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What's the difference between these two words other than obviously the spelling. I've seen some songs write Alleluia which sounds very similar to Hallelujah when sung.

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Both spellings have come into English from the same origin but via different routes.

  • "Hallelujah" is from the Hebrew via the Greek transliteration and is close to the original Hebrew
  • "Alleluia" is from the Hebrew via the Latin.

Both transliterations began with the Hebrew. The original Hebrew word means to "Praise the LORD/YHWH"

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    This is the same reason that “in the Latin alphabet, Jehovah begins with an I”. The letter J and the silent H don’t exist in classical Latin. – Thunderforge Dec 23 '18 at 22:55
  • Yes, although that initial H is not silent in any English dialects I'm familiar with – iconoclast Dec 24 '18 at 0:57
  • The Greek transliteration isn't closer to the Hebrew. The 'J' which Greek placed in Jacob, Judah, Jesus/Joshua, Jerusalem, and Hallelujah are all originally Yod – Ben Voigt Dec 24 '18 at 2:25
  • Correct - good call – user43409 Dec 24 '18 at 3:15
  • The initial "H" in the Greek reflects the Hebrew - the Latin lacks it. – user43409 Dec 24 '18 at 4:40
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Hallelujah is used 4 times in the NT, all of which are in Revelation 19:1-6 (see GotQuestions). The Greek word used is Ἁλληλουϊά, which transliterates most directly to Hallélouia or also to Hallelujah. The added H at the beginning comes from the rough breathing mark, which indicates to place an h sound at the beginning of the word and thus into transliterations. Another example is with the word for "the", which is ὁ (ho).

Quoting the Vine's expository dictionary, "'Alleluia,' without the initial 'H,' is actually a misspelling" (Vine, Unger, White, NT, 287).

Additionally, Hallelujah is used 24 times in the Old Testament, all of which are in 15 of the Psalms between Psalm 104-150 (source). (Though, GotQuestions says it is found over 50 times in OT). Here is the interlinear for Psalm 135:1, which starts with the exclamation that means "Praise Yahweh" (the interlinear makes this obvious and explicit). It looks like two connected words: hallu (praise) and Yah (Yahweh).

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