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Hallelujah written in Modern Hebrew

Hallelujah (/ˌhæləˈljə/ HAL-ə-LOO-yə; Biblical Hebrew: הַלְלוּ־יָהּ, romanized: hallū-Yāh, Modern Hebrew: הַלְּלוּ־יָהּ, romanizedhalləlū-Yāh, lit.'praise Yah') is an interjection from the Hebrew language, used as an expression of gratitude to God.[1][2] The term is used 24 times in the Hebrew Bible (in the book of Psalms), twice in deuterocanonical books, and four times in the Christian Book of Revelation.[3]

The phrase is used in Judaism as part of the Hallel prayers, and in Christian prayer,[3] where since the earliest times[4] it is used in various ways in liturgies,[5] especially those of the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Churches and the Eastern Orthodox Church,[6][7] the three of which use the Latin form alleluia which is based on the alternative Greek transliteration.[1]


Hallelujah is a transliteration of Hebrew: הַלְלוּ יָהּ (hallū yāh), which means "praise ye Jah!" (from הַלְלוּ‎, "praise ye!" [8] and יָהּ‎, "Jah".)[9][10][11] The word hallēl in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song. The second part, Yah, is a shortened form of YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah in modern English).


In the Hebrew Bible hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase, hal(e)lu-Yah, and not one word. The first part, hallu, is the second-person imperative masculine plural form of the Hebrew verb hillel.[8] The phrase "hallelujah" translates to "praise Jah/Yah",[2][12] though it carries a deeper meaning as the word halel in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song, to boast in God.[13][14]

The second part, Yah, is a shortened form of YHWH, and is a shortened form of his name "God, Jah, or Jehovah".[3] The name ceased to be pronounced in Second Temple Judaism, by the 3rd century BC due to religious beliefs.[15] The correct pronunciation is not known. However, it is sometimes rendered in non-Jewish sources as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah". The Septuagint translates Yah as Kyrios (the LORD, stylized in all-capitals in English)[16], because of the Jewish custom of replacing the sacred name with "Adonai", meaning "my Lord".

In Psalm 150:6 the Hebrew reads kol han'shamah t'halel yah hallu-yah;[17] the first "hallel" and "yah" in this verse are two separate words, and the word "yah" is translated as "the LORD", or "YHWH". In 148:1 the Hebrew says hallu Yah hallu eth-YHWH, notably including both the shortened Yah and the full name of YHWH.

Most well-known English versions of the Hebrew Bible translate the Hebrew "Hallelujah" (as at Psalm 150:1) as "Praise the LORD", though "LORD" is instead translated as "Yah" in the Lexham English Bible, Young's Literal Translation, and Literal Standard Version, "Jah" in the New World Translation, "Jehovah" in the American Standard Version, and "HaShem" in the Artscroll Tanach (Orthodox Jewish). Rather than directly translating it, the JPS Tanakh, International Standard Version, Darby Translation, God's Word Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, and The Message render the term as "Hallelujah", with the spelling "Halleluyah" appearing in the Complete Jewish Bible. The Greek-influenced form "Alleluia" appears in Wycliffe's Bible, the Knox Version and the New Jerusalem Bible.

In the great song of praise to God for his triumph over the Whore of Babylon[3] in chapter 19 of the New Testament book of Revelation, the Greek word ἀλληλούϊα (allēluia), a transliteration of the same Hebrew word, appears four times, as an expression of praise rather than an exhortation to praise.[4] In English translations this is mostly rendered as "Hallelujah",[18] but as "Alleluia" in several translations,[19] while a few have "Praise the Lord",[20] "Praise God",[21] "Praise our God",[22] or "Thanks to our God".[23]

The linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann argues that the word Hallelujah is usually not replaced by a praise God! translation due to the belief in iconicity: the perception that there is something intrinsic about the relationship between the sound of the word and its meaning.[24]: 62 

In the Bible[edit]

13th century French manuscript; the words "Hallelu-Yah" at the end of Psalm 148 and at the start of Psalm 149 appear above and below the man's left-pointing hand.
Two times "Hallelu-Yah" (הַלְלוּ יָהּ), cropped from the manuscript page above. French 13th century.

הַלְלוּיָהּ is found in 24 verses in the Book of Psalms[25] (104–106, 111–117, 135, 145–150), but twice in Psalm 150:6. It starts and concludes a number of Psalms.

The Greek transliteration ἀλληλούϊα (allēlouia) appears in the Septuagint version of these Psalms, in Tobit 13:17 and 3 Maccabees 7:13, and four times in Revelation 19:1–6, the great song of praise to God for his triumph over the Whore of Babylon.[3][4] It is this usage that Charles Jennens extracted for the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel's Messiah. This transliteration is the basis of the alternative Latin transliteration "Alleluia" that is also used by Christians.[1]

Usage by Jews[edit]

The word "hallelujah" is sung as part of the Hallel Psalms (interspersed between Psalms 113–150).[26] In Tractate Shabbat of the Talmud, Rabbi Yose is quoted as saying that the Pesukei dezimra Psalms should be recited daily.[27] Psalms 145–150, also known as the Hallel of pesukei dezimra, are included to fulfill this requirement in the liturgy for the traditional Jewish Shacharit (morning) service.[28] In addition, on the three Pilgrimage Festivals, the new moon and Hanukkah, Psalms 113-118 are recited.[29] The latter psalms are known simply as Hallel with no additional qualification.

Psalms 146:10, ending with Halleluja, is the third and final biblical quotation in the Kedushah. This expanded version of the third blessing in the Amidah is said during the Shacharit and Mincha (morning and afternoon) services when there is a minyan present.[30]

Usage by Christians[edit]

Christian Mass, singing Hallelujah

For most Christians, "Hallelujah" is considered a joyful word of praise to God, rather than an injunction to praise him. The word "Alleluia", a Latin derivative of the Hebrew phrase "Hallelujah" has been used in the same manner, though in Christian liturgy, the "Alleluia" specifically refers to a traditional chant, combining the word with verses from the Psalms or other scripture. In the Latin liturgical rites of the Catholic Church, and in many older Protestant denominations, such as the Lutheran Churches, the Alleluia, along with the Gloria in excelsis Deo, is not spoken or sung in liturgy during the season of Lent, instead being replaced by a Lenten acclamation, while in Eastern Churches, Alleluia is chanted throughout Lent at the beginning of the Matins service, replacing the Theos Kyrios, which is considered more joyful.[31] At the Easter service and throughout the Pentecostarion, Christos anesti is used in the place where Hallelujah is chanted in the western rite expressing happiness.

In day-to-day situations, the expressions of "Hallelujah" and "Praise the Lord" are used by Christians as spontaneous expressions of joy, thanksgiving and praise towards God.[32] In contemporary worship services across denominational lines, the use of these jubilatory phrases require no specific prompting or call or direction from those leading times of praise and singing.[33][34] In Methodist worship, "Hallelujah!" is a frequently used ejaculatory prayer.[35]

In popular culture[edit]

In modern English, "Hallelujah" is frequently spoken to express happiness that a thing hoped or waited for has happened.[36] An example is its use in the song "Get Happy".

"Hallelujah" was the winning song of the Eurovision Song Contest 1979, performed in Hebrew by Milk and Honey, including Gali Atari, for Israel.

Leonard Cohen's 1984 song "Hallelujah" was initially rejected by Columbia Records for lacking commercial appeal, was popularized through covers by John Cale (1991) and Jeff Buckley (1994), achieved "modern ubiquity" after its inclusion in the animated movie Shrek (2001), and reached the Billboard charts upon Cohen's death in 2016.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Young, Carlton R. (1993). Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal. Abingdon Press. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-687-09260-4. Alleluia is the Latin form of Hallelujah, an acclamation formed by joining "Hallelu" (to praise) with the first syllable in a Hebrew name for God, Yahweh.
  2. ^ a b Hardon, John (4 September 1985). Pocket Catholic Dictionary: Abridged Edition of Modern Catholic Dictionary. Crown Publishing Group. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-385-23238-8. Alleluia. Hebrew hallelujah "praise Yahweh".
  3. ^ a b c d e Woods, F. H. (1902). "Hallelujah". In James Hastings (ed.). A Dictionary of the Bible. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 287.
  4. ^ a b c Scott Nash, "Hallelujah" in Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (Mercer University Press 1990 ISBN 978-0-86554373-7), p. 355
  5. ^ Alter, Robert (2007). The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06226-7.
  6. ^ Andrew McGowan, "Alleluia" in The New Scm Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship (Hymns Ancient & Modern 2002 ISBN 978-0-33402883-3), p. 6
  7. ^ Fakes, Dennis R. (1994). Exploring Our Lutheran Liturgy. CSS Publishing. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-55673-596-7.
  8. ^ a b Page H. Kelley, Biblical Hebrew, an Introductory Grammar, page 169. Ethics & Public Policy Center, 1959. ISBN 978-0-8028-0598-0.
  9. ^ Hallelujah, also spelled Alleluia, Encyclopædia Britannica
  10. ^ Brown-Driver-Briggs (Hebrew and English Lexicon, page 238)
  11. ^ page 403, note on line 1 of Psalm 113, Alter, Robert (2007). The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06226-7.
  12. ^ Greenman, Jeffrey P.; Sumner, George R. (2004). Unwearied Praises: Exploring Christian Faith Through Classic Hymns. Clements Publishing Group. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-894667-48-7. The term "Alleluia" or "Hallelujah" represents a call to praise derived from the Hebrew "Hallelu Yah" (a shortened form for Yahweh), which simply means, "Praise the Lord." It is common for Psalms used in Temple worship to begin and end with "Alleluia". Likewise, in the New Testament's description of heavenly worship, we find "Hallelujah" as the centre of the multitude's "roar" of praise. They sum up creation's praise by singing: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!" (Revelation 19:6-7) Given the prominence of "Alleluia" as a biblical form of praise, it is no surprise that one of the greatest Easter hymns, "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" repeats "Alleluia" at the end of each line.
  13. ^ George Fohrer. Hebrew and Aramaic Dictionary of the Old Testament, under הלל. Walter de Gruyter, 1973. ISBN 978-3-11-004572-7.
  14. ^ Joseph Samuel C.F. Frey, A Hebrew, Latin, and English dictionary, 1815, entry for הלל on page 254
  15. ^ Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible: a reader's introduction, 2nd ed. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. page 21.
  16. ^ "What is the difference between lord, Lord and LORD? | AHRC". www.ancient-hebrew.org. Retrieved 2024-04-14.
  17. ^ All quotes from the Hebrew are taken from Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, EDITIO FUNDITUS RENOVATA, cooperantibus H. P. Ruger et J. Ziegler ediderunt K. Elliger et W. Rudolph, Textum Masoreticum curavit H. P. Ruger MASORAM ELABORAVIT G. E. WEIL, Editio quinta emendata opera A. Schenker, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
  18. ^ Variants of "Hallelujah" in this context are "Hallelujah (praise the Lord)" in the Amplified Bible and "Halleluyah" in Complete Jewish Bible
  19. ^ King James Version and its recent revisions, the 21st Century King James Version and the New King James Version, the Douay-Rheims Bible, the Knox Version, the New Jerusalem Bible, the Phillips New Testament, Wycliffe's Bible, and Young's Literal Translation.
  20. ^ Contemporary English Version, New Living Translation (LORD)
  21. ^ Good News Translation
  22. ^ Worldwide English (New Testament)
  23. ^ New Life Version
  24. ^ Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003), Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781403917232 / ISBN 9781403938695 [1]
  25. ^ Psalm 104:35; 105:45; 106:1, 48; 111:1; 112:1; 113:1, 9; 115:18; 116:19; 117:2; 135:1, 3, 21; 146:1, 10; 147:1, 20; 148:1, 14; 149:1, 9; 150:1, 6.
  26. ^ David E. Garland, Psalms, Volume 5 of The Expositor's Bible Commentary, page 62.
  27. ^ Shabbat 118b, Sefaria
  28. ^ Scott-Martin Kosofsky, The Book of Customs, Harper San Francisco, 2004; pages 25-26.
  29. ^ Elie Munk, The World of Prayer, Vol. 2, Revised ed., Feldheim, Jerusalem, 2007; pages 129-133.
  30. ^ Scott-Martin Kosofsky, The Book of Customs, Harper San Francisco, 2004; page 33.
  31. ^ "Why don't we use alleluias during Lent?" (PDF). Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  32. ^ Meacock, Ron (31 August 2022). Glimpse of Glory: Understanding Revelation. WestBow Press. ISBN 978-1-6642-7420-4. Hallelujah and "Praise the Lord" have become acceptable spontaneous expressions of joy, thanksgiving, and praise towards God in many Christian denominations.
  33. ^ At Pipe Organ Pizza, a pipeline for prayers Archived 2016-03-13 at the Wayback Machine, Milwaukee Journal, July 12, 1981
  34. ^ "Charismatic Catholicism is alive and well". Crux. 26 September 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2022. The appeal of charismatic prayer "starts with praise and worship," said Mr. Soares, who is now director of Charismatic Renewal Services for the Archdiocese of Boston. "But as you get deeper, you start to see other things besides just the amen and hallelujah. You see people more rooted in their history."
  35. ^ "Shouting Methodists". Jesus Fellowship. 20 January 2007. Archived from the original on 22 December 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  36. ^ Hallelujah definition in Macmillan Dictionary
  37. ^ LeDonne, Rob (June 29, 2022). "'More than a song': the enduring power of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah". The Guardian. Archived from the original on July 3, 2022.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of hallelujah at Wiktionary