Sunday’s the day of the week when many Americans gather in their respective houses of worship and repeat the same word: amen. But what does the word mean? And why do people say it?
Amen is commonly used after a prayer, creed, or other formal statement. It is spoken to express solemn ratification or agreement. It means “it is so” or “so it be.” Amen is derived from the Hebrew āmēn, which means “certainty,” “truth,” and “verily.”
In English, the word has two primary pronunciations: ah-men or ay-men. But it is one interjection that is expressed in endless ways, from a soft whisper to a joyous shout. Amen is found in both the Old and New Testament. Modern worshippers of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all use a version of the word, and records indicate that it has been used as an expression of concurrence after prayer for centuries. The opposite of “amen,” arguably is cursing. Yet both cussing and prayer have the same roots in the three major monotheistic faiths. Click here to read how these sacred and profane words derive from a similar source.
In Judaism, congregants say amen in response to the words of the rabbi, or spiritual leader. The term appears as part of a number Jewish prayers. In Christianity, amen occupies a central but often spontaneous position at the end of prayers or as a personal expression of affirmation for another’s words during a sermon or other religious discourse. Islam, like Judaism, incorporates a more formal use of the word into ritual but also deems it an appropriate way to end any sort of prayer. Rather than “amen,” Islam generally says “amin.”
Amen is also used colloquially. For example: “Dinner is finally ready — amen!”
In Egyptian mythology, amen, or amun, was a deity represented by a ram, the god of life and reproduction. A controversial theory posits that amen derives from the Ancient Egyptian.
When we pray, almost anything goes: dancing, whirling, kneeling, or swaying. And words of affirmation are almost always spoken. Amen is certainly one. What are others?
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