Alleluia or Halleluia


Is it pronounced w/ an H or not. I notice a lot of Protestants pronounce the H.??


Hi Gregory,

This is a Hebrew expression (Halleluyah = praise you Yah [God’s name]). The Greek critical editions spell it hallelouia, but the Vulgate omits the H. Hence the Catholic custom of spelling it “alleluia”.

The other English spelling, “hallelujah” (pron. hal-lay-LOO-yah), is usual in Protestant circles.This reflects the Hebrew more closely. The spelling Halleluia is non-existent.



what is Vulgate?


Since it’s the same word being transliterated in different ways, I wonder if the “h” in “hallelujah” is meant to be mute, or almost so, as in “hour” or “honor”.

But then where would that leave that popular Gospel acclamation that goes “Holley - holley - holley - LOO - OO - YAH”??


however the spirit moves you…



[quote=Gregory24]what is Vulgate?

The Vulgate is the Latin translation of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the hebrew Bible) by St. Jerome.


This is all mostly correct, but a couple of minor points might be added just to be myopic :smiley:

There is a triple transliteration going on.

Hebrew -> Greek -> Latin -> English.

Each time a transliteration is made, different letters are used to represent the sounds of the earlier language, and that languages particular ability to speak changes the sound of the word slightly.

In Aramaic/Hebrew the ‘h’ sound was pronounced.
It would have been, hAlal Yahweh! – or out of respect hAlal Yah!
(But again this is just a transliteration, you have to guess at the sound).

The Y sound oftentimes is transliterated as J. (There was no exact J sound in Greek or Latin, they used the dual vowel ‘ie’ to make a sound close to J. e.g. Iesus Yesus Jesus are all pretty close in the way they sound.)

I do not know much about Hebrew/Aramaic, but many people who seem to know argue exactly which sound it was. (No 2000 year old tape recorders to end the debate!)

When the word went from Hebrew/Aramaic to Greek, the ‘h’ sound went with it to become αλλελυια. This word is about as close as the Greek come to pronouncing the hebrew/aramaic. You will notice, if you look closely, that one letter appears to be missing -- instead a is present. That is called a rough breathing which makes the ‘h’ sound (it is a pronounced ‘h’ in the Greek).
Many Greek texts do not have the rough breathing – especially in the new testament. I am not sure why, but it is not uncommon for easily accessable texts to drop all breathing marks.
Latin people often borrowed words from the Greek, and when they did they almost invariably dropped the ‘h’ anyway. So the word became shortened to alleluia.

When Jerome came along, he checked both the Greek and the Hebrew (he knew both, but he knew Hebrew better). Because it was already a longstanding custom in Rome to pronounce the word from the Greek, which was a liturgy alive at the time as well as Latin, Jerome chose to leave the word as alleluia rather than retransliterate it from the hebrew. In other words, it was tradition which chose the sound we have.

So the word stayed in this form, the Latin one, for a very long time. Until it was again transliterated into the english from the Latin – as the well beloved alleluia. (Considering we have a roman alphabet, you might even argue it was just copied :slight_smile: )

It is funny how in English and Latin, the ‘h’ sound is still attached to the word. In hebrew the h preceeded the a sound, in english we reversed it! the ‘a’ used is pronounced like ‘ahhhh’. :slight_smile:

as for the ‘j’ in hallelujah, I think it obvious that many protestants would rather have nothing to do with tradition.

Hope that helps.


If I may add a couple more linguistic points …

  • The Germans pronounce their letter “J” as we do our “Y”. A good bit of Bible scholarship (and scholarship in general) has been done by Germans. I can’t speak for sure about it, but I have always thought that the “J” in “Hallelujah” came from a German influence somewhere.

  • The word “hallel” is Hebrew for “praise” (the verb) and is spelled in that language “heh” (H) - “lamed” (L) - “lamed” (L). The “u” at the end (“hallelu”) puts the verb into the imperative mood (telling somebody to do something), second person plural. So the word “hallelu” translates literally into “y’all praise.”

  • Liberian


Hi Yonnie,

The Vulgate is the Latin translation of the Septuagint

That is only partly true. For the Old Testament, St.Jerome followed the Septuagint Canon (as opposed to the Jewish canon). But he translated the books that were extent in Hebrew FROM the Hebrew and the books that were extent only in Greek from the Greek. In other words, he used the original texts.

The New Testament is of course translated from the Greek.



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