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Worthy Words Holy Coming to you from the OED , the AHD , the MWO , and Betsy Williams The American Heritage ® Dictionary of the English Language Fourth Edition.  2000 ADJECTIVE: 1. Belonging to, derived from, or associated with a divine power; sacred.

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coming to you from the oed the ahd the mwo and betsy williams

Worthy Words

Holy

Coming to you from the OED, the AHD, the MWO,

and

Betsy Williams

the american heritage dictionary of the english language fourth edition 2000
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language Fourth Edition.  2000

ADJECTIVE:

1. Belonging to, derived from, or associated with a divine power; sacred.

2. Regarded with or worthy of worship or veneration; revered: a holy book.

3. Living according to a strict or highly moral religious or spiritual system; saintly: a holy person.

4. Specified or set apart for a religious purpose: a holy place.

5. Solemnly undertaken; sacrosanct: a holy pledge.

6. Regarded as deserving special respect or reverence: The pursuit of peace is our holiest quest.

7.Informal. Used as an intensive: raised holy hell over the mischief their children did.

ETYMOLOGY: Middle English holi, from Old English halig. See kailo- : Whole, uninjured, of good omen. From Old Norse heill, healthy. Holy; holiday, hollyhock, from Old English hälig, holy, sacred; hallow; Allhallowmas, Halloween, from Old English hälgian.

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Function: adjectiveEtymology: Middle English, from Old English hālig; akin to Old English hāl whole -- more at WHOLEDate: before 12th century1: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness2: DIVINE <for the Lord our God is holy -- Psalms 99:9 (Authorized Version)>3: devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity <a holy temple> <holy prophets>4 a: having a divine quality <holy love> b: venerated as or as if sacred <holy scripture> <a holy relic>5 -- used as an intensive <this is a holy mess> <he was a holy terror when he drank -- Thomas Wolfe> -- often used in combination as a mild oath <holy smoke>
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A. adj.

    1. Kept or regarded as inviolate from ordinary use, and appropriated or set apart for religious use or observance; consecrated, dedicated, sacred.  (This sense blends eventually with 3b.)

2. As applied to deities, the development of meaning has probably been: Held in religious regard or veneration, kept reverently sacred from human profanation or defilement; hence, Of a character that evokes human veneration and reverence; and thus, in Christian use, Free from all contamination of sin and evil, morally and spiritually perfect and unsullied, possessing the infinite moral perfection which Christianity attributes to the Divine character. Cf. sense 4.  Its earlier application to heathen deities is found in ON., but app. not in OE.; in later use (see b) it renders Latin sanctus, sacer, so applied.

 3. Hence,    a. Of persons: Specially belonging to, commissioned by, or devoted to God (or so regarded): e.g. angels, the Virgin Mary, prophets, apostles, martyrs, saints, popes, bishops, etc. the holy souls, the souls of the faithful departed, the blessed dead.

b. Of things: Pertaining to God or the Divine Persons; having their origin or sanction from God, or partaking of a Divine quality or character. the Holy Name, the name of Jesus as an object of formal devotion among Catholics, as in the Litany of the Holy Name and the festival of the Holy Name of Jesus.  See also M.E.D. s.v. holi adj.2 2a.

    c. More generally: Of high and reverend excellence; formerly said of things highly esteemed for their qualities or ‘virtues’.

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4. Conformed to the will of God, entirely devoted to God: in earlier times often connoting the practice of asceticism and religious observances; now usually: Morally and spiritually unstained; free from sinful affection; of godly character and life; sanctified, saintly; sinless.    a. Of persons.

    b. Of actions, feelings, etc.

    c. Used trivially:    (a) with horror or the like (orig. U.S.), expressing intensity;    (b) with unfavourable implication of piety or sanctimoniousness (colloq.);    (c) used with a following word as an oath or expletive, as holy cow!, holy Moses!, holy smoke!holy Joe: see quots.; holy terror: a person of exasperating habits or manners; holy Willie: a hypocritically pious person.

5. a. In special collocations.  Holy Alliance: an alliance formed in 1815, after the fall of Napoleon, between the sovereigns of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, with the professed object of uniting their respective governments in a Christian brotherhood. Holy bone [tr. L. os sacrum: cf. Ger. das heilige bein]: the SACRUM. holy brotherhood [tr. Sp. Santa Hermandad]: = HERMANDAD. holy doors: in the Greek Church, the doors in the screen which separates the altar and sanctuary from the main body of the church. holy laugh U.S., a laugh by a person in a state of religious fervour. holy oak: an oak marking a parish boundary, at which a stoppage was made for the reading of the Gospel for the day in the ‘beating of the bounds’ during the Rogation days; called also gospel-oak, gospel-tree. Holy One: a holy person; used as a title of God or Christ; one dedicated to or consecrated by God. Holy Roller (see ROLLERn.1 17b). holy seed: the seed of some species of Artemisia, also called Wormseed.

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  b. In names of plants: holy basil, the common Indian species of basil, Ocimum sanctum. holy grass, a grass of genus Hierochloe, esp. northern h. g., H. borealis (quot. 1842); also, rarely = holy-hay; holy hay, Sainfoin; applied both to Onobrychis sativa and Medicago sativa: see LUCERNE, SAINFOIN; holy hemp, ‘an old name for Galeopsis Ladanum’ (Miller); See also HOLY GHOST, holyTHISTLE.

    c. Compar. holier in colloq. phr. holier-than-thou: characterized by an attitude of superior sanctity. (Cf. Isaiah lxv. 5.)

  B. absol. or as n.

    1. That which is holy; a holy thing.

    2. A holy place, sanctuary. Obs. (exc. as in 5).

    3. A holy person, a saint: = HALLOWn.Obs.

    4. pl. Sacred rites, devotions. Obs.

    5. holy of holies. [A Hebraism, q desh haqq d sh m, rendered in Exod. xxvi. 34 ‘most holy place’, but literally reproduced in LXX and Vulgate , sanctum sanctorum, whence in Wyclif, etc.]    a. The ‘most holy place’, the inner chamber of the sanctuary in the Jewish tabernacle and temple, separated by a veil from the outer chamber or ‘holy place’.    b. transf. The inner part of any temple; the sanctuary or bema of a Christian church, esp. in the Greek Church; a small recess containing a cross at the east end of a Nestorian church.    c. fig. A place of special sacredness, an innermost shrine.

6. sup. holiest, used absol.    a. As a title of God or Christ.

    b. = holy of holies: see 5.

    C. Comb.    a. adverbial, with other adjs., as holy-cruel, -proud, -wise.    b. parasynthetic, as holy-eyed, -minded, -rolling, -tempered, -thoughted adjs.; hence holy-mindedness, etc.    c. holy-maker, sanctifier; also holy-making, sanctification.

oed etymology
OED: Etymology

A native word: OE. hálig , also Northumbrian (whence northern ME. hely), OFris. hêlech, OS. hêlag, -eg (MDu. heilech, -egh-, Du. heilig), OHG. heilag MHG. heilec, Ger. heilig), ON. heilagr (Sw. helig, Da. hellig):

A derivative of the adjective *hailo-, OE. hál, free from injury, whole, hale, or of the derivative noun *hailoz-,*hailiz-, in OHG. heil, ON. heill health, happiness, good luck, in ON. also omen, auspice.

OTeut. type *hailag-oz, the sense of which is expressed in the Gothic of Ulfilas by weihs (but hailag, app. ‘consecrated, dedicated’, is read on a Runic inscription generally held to be Gothic).

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First Sense

  • In the AHD:
  • 4. Specified or set apart for a religious purpose: a holy place.
  • In the OED:

1.Kept or regarded as inviolate from ordinary use, and appropriated or set apart for religious use or observance; consecrated, dedicated, sacred. (This sense blends eventually with 3b.)

 3. b. Of things: Pertaining to God or the Divine Persons; having their origin or sanction from God, or partaking of a Divine quality or character. the Holy Name, the name of Jesus as an object of formal devotion among Catholics, as in the Litany of the Holy Name and the festival of the Holy Name of Jesus.

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Sense Two:

2. As applied to deities, the development of meaning has probably been: Held in religious regard or veneration; hence, Of a character that evokes human veneration and reverence; and thus, in Christian use, Free from all contamination of sin and evil, morally and spiritually perfect and unsullied, possessing the infinite moral perfection which Christianity attributes to the Divine character.   Its earlier application to heathen deities is found in ON., but app. not in OE.

 3. Hence,  a. Of persons: Specially belonging to, commissioned by, or devoted to God (or so regarded): e.g. angels, the Virgin Mary, prophets, apostles, martyrs, saints, popes, bishops, etc. the holy souls, the souls of the faithful departed, the blessed dead.

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Sense Four:

OED:

4. c. Used trivially:    (a) with horror or the like (orig. U.S.), expressing intensity; 

(b) with unfavourable implication of piety or sanctimoniousness (colloq.);

(c) used with a following word as an oath or expletive, as holy cow!, holy Moses!, holy smoke!,

holy terror: a person of exasperating habits or manners.

AHD:

7. Informal. Used as an intensive: raised holy hell over the mischief their children did.

MWO:

5 -- used as an intensive <this is a holy mess> <he was a holy terror when he drank -- Thomas Wolfe>

-- often used in combination as a mild oath

< holy >

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From AHD:

ETYMOLOGY: Middle English holi, from Old English halig. From Old Norse heill, healthy. Holy; holiday, hollyhock, from Old English hälig, holy, sacred; hallow; Allhallowmas, Halloween, from Old English hälgian.

From OED:

  1. A consecrated day, a religious festival. Now usually written HOLY-DAY. [OE. háli dæ (dat. pl. háli da um), found beside the uncompounded háli dæ in two words (dat. pl. hál um da um). In the combined form OE. á instead of being rounded to ME. ô, was shortened to a (cf. HALLOW, HALLOWMAS, HALIBUT, HALIDOM), giving halidai, halliday, until, in the 16th century, holy day or holy-day became the usual form.

About the same time holiday (holliday), with o short, being a later combination and shortening of holy day, rare in late ME., took the place of the earlier haliday, which however remained in the northern dialects, where also (esp. in Scotland) the uncombined form was haly day.  It is thus difficult to divide holiday and holy-day . Under this article are included the combined forms haliday, holiday; the uncombined forms, as well as those in which the vocalization shows that the word was analyzed, are treated under HOLY-DAY. But mediæval scribes as to the combination or separation of the elements of compounds were so irregular, and modern editors so uncertain, that many ME. instances might be placed under either article.] 

Holiday

all hallow s eve
All Hallow’s Eve

Shortened from All-Hallow-mass: The feast of All Hallows or All Saints. Also attrib., as Hallowmas-day, -eve.

1389 in Eng. Gilds (1870) 60 Ye soneday be-forn halwemesse day

ALL-HALLOW

4.All Hallow Eve: the eve of All Saints. See also HALLOW-E'EN:

Shortened from All-Hallow-Even.  The eve of All Hallows' or All Saints'; the last night of October.. In the Old Celtic calendar the year began on 1st November, so that the last evening of October was ‘old-year's night’, the night of all the witches, which the Church transformed into the Eve of All Saints.

Etymology: ALL- E1 + hallows pl. of hallow, OE. hálga, a holy (man), a saint. The nom. pl. hálgan passed through the forms halwen, halowen, halowe, halowes. The gen. pl. hálgena with -tide, -day, became halwene, halwen, halowen, hallowen, hallown, hallon, hollan, holland.] 

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Worthy Words

Holy

Elizabeth M. Williams

Appalachian State University

History of the English Language

ENG 4660

Fall 2003