Amen (/ˌɑːˈmɛn/, /ˌeɪˈmɛn/)[lower-alpha 1] (Hebrew אָמֵן, Greek ἀμήν, Arabic آمِينَ, Amharic አሜን) is a declaration of affirmation first found in the Hebrew Bible and subsequently in the New Testament. It is used in Jewish, Christian and Muslim worship as a concluding word or response to prayers. Common English translations of the word amen include "verily", "truly", and “so be it”. It can also be used colloquially to express strong agreement, as in, amen to that.
In English, the word amen has two primary pronunciations, ah-men (/ɑːˈmɛn/) or ay-men (/eɪˈmɛn/), with minor additional variation in emphasis (the two syllables may be equally stressed instead of placing primary stress on the second).
In anglophone North America the ah-men pronunciation is used in performances of classical music, in churches with more formalized rituals and liturgy and in liberal to mainline Protestant denominations, as well as almost every Jewish congregation, in line with modern Hebrew pronunciation. The ay-men pronunciation, a product of the Great Vowel Shift dating to the 15th century, is associated with Irish Protestantism and conservative Evangelical denominations generally, and is the pronunciation typically used in gospel music.
In Arabic the pronunciation ah-meen (ʾĀmīn) is used upon completing a supplication to God or when concluding recitation of the first surah Al Fatiha in prayer.
The usage of amen, meaning "so be it", as found in the early scriptures of the Bible is a word of Hebrew origin. It originated in the Hebrew Scriptures, as a response of confirmation, and is found in Deuteronomy as an confirmatory response made by the people. Moreover, in the Books of Chronicles (16:36), it is indicated that around 1000 BC, the word is used in its religious sense, with the people responding with "amen" to hearing the blessing: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from now and unto all eternity". The basic triconsonantal root from which the word is derived, is common to a number of languages in the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages, including Aramaic. The word was imported into the Greek of the early Church from Judaism. From Greek, amen entered the other Western languages. According to a standard dictionary etymology, amen passed from Greek into Late Latin, and thence into English. Rabbinic scholars from medieval France believed the standard Hebrew word for faith emuna comes from the root amen. Although in English transliteration they look different, they are both from the root aleph-mem-nun. That is, the Hebrew word amen derives from the same ancient triliteral Hebrew root as does the verb ʾāmán.
Grammarians frequently list ʾāmán under its three consonants (aleph-mem-nun), which are identical to those of ʾāmēn (note that the Hebrew letter א aleph represents a glottal stop sound, which functions as a consonant in the morphology of Hebrew). This triliteral root means to be firm, confirmed, reliable, faithful, have faith, believe.
In Arabic, the word is derived from its triliteral common root word ʾĀmana (Arabic: آمن), which has the same meanings as the Hebrew root word.
Popular among some theosophists, proponents of Afrocentric theories of history, and adherents of esoteric Christianity is the conjecture that amen is a derivative of the name of the Egyptian god Amun (which is sometimes also spelled Amen). Some adherents of Eastern religions believe that amen shares roots with the Hindu Sanskrit word Aum. Such external etymologies are not included in standard etymological reference works. The Hebrew word, as noted above, starts with aleph, while the Egyptian name begins with a yodh.
The Armenian word ամեն (amen) means "every"; however it is also used in the same form at the conclusion of prayers, much as in English. In French, the Hebrew word amen is sometimes translated as Ainsi soit-il, which means "So be it."
The linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann argues that, as in the case of Hallelujah, the word amen is usually not replaced by a translation due to the speakers’ belief in iconicity, their perception that there is something intrinsic about the relationship between the sound of the signifier (the word) and what it signifies (its meaning).:62
The word first occurs in the Hebrew Bible in Numbers 5:22 when the Priest addresses a suspected adulteress and she responds “Amen, Amen”. Overall, the word appears in the Hebrew Bible 30 times.
Three distinct Biblical usages of amen may be noted:
There are 52 amens in the Synoptic Gospels and 25 in John. The five final amens (Matthew 6:13, 28:20, Mark 16:20, Luke 24:53 and John 21:25), which are wanting in certain manuscripts, simulate the effect of final amen in the Hebrew Psalms. All initial amens occur in the sayings of Jesus. These initial amens are unparalleled in Hebrew literature, according to Friedrich Delitzsch, because they do not refer to the words of a previous speaker but instead introduce a new thought.
The uses of amen ("verily" or "I tell you the truth", depending on the translation) in the Gospels form a peculiar class; they are initial, but often lack any backward reference. Jesus used the word to affirm his own utterances, not those of another person, and this usage was adopted by the church. The use of the initial amen, single or double in form, to introduce solemn statements of Jesus in the Gospels had no parallel in Jewish practice.
In the King James Bible, the word amen is preserved in a number of contexts. Notable ones include:
Although amen, in Judaism, is commonly stated as a response to a blessing, it is also often used as an affirmation of any declaration.
Jewish rabbinical law requires an individual to say amen in a variety of contexts.
With the rise of the synagogue during the Second Temple period, amen became a common response, especially to benedictions. It is recited communally to affirm a blessing made by the prayer reader. It is also mandated as a response during the kaddish doxology. The congregation is sometimes prompted to answer "amen" by the terms ve-'imru (Hebrew: ואמרו) = "and [now] say (pl.)," or, ve-nomar (ונאמר) = "and let us say." Contemporary usage reflects ancient practice: As early as the 4th century BCE, Jews assembled in the Temple responded "amen" at the close of a doxology or other prayer uttered by a priest. This Jewish liturgical use of amen was adopted by the Christians. But Jewish law also requires individuals to answer amen whenever they hear a blessing recited, even in a non-liturgical setting.
The Talmud teaches homiletically that the word amen is an acronym for אל מלך נאמן (ʾEl melekh neʾeman, "God, trustworthy King"), the phrase recited silently by an individual before reciting the Shma.
Jews usually approximate the Hebrew pronunciation of the word: /ɑːˈmɛn/ ah-MEN (Israeli-Ashkenazi and Sephardi) or /ɔːˈmeɪn/ aw-MAYN (non-Israeli Ashkenazi).
The use of "amen" has been generally adopted in Christian worship as a concluding word for prayers and hymns and an expression of strong agreement. The liturgical use of the word in apostolic times is attested by the passage from 1 Corinthians cited above, and Justin Martyr (c. 150) describes the congregation as responding "amen" to the benediction after the celebration of the Eucharist. Its introduction into the baptismal formula (in the Eastern Orthodox Church it is pronounced after the name of each person of the Trinity) was probably later.
In Isaiah 65:16, the authorized version has "the God of truth" ("the God of amen" in Hebrew). Jesus often used amen to put emphasis to his own words (translated: "verily" or "truly"). In John's Gospel, it is repeated, "Verily, verily" (or "Truly, truly"). Amen is also used in oaths (Numbers 5:22; Deuteronomy 27:15–26; Nehemiah 5:13; 8:6; 1 Chronicles 16:36) and is further found at the end of the prayer of primitive churches (1 Corinthians 14:16).
In some Christian churches, the "amen corner" or "amen section" is any subset of the congregation likely to call out "Amen!" in response to points in a preacher's sermon. Metaphorically, the term can refer to any group of heartfelt traditionalists or supporters of an authority figure.
Amen is also used in standard, international French, but in Cajun French Ainsi soit-il ("so be it") is used instead.
Amen is used at the end of the Lord's Prayer, which is also called the Our Father or the Pater Noster.
ʾĀmīn (Arabic: آمين) is the Arabic form of Amen. In Islam, it is used with the same meaning as in Judaism and Christianity; when concluding a prayer, especially after a supplication (du'a) or reciting the first surah Al Fatiha of the Qur'an (salat), and as an assent to the prayers of others.