me a correct answer to this, because none of you seem to be right. I speak Aramaic and halle-lujha means "give me ____". and i don't know the rest. "Halle" means "give me" now what does lujha mean? could it be "give me god" or jesus or whatever.

By anon122600 — On Oct 28, 2010

"Jah" is about 500 years ago approximately. Jah is not correct because the Hebrew language does not have "J". It cannot be original name of Elohim! "Jah" or "Jehovah" came into existence about 1500 AD by bible scholars.(man-made name) JW is teaching the wrong name! We cannot depend on newer language to worship him. Semitic or Paleo Hebrew will tell you a different name of Elohim.

By anon90683 — On Jun 17, 2010

Hallelujah does not mean "Praise god"! "Praise god" would be "Hallelu-EL". "Hallelujah" or more correctly, "Hallelu-YAH" is the shortened form of "Hallelu-YAHWEH" which means "Praise Yahweh!"

By anon85307 — On May 19, 2010

those of you who say Hallejuah means Praise Jah are correct -- Jah being short for Jehovah, the true God of the Bible to both the Israelites of the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the early Christians. Jesus referred to his heavenly Father as Jehovah and Jehovah's Witnesses rightly carry His name because of Isaiah 43:10.

By anon81042 — On Apr 29, 2010

In response to post "anon37270" and others, I have to say this: I appreciate your educating us (me) on the legalese of the word “Hallelujah” – truly I do.

But true praise, regardless of how it's spoken, is measured from the heart and its intended person. Hence, the weight falls on the "spirit" of the praise rather than the "letter" of the praise.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knows His children and welcomes their praises.

On another note. Whatever language a person speaks is not important when speaking to God for the “Spirit” understands even moans and groans as prayer/praise. What comes to mind is this “from out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” And if God knows our hearts, what need is there of interpretation? The God you speak to knows you.

[Luke 6:45 Eng. Standard Over.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”]

I wish you only the best. Thank you.

By anon65643 — On Feb 15, 2010

For what it is worth to all concerned, Hallelujah, or more specifically, Hallelujah as written in English, is pronounced Hal-lay-loo Yah. It is the command form of the word "to praise"

(Note: The letter and the sound of the letter J does not exist in Hebrew. All Hebrew words and names containing a J in the English translation, should really be using a Y. Example: Joel is really Yoel.)

Back to Hallelu Yah. When you say Hallelu Yah, you have to be saying it to someone other than yourself because, in that form, the command form, it can only be directed to another person(s) And, of course you cannot direct it to G-d or you would be commanding Him to praise Himself. You would be saying to G-d,"Praise G-d!"

Persons such as Moses or King David might have said to anywhere from one to thousands of people,"Hallelu Yah!", thereby giving them a command to "Praise Yah."

As for the ending of Hallelu Yah, Yah is G-d's most personal and private name. Be careful when you use it!

Blessing from Israel! Hallelu Yah!

By anon58394 — On Jan 01, 2010

The Psalms are poetic songs and use the shortened form of Jehovah (JHVH or YHWH/ tetragrammaton) which is Jah. Also, jah is found at the end of Hallelujah. The first commentator was correct in stating that it means "Praise Jehovah".

Jesus did use God's personal name for example at Matthew 4:7 Jesus said to him: “Again it is written, ‘You must not put Jehovah your God to the test.’” and Jesus made the importance of God's name known in the "Our Father" prayer when he said, "Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name". Many bible translations will tell you in their forward or preface that the name Jehovah was replaced by LORD in capitals, and at times by GOD.

Romans 10:13 makes a very important statement about God's name: "everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” Many times in the bible Jehovah made it clear that he wanted to be distinguished from pagan gods through use of his personal name. Jehovah's Witnesses get their name from Isaiah 43:10 where it says "You are my witnesses,” is the utterance of Jehovah.

By anon37969 — On Jul 23, 2009

Hallelujah means to "Praise Jah" The tetragrammaton in hebrew is Jehovah. Tetragrammaton (from Greek meaning "having four letters"),[1] refers to the Hebrew term that is the personal name of God in the Holy Bible.

This word is composed of four Hebrew consonants, and it occurs 6,828 times in the approved consonantal Hebrew text of the Bible.[2][3]

Jehovah is an English reading of the most frequent form of the Tetragrammaton(transliterated as YHWH), the principal and personal name of God in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

By anon37270 — On Jul 18, 2009

Actually, there have been hundreds of years of falsehood about this word. Jesus never used it nor did the apostles and early Christians for at least 100 years. There is no record of its use. John wrote the book of Revelation around 100AD and it is allegedly first found in chapter 20 as "alleluia". Catholics claim use of this proves the heavenly language is Latin. Some dictionaries claim it comes from the Greek allelouia. Because of the looks of the word some say it means all hail + ia or ya or yah, hence all hail or praise to Yah, who is claimed to be Jehovah or Yahweh.

Some claim it comes from Hebrew hallelujah and said to mean praise the Lord, praise God, or praise Yah: meaning Jehovah or Yahweh.

But in the Hebrew halal, Strongs #1984 means to be clear, i.e. transparent, to shine. And in research concerning ia (eea) + ea, ya or yah, we discover an connection to a god of Babylon and the moon god of Egypt. Halal + ia would then mean shine god or shine moon god. How shine can be manipulated into the word praise is subject to anyone's imagination.

Praise is first used in Genesis 29:35 as yadah. From this Leah named ner child Yehuwadah or Judah. Judah means then praise.

We have now a praise word used in Hebrew and another Hebrew word meaning to shine.

Whence then came halal, to shine as a praise?

It is first used in Judges 16:24 where the Philistines, in celebration to the deliverance of Sampson into their hands, decided to give worship to Dagan their god. It is here preserved in the Hebrew text that the Philistines desired to praise Dagan their god with the use of halal.

Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hands. And when the people saw him, they praised (halal) their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us.

It was after this pagan celebration the Israelites borrowed halal and adapted it to the true God. And it is after this, halal came to mean praise which we are unable to determine. We do not know how this was transferred over to worship of God but we believe it was by those who went astray worshipping strange gods. And when they came back to God they brought this pagan usage.

See also praise in Hebrew as barak Strongs #1288.

Correctly, Leah named Judah Yehuwadah. In this name, Yeh is a contraction of Ehyeh asher Ehyeh, with Yeh used to represent the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Many Jewish names began with Yeh of as we now know it in English as Jeh.

How then can those in heaven praise "yah" when this was the name of a false god?

It appears there has been a corruption of the text in the book of Revelation where the Latin use was interpolated and then an attempt to backward translate this into Greek.

Since Jesus is the highest name above all names, the proper praise to him would be:

Praise Jesus, or Yadah Jesus, or hallelu-Jesus, or hallelu-yeh or hallelu-jeh.

One thing is certain, if a praise used for Dagon makes its way into heaven to praise God, it will be unlike God to accept it.

By anon29774 — On Apr 08, 2009

Those who follow a theology of the cross might look at Cohen's words of Hallelujah as more uplifting. As opposed to a theology of Glory, a theology of the cross is a Christian witness that reminds us that we meet God on the hard roads of life. That Jesus meets us at the cross which is a symbol of pain and death. And that indeed it is at the moment where we say "Praise God!"

By anon23243 — On Dec 19, 2008

anon18766 is right -- technically, hallelujah means "praise Jah", which is a shortened form of the Hebrew name for God, Jehovah, Yahweh, or whatever it is in your language. That is why Jehovah's Witnesses are actually correct in their interpretation of the name of the Biblical God being Jehovah.

By anon18766 — On Sep 29, 2008

Halleluyah, does not mean praise god....It means praise ye yah!!! Which is the highest form of praise.(Yhwh)

By anon510 — On Apr 26, 2007

While you're mentioning Cohen and Thompson, don't forget to mention the Hallelujah chorus, part of Handel's Messiah.

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