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Short description: Lord

Adon (Phoenician: 𐤀𐤃𐤍) literally means "lord." Adon has an uncertain etymology, although it is generally believed to be derived from the Ugaritic ad, “father.”[1]: 531

Ugaritic tradition

The pluralization of adon "my lord" is adonai "my lords."[2] Otto Eissfeldt theorizes that adonai is a post positive element attested to in Ugaritic writing. He points to the myth of the struggle between Baal and Yam as evidence.[1]: 531 Some theorize that adonai was originally an epithet of the god Yahweh depicted as the chief antagonist of "the Baʿals" in the Tanakh. Only later did the epithet come to be used as a euphemism to avoid invoking the deity's proper name, Yahweh.

In Canaanite/Ugaritic tradition, ʾadn ilm, literally "lord of gods" is an epithet of El.[1]: 532 However, ʾadn "lord" could also be an epithet of other gods. When Yam is described as being at the zenith of his might, he is proclaimed ʾadn or "lord" of the gods.[1]: 532 In some Ugaritic texts the term ʾadn ʾilm rbm meaning "the Lord of the Great Gods" is used to refer to the lord and father over deceased kings.[1]: 532[3] Some think that this is a reference to Baal. Other suggest this is a reference to a human necromancer, who was traveling to the land of the dead. Karel van der Toorn disagrees; he believes that it is a reference to Milku, Yaqar or Yarikh, or possibly El.[1]: 532 Ugarit family households were modeled after the structure of the divine world, each headed by an ʾadn meaning in this context "master" or "patron". Generally, this was the patriarch of the family and there may be some relation between ʾadn and the Ugarit word for "father", ʾad.[4]


The name of the Greek god Adonis is similar to a Semitic word—adon (which means "lord").[5] However, there is no trace of a Semitic deity directly connected with Adonis, though there most likely was.[clarification needed][6] There is also no trace in Semitic languages of any specific mythemes connected with his Greek myth.[6][7] Both Greek and Near Eastern scholars have questioned the connection.[7]

Hebrew Bible

In the Hebrew Bible, adoni, with the suffix for the first person possessive, means "my lord", and is a term of respect that may refer to God[8] or to a human superior,[9] or occasionally an angel, whereas adonai (literally "my lords") is reserved for God alone. In Jewish tradition, the pluralization can be used to distinguish God from earthly lords and to increase his majesty.[2] However, many modern critical scholars see the use of a plural as a remnant of a polytheistic past, with the word only later coming to refer to Yahweh, the single god of Judaism. It is thought that at least some biblical authors used the word originally in a polytheist sense.[1]: 531

See also

  • Adonaist


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 K. van der Toorn, ed (1999). Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible DDD. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 9780802824912. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Leo Rosten (2010). The New Joys of Yiddish: Completely Updated. Crown Publishing Group. pp. 3. ISBN 9780307566041. 
  3. Cyrus H. Gordon, ed (1987). Eblaitica: Essays on the Ebla Archives and Eblaite Language, Volume 1. Eisenbrauns. pp. 211. 
  4. Stephen L. Cook, ed (2001). The Whirlwind: Essays on Job, Hermeneutics and Theology in Memory of Jane Morse. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-1-84127-243-6. 
  5. "Britannica Library" (in en-US). 
  6. 6.0 6.1 R. S. P. Beekes Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 23 "Supposed to be a loan from Semitic (Hebr. adon 'Lord'). But no cult connected with this name is known in the Semitic world, nor a myth parallel to that in Greece".
  7. 7.0 7.1 Burkert (1991) p. 177 note 6 bibliography. "For this reason the connection between the cults was called in question both by Greek scholars (P. Kretschmer, Glotta 7 (1916) 39; G. Zuntz, MH 8 (195 1) 34) and also by Near Eastern scholars (H. Frankfort, The Problem of Similarity in Ancient Near Eastern Religions, 1951; C. Colpe in lišan mithurti: Festschrift W. v. Soden, 1969, 23). Cf. O. Eissfeldt, Adonis und Adonaj, SB Leipzig 115.4, 1970. S. Ribichini, Adonis, Aspetti ‘orientali’ di un mito greco, 1981, stresses the Greek re-elaborations of foreign elements."
  8. Psalm 16:2
  9. 1 Kings 1:31