1. a sacred song or hymn.
  2. (initial capital letter) any of the songs, hymns, or prayers contained in the Book of Psalms.
  3. a metric version or paraphrase of any of these.
  4. a poem of a similar nature.

Origin of psalm

before 900; Middle English psalm(e), s(e)alm(e), psame, Old English ps(e)alm, sealm < Late Latin psalmus < Greek psalmós song sung to the harp, orig., a plucking, as of strings, akin to psállein to pluck, pull, play (the harp)
Related formspsalm·ic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for psalms

hymn, verse, paean, chant, eulogy, shout, celebration, chorale, canticle

Examples from the Web for psalms

Contemporary Examples of psalms

Historical Examples of psalms

  • They had gone to the same church, sat in the same pew, sang the psalms from the same book.

  • Darnley requested a book of Psalms, that he might read himself to sleep.

  • She had had advantages at least equal to those which David the Shepherd had—and he wrote the Psalms.

    David Elginbrod

    George MacDonald

  • For what did oor faithers dee if it wasna for the psalms o' Dauvit?

    St. Cuthbert's

    Robert E. Knowles

  • That is, no' like Dauvit's psalms—but it's upliftin' for a' that.

    St. Cuthbert's

    Robert E. Knowles

British Dictionary definitions for psalms


  1. (functioning as singular) the collection of 150 psalms in the Old TestamentFull title: The Book of Psalms


  1. (often capital) any of the 150 sacred songs, lyric poems, and prayers that together constitute a book (Psalms) of the Old Testament
  2. a musical setting of one of these poems
  3. any sacred song or hymn
Derived Formspsalmic, adjective

Word Origin for psalm

Old English, from Late Latin psalmus, from Greek psalmos song accompanied on the harp, from psallein to play (the harp)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for psalms



Old English psealm, salm, partly from Old French psaume, saume, partly from Church Latin psalmus, from Greek psalmos "song sung to a harp," originally "performance on stringed instrument; a plucking of the harp" (cf. psaltes "harper"), from psallein "play on a stringed instrument, pull, twitch" (see feel (v.)).

Used in Septuagint for Hebrew mizmor "song," especially the sort sung by David to the harp. Related: Psalmodize; psalmody. After some hesitation, the pedantic ps- spelling prevailed in English, as it was in many neighboring languages (German, French, etc.), but English is almost alone in not pronouncing the p-.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper