Weekends are when many Americans gather in their respective houses of worship and repeat the same word: amen. But, what does the word mean? And, why do people say it?
Origins of amen
Amen is commonly used after a prayer, creed, or other formal statement. It is spoken to express solemn ratification or agreement. It means “it is so” or “so it be.” Amen is derived from the Hebrew āmēn, which means “certainty,” “truth,” and “verily.”
In English, the word has two primary pronunciations: ah-men or ay-men. But, it can be expressed in endless ways, from a soft whisper to a joyous shout. Amen is found in both the Old and New Testament.
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Who says amen?
Modern worshippers of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all use a version of the word, and records indicate that it has been used as an expression of concurrence after prayer for centuries. The opposite of amen, arguably is cursing. Yet, both cursing and prayer have the same roots in the three major monotheistic faiths, strangely enough.
In Judaism, congregants say amen in response to the words of the rabbi, or spiritual leader. The term appears as part of a number Jewish prayers.
In Christianity, amen occupies a central but often spontaneous position at the end of prayers or as a personal expression of affirmation for another’s words during a sermon or other religious discourse.
Islam, like Judaism, incorporates a more formal use of the word into ritual but also deems it an appropriate way to end any sort of prayer. Rather than amen, Islam generally says amin.
Amen is also used colloquially. For example: “Dinner is finally ready—amen!”
In Egyptian mythology, amen, or amun, was a deity represented by a ram, the god of life and reproduction. A controversial theory posits that amen derives from the Ancient Egyptians.
When we pray, almost anything goes: dancing, whirling, kneeling, or swaying. And, words of affirmation are almost always spoken. Amen is certainly one. What are others?