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HOSANNA (hō-zăn'a, Heb. hôsa‘-nā’, Gr. hōsanna, save now). Originally a prayer, “Save now, pray” (Ps.118.25), which had lost its primary meaning and become an exclamation of praise (Matt.21.9, Matt.21.15; Mark.11.9-Mark.11.10; John.12.13). That it is transliterated instead of translated in three of the Gospels (Luke omits it) is evidence of the change of meaning. Not that the Hebrew word no longer had any connection with salvation: the context, which is a reminiscence of Ps.118.25-Ps.118.26, if not a direct quotation from or allusion to it, shows that in its application to God the Father and to Jesus, hosanna was concerned with the messianic salvation.

The NT Greek transliteration of a Hebrew term meaning “save, we pray.” The phrase in a slightly different form occurs in Psalm 118:25, which was used in the Jewish Passover rites of NT times. There is evidence that by then “hosanna” was a ritual exclamation (of praise as much as supplication), associated with Messianic hopes, which was uttered in the context of several Jewish festivals. The NT use of the word in the context of Christ's final entry into Jerusalem (e.g., Matt. 21:9) brought it into the early Christian eucharistic liturgy, and also into the Palm Sunday liturgy somewhat later.

HOSANNA (הוֹשִׁ֘יעָ֥ה נָּ֑א; ὡσαννά, G6057). Hosanna was originally a Heb. invocation addressed to God, meaning, “O save,” “Save now,” or “Save us” (Ps 118:25). Later it came to be used as a joyous acclamation, an ascription of praise to God. By Jeremiah’s time it had become an ejaculation of joy or shout of welcome (Jer 31:7). In this sense it is said to have been used at the joyous Feast of Tabernacles, the seventh day of which came to be called “The Great Hosanna” or “Hosanna Day.” It may be noted that some scholars think it continued to retain some of its original propitiatory sense into NT usage. The Gr. word Hosanna is a transliteration from the Heb., and in turn is transliterated into Eng.

“Hosanna” appears in the Eng. VS of the Bible only six times, all with reference to two closely related incidents in the NT. With reference to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, three of the evangelists give accounts containing both identical and supplementary phrases. Matthew (21:9) reports that “the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” Mark (11:9f) records, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest.” John (12:13) gives briefly, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” Matthew (21:15) in describing the subsequent scene in the Temple reports “the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’”


J. H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon (1889), 682; E. E. Tilden, The Oxford Annotated Bible (1962), 1198f. (annotations).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

W. L. Walker