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Holy is a term used to describe something or someone of religious value or meaning, regarded as sacred and set apart from common secular use for respect and veneration, and even for the purpose of provoking, prompting, stimulating prayer and mystical inspiration.[1] The quality and character of being holy is called holiness.

Sanctity is a synonym for holiness. Whatever and whoever is made holy or is regarded as holy is sanctified, and is characterized as having sanctity, holiness.

Etymology: Synonyms and Antonyms

A consideration and study of the etymology of "holy" together with its synonyms and antonyms is useful in understanding its deeper meaning.

Strong's Concordance of the King James Bible

Strong's concordance has 611 entries in 544 verses under HOLY (King James Bible) [2]

Hebrew qodesh

The Hebrew word is קדש qodesh "sacred".[3] Ruach ha-Qodesh is Holy Spirit.

Greek hagios

The Greek word is άγιος hagios "holy"[4] Hagia Sophia is Holy Wisdom.

Latin sanctus

The Latin word sanctus for "holy" is in the Sanctus of the Catholic Mass, drawn from the Old Testament text of Isaiah 6:1-4, and the New Testament text of Revelation 4:8, the biblical basis for the Christian hymn "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty".

Old English halig

The Old English word is halig, "holy, consecrated, sacred; godly; ecclesiastical," from the Proto-Germanic hailaga, the source also of Old Norse heilagr, Danish hellig, Old Frisian helich "holy," Old Saxon helag, Middle Dutch helich, Old High German heilag, German heilig, Gothic hailags "holy"), from Proto-Indoeuropean kailo, "whole, uninjured" (related to "health"). The primary probable secular meaning, "that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated," is connected with Old English hal (related to "health") and Old High German heil "health, happiness, good luck" (source of the German salutation "Heil!").[5]

Synonyms: Holy

angelic, believing, blessed, chaste, clean, consecrated, dedicated, devoted, devotional, devout, divine, faithful, faultless, glorified, god-fearing, godlike, godly, good, hallowed, humble, immaculate, innocent, just, messianic, moral, perfect, pietistic, pious, prayerful, pure, revered, righteous, spiritual, sublime, reverent, sacrosanct, sainted, saint-like, saintly, sanctified, seraphic, spotless, uncorrupt, undefiled, upright, untainted, unworldly, venerable, venerated, virtuous[6]

Antonyms: Unholy

bad, corrupt, depraved, dishonest, evil, immoral, imprecise, impure, inaccurate, incomplete, irreligious, irreverent, sacrilegious, sinful, uncertain, unholy, unreliable, unsacred, unvirtuous, vile, wicked[7]

Bible references to holiness

The reality of holiness is found in the Bible doctrine that there are and have been holy people and blameless who have been preserved in holiness:

Old Testament

Exodus 19:6; 22:31
Leviticus 6:18, 27; 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:6-8
Numbers 6:5, 8; 16:3, 5, 7
Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2, 21; 26:19; 28:9
2 Kings 4:9
2 Chronicles 31:18
Ezra 8:28; 9:2
Psalms 18:25-26; 29:2; 31:23; 86:2 (KJV); 89:19 (KJV); 96:9; 97:10
Proverbs 2:8
Isaiah 6:13; 62:12; 63:18
Jeremiah 2:3
Obadiah 17
Zechariah 14:20-21
Malachi 1:11

New Testament

Matthew 5:8
Mark 6:20
Luke 1:6, 70
Acts 3:21; 10:15
Romans 8:29-30; 12:1
1 Corinthians 3:17; 7:14, 34
Ephesians 1:4; 3:5
Colossians 1:22; 3:12
1 Thessalonians 5:23, 26-27
1 Timothy 2:8
Titus 1:8
Hebrews 3:1
1 Peter 1:15-16, 22; 2:4-5, 9; 3:5
2 Peter 1:21; 3:2
Revelation 18:20; 20:6; 22:6, 11

"Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts"

Saint Peter commanded Christian believers to sanctify the Lord God:

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" [8]

In the literal meaning of the Greek text of this verse, the word άγιάσατε hagiasate [9] does not mean having the power to consecrate and make God holy (which is absurd and impossible), but rather to personally fulfill the first petition of The Lord's Prayer:

"hallowed be thy name".

To "sanctify" the Lord God is to adore God above all else with unreserved heartfelt reverence and worship due to God alone (Latin latria [10]). This is the fulfillment of the second of the Ten Commandments: [11]

"Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." [12]

As seen in the list of the Bible passages in the preceding section, it is possible for human beings also to "be holy yourselves in all your conduct" [13], to "sanctify yourselves" [14], by keeping the commandments of Jesus, by doing what is righteous, as he is righteous, and to regard with holy respect and reverential veneration (Latin dulia [15]), as sanctified to God, all that is holy, including the church, the body of Christ, as the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the saints of the Lord who are consecrated to God and are glorified by Him.[16]

"Holy Mary, Mother of God"

The Incarnation of God

On the basis of these texts and the doctrine of the Ecumenical councils that Jesus is God the Son and remains God Incarnate from the moment of his conception in the womb of Mary his true mother, the Person of Jesus is by that fact according to nature henceforth and always her own Son. He who exists before her and created her, by entering her womb and becoming incarnate (John 1:14), causes her to be ipso facto "by that fact" His own mother. This is a unique privilege bestowed on no other human being.

Christian doctrine: Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant

On the basis of these texts and the doctrine of the Ecumenical councils, Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans say without hesitation, "Holy Mary mother of God". The Protestant Reformers, Luther, Calvin and Zwingli did not hesitate to use such language in speaking of Mary the mother of Jesus.


Fundamentalists firmly proclaim that God alone is holy. No one else and nothing else is or can be holy but God alone. Regarding anything or anyone else as holy is idolatry. The Bible is holy because it is the Word of God.

See also


  1. Sacredness definition (dictionary.com)
  2. Holy (blueletterbible.org)
  3. Strong's number 6944. קדש qodesh; sacred, sanctity, consecrated.
  4. Strong's number 40. άγιος hagios; sacred, pure, blameless or religious, (ceremonially) consecrated.
  5. holy (adj.) - etymonline.com
  6. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/holy
  7. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/holy
  8. 1 Peter 3:15
  9. From Strong's number 37 άγιάζω hagiazo to make holy, i.e. (ceremonially) purify or consecrate; (mentally) to venerate:— hallow, be holy, sanctify— I make holy, treat as holy, set apart as holy, sanctify, hallow, purify.
  10. latria definition (dictionary.com)
  11. "second of the Ten Commandments"—This enumeration "second of the Ten" is according to the Catholic religion, which holds that making idols and graven images to worship (idolatry) is essentially an integral part of the unity of the First Commandment "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3-6.
  12. Exodus 20:7
  13. 1 Peter 1:15
  14. Joshua 3:5.
    See the sermon by William Galbraith "Sanctify yourselves" —"Is it possible for a Christian to sanctify himself? Yes; for man has a part to play in his own sanctification."
  15. dulia definition (dictionary.com)
  16. 1 Peter 1:14-17 2 Peter 3:11; 1 John 3:7; Romans 8:30; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 4:11-14; Hebrews 2:11; 10:12-14; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:12-24; 1 Corinthians 12:12-28.

External links