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I don't understand how the word amen was coined by breaking it down to what I presume to be its constituents, a- and men. It seems to be a phrase of affirmation — I don't see what men has anything to do with it. Does it?

Also, which is the correct pronunciation? "Ah-men" or "ay-men"? When should I use either?

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-1; This question is one part bad assumption about etymology and one part general reference. There isn't any reason to assume that one word contained in another is relevant: "cat" has nothing to do with "at" and "garage" isn't likely related to "rage". (Although it would be funny if I ate my words on that...) –  MrHen Apr 29 '11 at 17:01
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closed as off-topic by tchrist, MετάEd, p.s.w.g, Kristina Lopez, Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jul 17 '13 at 14:52

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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

No, it doesn't come from that.

I know, from personal knowledge, that the meaning can be something like "be it so/in truth/so be it", and this is confirmed in Wikipedia and also in the link below about pronunciation.

About the pronunciation, the OALD says that you can use either, apparently. The "syllabation/spelling" might just be a matter of "rhythm".

While, about the origin, the NOAD states:

ORIGIN - Old English , from ecclesiastical Latin, from Greek amēn, from Hebrew ' āmēn ‘truth, certainty,’ used adverbially as expression of agreement or consent, and adopted in the Septuagint as a solemn expression of belief or affirmation.

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I believe (not sure) that Ah-men is more common in UK, and ay-men in US. Don't know for other countries... –  Benjol Apr 29 '11 at 12:19
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etymonline has it coming all the way from Hebrew amen (through Ecclesiastical Greek, Late Latin and Old English), which itself comes from the Semitic root a-m-n (“to be trustworthy, confirm, support”).

Also of interest:

Used in Old English only at the end of Gospels, otherwise translated as Soðlic! or Swa hit ys, or Sy! As an expression of concurrence after prayers, it is recorded from early 13th century.

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