Hosanna (/hˈzænə/) is a liturgical word in Judaism and Christianity. In Judaism it refers to a cry expressing an appeal for divine help.[1] In Christianity it is used as a cry of praise.


The word hosanna (Latin osanna, Greek ὡσαννά, hōsanná) is from Hebrew הוֹשִׁיעָה־נָּא, הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא hôšîʿâ-nā and related to Aramaic ܐܘܿܫܲܥܢܵܐ (ʾōshaʿnā) meaning 'save, rescue, savior'.[2]

In the Hebrew Bible it is used only in verses such as "help" or "save, I pray" (Psalms 118:25). However, in the Gospels it is used as a shout of jubilation,[3] and this has given rise to complex discussions.[4] In that context, the word Hosanna seems to be a "special kind of respect" given to the one who saves, saved, will save, or is saving now. If so Hosanna means "a special honor to the one who saves." The literal interpretation "Save, now!",[5] based on Psalm 118:25, does not fully explain the occurrence of the word.[3]

Liturgical use in different traditions


In Jewish liturgy, the word is applied specifically to the Hoshana Service, a cycle of prayers from which a selection is sung each morning during Sukkot, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. The complete cycle is sung on the seventh day of the festival, which is called Hoshana Rabbah (הושענא רבה, "Great Hoshana").[5]: 726  In Judaism it is always used in its original Hebrew form, הושע נא Hosha na or הושענא Hoshana.


Crowds cry "Hosanna" during Jesus' entry into Jerusalem

Historical meaning

Since those welcoming Jesus were Jewish, as of course Jesus himself was, some would interpret the cry of "Hosanna" on the entry of Jesus in its proper meaning, as a cry by the people for salvation and rescue.[citation needed]

Christian reinterpretation

"Hosanna" many interpret as a shout of praise or adoration made in recognition of the messiahship of Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem,[3]

It is applied in numerous verses of the New Testament, including "Hosanna! blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ!" (Matthew 21:9,15; Mark 11:9–10; John 12:13), which forms part of the Sanctus prayer; "hosanna in the highest" (Mark 11.10); and "hosanna to the Son of David" (Matt 21:9). These quotations, however, are of words in the Jewish Psalm 118. Although not used in the book of Luke, the testimony of Jesus's entry into Jerusalem is recorded in Luke 19.

In church music

The "Hosanna Anthem",[6] based on the phrase Hosanna, is a traditional Moravian Church anthem written by Bishop Christian Gregor of Herrnhut sung on Palm Sunday and the first Sunday of Advent. It is antiphonal, i.e. a call-and-response song; traditionally, it is sung between the children and adult congregation, though it is not unheard of for it to be done in other ways, such as between choir and congregation, or played between trombone choirs.

Many songs for church use bear the title "Hosanna", including songs written by New Zealand singer Brooke Fraser Ligertwood (released on the 2007 Hillsong United albums All of the Above and live on Saviour King and covered by the Canadian group Starfield on their album I Will Go); another song by Paul Baloche on his 2006 album A Greater Song; another by gospel artist Kirk Franklin, and another by Andrew Peterson on his 2008 album Resurrection Letters II. Sidney Mohede's "Hosanna (Be Lifted High)" was included on Israel Houghton's 2011 Grammy Award-winning album Love God, Love People. "Hosanna! Loud Hosanna" is a well-known hymn by Jeanette Threlfall.

Osanahan procession (Philippines)

In the Philippines, particularly in Tagalog-speaking provinces, the term Osanahan refers to a procession of the faithful with the priest from a prayer station (termed kuból or Galilea in some places) after the blessing of palms to the local church for the Palm Sunday liturgy. At each stop, children dressed as angels sing the antiphon Hosanna Filio David in Filipino or Latin along with traditional music by a rondalla or a brass band.[7]

Other examples of modern usage

The Latin phrase

Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!
[Glory! Hosanna in the highest!]

features in the refrain of the 1924 Christmas carol "Ding Dong Merrily on High".

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright famously used the word in his exclamation "Hosanna! A client!" after securing a commission, breaking a long, dry spell.[8]

In the 1969 Broadway musical 1776 the word is used repeatedly as part of the chorus of the song "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men".

"Hosanna" is the name of one of the songs in the 1971 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. The song covers the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The message that Jesus conveys in this sequence is "There is not one of you that cannot win the kingdom, / The slow, the suffering, the quick, the dead."[9] The crowd's Hosannas become progressively tinged with foreboding ("Hey JC, JC, won't you smile for me/fight for me/die for me"),[9]. Their adoration is seen as a dangerous civil disturbance by the high priest Caiaphas, witnessing the event with members of the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees. ("Tell the rabble to be quiet/We anticipate a riot/This common crowd is much too loud.").[9] There is also a reprise of the chorus when Jesus is sent to King Herod.

A. R. Rahman composed the song "Hosanna" for the 2010 Tamil movie Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa. Here the word is used as an exclamation of joy when a man sees his beloved. The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) objected to this song and asked film-makers Fox Star Studios to remove it from the final cut of the Hindi remake of the film, Ekk Deewana Tha.[10]

Paul McCartney's album New, released in 2013, features a song titled "Hosanna". Contextually, he uses the phrase as a cry for help in light of the world's current state of affairs.

American comedians Tim and Eric use the phrase "blessed Hosanna" freely in their piece "Morning Prayer with Skott and Behr".[11]

The Swedish Black Metal band Funeral Mist song "Hosanna" uses the cry with the opposite intent of its Christian origins, as the band typically does with biblical references.

See also


  1. ^ Friberg Lexicon
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary and Bauer lexicon
  3. ^ a b c Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hosanna" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 783.
  4. ^ See the articles Thayer, J. H. (1902). "Hosanna". In James Hastings (ed.). A Dictionary of the Bible. and more especially Cheyne, T. K. "Hosanna". In Cheyne and Black (ed.). Encyclopedia Biblica.
  5. ^ a b Zlotowitz, Meir, ed. (1990). סדור קול יעקב The Complete ArtScroll Siddur: Nusach Ashkenaz. ArtScroll Mesorah Series. Translated by Scherman, Nosson (3rd ed.). Brooklyn, N.Y: Mesorah Publications. p. 727. ISBN 978-0-89906-650-9.
  6. ^ The Moravian Hymn Book with Services (authorized for use in the British Province of the Moravian Church), 1960
  7. ^ Zialcita, F., et al. Cuaresma. Bookman. Manila. 1997
  8. ^ Frank Lloyd Wright: The Fellowship. Event occurs at 17:20. Retrieved December 21, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c Lyrics of Hosanna Accessed 2 January 2024.
  10. ^ Prashant Singh (20 January 2012). "AR Rahman reacts to Hosanna controversy". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 20 January 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  11. ^ Vimeo clip, 7 June 2010