Devil And God

Etymological Meaning of Devil

The most striking illustration of this process is to be found in the word devil itself: To a reader unfamiliar with the endless tricks which language delights in playing, it may seem shocking to be told that the Gypsies use the word devil as the name of God.[96]

This, however, is not because these people have made the archfiend an object of worship, but because the Gypsy language, descending directly from the Sanskrit, has retained in its primitive exalted sense a word which the English language has received only in its debased and perverted sense. The Teutonic words devil, teufel, diuval, djofull, djevful, may all be traced back to the Zend dev,[97] a name in which is implicitly contained the record of the oldest monotheistic revolution known to history. The influence of the so-called Zoroastrian reform upon the long-subsequent development of Christianity will receive further notice in the course of this paper; for the present it is enough to know that it furnished for all Christendom the name by which it designates the author of evil.

To the Parsee follower of Zarathustra the name of the Devil has very nearly the same signification as to the Christian; yet, as Grimm has shown, it is nothing else than a corruption of deva, the Sanskrit name for God. When Zarathustra overthrew the primeval Aryan nature-worship in Bactria, this name met the same evil fate which in early Christian times overtook the word demon, and from a symbol of reverence became henceforth a symbol of detestation.[98] But throughout the rest of the Aryan world it achieved a nobler career, producing the Greek theos, the Lithuanian diewas, the Latin deus, and hence the modern French Dieu, all meaning God.


O.E. god "supreme being, deity," from P.Gmc. *guthan (cf. Du. god, Ger. Gott, O.N. guð, Goth. guþ), from PIE *ghut- "that which is invoked" (cf. Skt. huta- "invoked," an epithet of Indra), from root *gheu(e)- "to call, invoke." But some trace it to PIE *ghu-to- "poured," from root *gheu- "to pour, pour a libation" (source of Gk. khein "to pour," khoane "funnel" and khymos "juice;" also in the phrase khute gaia "poured earth," referring to a burial mound). "Given the Greek facts, the Germanic form may have referred in the first instance to the spirit immanent in a burial mound" [Watkins]. Cf. also Zeus. Not related to good. Originally neut. in Gmc., the gender shifted to masc. after the coming of Christianity. O.E. god was probably closer in sense to L. numen. A better word to translate deus might have been P.Gmc. *ansuz, but this was only used of the highest deities in the Gmc. religion, and not of foreign gods, and it was never used of the Christian God. It survives in Eng. mainly in the personal names beginning in Os-.

"I want my lawyer, my tailor, my servants, even my wife to believe in God, because it means that I shall be cheated and robbed and cuckolded less often. ... If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." [Voltaire]

First record of Godawful "terrible" is from 1878; God speed as a parting is from c.1470. God-fearing is attested from 1835. God bless you after someone sneezes is credited to St. Gregory the Great, but the pagan Romans (Absit omen) and Greeks had similar customs.

Oddly, the exact history of the word God is unknown. The word God is a relatively new European invention, which was never used in any of the ancient Judaeo-Christian scripture manuscripts that were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin.


A pagan divinity explicitly mentioned in Is., lxv, 11, where the Hebrew name Image, "Gad", is rightly rendered "Fortune" in the Vulgate. As far as is known in the present day, Gad is a word of Chanaanite origin, which, long before the passage of Isaias just referred to was written, had, from a mere appellative, become the proper name of a deity. Biblical testimony to the ancient worship of Gad in Chanaan is certainly found in the names of such places as Baalgad (Joshua 11:17; 12:7; 13:5) and Maglalgad "tower of Gad" (Joshua 15:37). A trace of Gad's worship in Syria may perhaps be found in Lia's exclamation Image "begad" on the birth of her first son when she also called "Gad" (Genesis 30:11); this was admitted of old by St. Augustine (Quæstiones in Heptateuchum, in P.L., XXXIV, col. 571), and at a much more recent date by Dom Calmet, in his Commentary on Genesis.

Gad was the name of the pan-Semitic god of fortune, and is attested in ancient records of Aram and Arabia. Gad is also mentioned by the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 65:11 - some translations obscure the mention of the deity), as having been worshipped by a number of Hebrews during the babylonian captivity. Gad apparantly differed from the god of destiny, who was known as Meni. The root verb in Gad means cut or divide, and from this comes the idea of fate being meted out