Kyrie Eleison is a term that is used in the Latin Mass of the Catholic Church. However, I've been told that the phrase is entirely Greek and not Latin at all!

So is the phrase Latin or Greek? Is it transliterated from Greek and therefore Latin?

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    This kind of question is off topic here. It could be on topic at Biblical Hermeneutics, but you would need to edit it to ask about a specific verse.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 9:13
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    Brother/Sister, the phrase isn't from the bible. It is from Catholic tradition. But you can find kyrie and eleison as separate words in different forms in the original Greek of the New Testament of course. It means "Lord have mercy."
    – geoyws
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 9:17
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    Math 20:31, it's very much in the bible as is the fullness of the faith in the Catholic Church. Kyrie is the Greek translation. The petition is ancient in origin as it was spoken to Christ as the blind men asked the Lord to see. @Geoyws, perhaps that request should be made by you.
    – Marc
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 10:28
  • I make that request all the time @Marc. Like I said, it is of separate words, and not of a phrase. "Ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς, κύριε, υἱὸς Δαβίδ" blueletterbible.org/…
    – geoyws
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 10:36
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    @curiousdannii As part of the Catholic mass, this is definitely on topic here. The fact that the phrase also appears in the Bible does not make it off-topic.
    – Ben Miller
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 12:23

1 Answer 1


It is simply Greek that has been written in Roman letters.

The city of Rome was essentially bilingual from around the time of Caesar Augustus until at least the third or fourth century A.D.: the people spoke mostly vulgar Latin or common (Koine) Greek. Greek was the more common language among the poor, who formed the majority of the ranks of the Church at first. The Roman liturgy, therefore, was originally composed in Greek, and was only translated into Latin in the third century, as vulgar Latin gradually became the more common language. (The Wikipedia article on the pre-Tridentine liturgy has some good sources and information, actually.)

In any case, the Kyrie is simply the transliteration in Roman letters of the Greek Κύριε (or Χρίστε), ἐλέησον, “Lord (or Christ), have mercy.” It is all that remains of the original Greek version of the Roman Rite.

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    A more complete article on the subject is available on New Advent.
    – user3961
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 19:37
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    No, it is not all that remains. It is all that remains in the Roman Liturgy. In the Liturgy of St. Basil and of St. John Chrysostom, if the Bishop is present, there are also the phrases, είς πολλά έτη δέσποτα & άγιος ο Θεός, άγιος ισχυρός, άγιος αθάνατος ελέησον ημάς sung even when the language of the Liturgy is Slavonic. This is a holdover from the days when Bishops in Russia were all Greeks, so they were addressed in their own language and spoke to the congregation in their own language.
    – Matt J.
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 8:48
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    @MattJ. In the Roman Rite, the Trisagion makes an appearance during the Good Friday service. One of the traditional hymns is the “Reproaches,” which features the Trisagion in Greek and Latin. Commented May 3, 2017 at 9:37
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    @Wtrmute It is true that the aristocracy would go to Athens to learn classical Greek, but the immigrant poor in Rome were commonly from Greek-speaking areas (e.g., the south of Italy, a.k.a Magna Graecia). Commented May 3, 2017 at 15:31
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    @Wtrmute There are tons of inscriptions in Greek here in Rome—most of them rather bad quality, which is a good indication that they are from un-learned persons. Commented May 3, 2017 at 15:42

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