Holy Spirit vs. Holy Ghost


When did we change from Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit and why? Does anyone here know?:confused:


The reason for the change is that “spirit” is a better translation of the Greek. We get “ghost” from the German “geist” – but German isn’t the base language from which we work. Greek is. The Greek (pneuma) derives from Hebrew (ruach) both of which suggest the movement of air. Thus, spirit is a better translation – and is a precise translation of the Latin “spiritus.”

Deacon Ed


I didn’t know that! Very interesting, thanks Ed! :thumbsup:


thanks Deacon Ed! That was very helpful.
Interesting thinking as well.


Still, it is fine to use either term. The older versions of the Litany of the Holy Ghost used both terms in the same prayer.


I think it’s also possibly got to do with the connotations of the words as well. “Ghost” in modern times are is likely to be associated with a Casper-esque entity, whereas spirit isn’t so “strictly” defined in our minds.


English ghost is not a loanword from German. Ghost and German Geist are related, of course, deriving from the same common ancestor. German uses Der heilige Geist.

Spirit, on the other hand was borrowed into English perhaps from Old French.

To the OP, you may have noticed that “Holy Ghost” is still used by Traditional Catholics.


In LAtin we say Spiritus Sancti. In Spanish, which is closer to Latin than English, the expression is “Espiritu Santo” and it has always been like that. I think it was time for the English speaking Catholics to armonize with the Universal Church? Also, and this may be silly, but since Madonna used the Holy Ghost phrase in her song Like a Prayer, I prefer to stick with The Holy Spirit.


I was told that in the modern world the word ghost brought to mind what we see and read about so much - ghosts. And the term spirit is better with modern english. But there is nothing wrong with saying Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. I use both at times. The church does not forbid it. God bless.:slight_smile:


Where can I get a documented history of who and when Holy Spirit started being used in English? In other words, is there some good supporting documentation showing the initial changes for English Catholics and likewise for any Protestants etc?

Thank you.


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