Unusual Words


Selah is defined as a Hebrew word that has been found at the ending of verses in Psalms and has been interpreted as an instruction calling for a break in the singing of the Psalm or it may mean “forever”. An example of Selah is seeing the term used seventy-one times in the Psalms in the Hebrew Bible.

Licorice478 says: Suppose Selah then means: Praise God Forever?


Question: “What is the meaning of hosanna?”

“Answer: Hosanna is a word used in some songs of praise, particularly on Palm Sunday. It is of Hebrew origin and was part of the shout of the multitudes as Jesus entered Jerusalem: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9).

Hosanna is often thought of as a declaration of praise, similar to hallelujah, but it is actually a plea for salvation. The Hebrew root words are found in Psalm 118:25, which says, “Save us, we pray, O LORD!” (ESV). The Hebrew words yasha (“deliver, save”) and anna (“beg, beseech”) combine to form the word that, in English, is “hosanna.” Literally, hosanna means “I beg you to save!” or “please deliver us!”

So, as Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem, the crowds were perfectly right to shout “Hosanna!” They were acknowledging Jesus as their Messiah, as shown in their address “Son of David.” Theirs was a cry for salvation and a recognition that Jesus is able to save.”


Question: “To what do the various musical terms in the book of Psalms refer?”

Answer: Several musical terms are used in the titles or verse breaks of the Psalms. In most Bible translations, a footnote will state that the meaning of these musical terms is uncertain. Many versions of the Bible will not attempt to translate the terms but instead will transliterate the Hebrew letters into a word pronounceable in English. The following list of musical terms in the book of Psalms gives a reference where each term can be found, along with suggested meanings:

Alamoth: Psalm 46:1. The meaning of this word is uncertain, although it has been suggested that the term refers to the music’s pitch being high or soprano, since its Hebrew root refers to young women or virgins.

Gittith: Psalm 81:1. Many meanings for gittith have been suggested, including “tune from Gath” and “song from the grape harvest.”

Higgaion: Psalm 9:16. The meaning of this word is uncertain, with some suggesting it refers to a musical interlude. The KJV translates it as “solemn sound” in Psalm 92:3.

Mahalath: Psalm 53:1. This most likely refers to an unidentified song tune or to a certain style of playing it.

Maskil: Psalm 32:1. The word means “prudent” and could refer to a contemplative style of music. The NET Bible translates it as “a well-written song.”

Miktam: Psalm 59:1. This technical word is of uncertain meaning to us.

Muth-labben: Psalm 9:1. This word can be translated as “to die for the son,” which could be the title of the tune used to accompany the song. However, the exact musical use of this term is uncertain.

Selah: Psalm 3:2. Selah is the most frequently used musical term in the Psalms, occurring 71 times in the book. Most scholars believe it refers to a pause or silence. Some Bibles translate it as “interlude.” Selah is also found inHabakkuk 3:3, 9, and 13.

Sheminith: Psalm 6:1. This musical term refers to a musical instrument—possibly an eight-string lyre—and can also be found in 1 Chronicles 15:21.

Shiggaion: Psalm 7:1. We are uncertain of this word’s meaning. Suggestions range from “dirge” to “rapid change of rhythm.”

The Psalms are songs and therefore include many musical terms that were important for those originally playing and singing these sacred tunes. Though the meaning of most of these terms has been lost, we can appreciate their importance and consider how God has used and continues to use these songs to the praise of His glory.


Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary


meditation; consideration

Smith’s Bible Dictionary


(meditation), a word which occurs three times in the book of Psalms — (Psalms 9:16; 19:14; 92:3) (margin). The word has two meanings, one of a general character, implying thought; reflection , and another, in (Psalms 9:16) and Psal 92:3 Of a technical nature, the precise meaning of which cannot at this distance of time be determined. (Canon Cook says that it probably means an interlude giving musical expression to the feelings suggested by the preceding words.–ED.)

ATS Bible Dictionary


In Psalm 9:16, is supposed to indicate a pause in the singing of the Psalm, for meditation, probably with an instrumental interlude.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary

In Psalm 92:3 means the murmuring tone of the harp. In Psalm 9:16 it is a musical sign, denoting probably a pause in the instrumental interlude. In Psalm 19:14 the word is rendered “meditation;” and in Lamentations 3:62, “device” (R.V., “imagination”).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


hi-ga’yon, hi-gi’-on (higgayon): The meaning of this word is uncertain. Two interpretations are possible; the one based on an allied Arabic root gives “a deep vibrating sound,” the other derived from the Greek versions of Psalm 9:16, where we read higgayon Celah, takes it to mean an instrumental interlude.


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