• gospel •
gahs-pêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The first four books of the New Testament, which treat the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. 2. The teachings of a religious leader, especially Jesus Christ. 3. An idea that is accepted as unquestionably true. 4. A lively genre of music with a strong straightforward beat, simple repetitious melodies, and lyrics on religious themes.
Notes: Today's Good Word has a seldom used family. The verb gospelize is used in the sense of "preach the gospel" and "to modify in keeping with the gospels" only rarely. Gospeller "one who preaches or professes faith to the gospels" has been in the language since the 10th century, but is seldom used these days.
In Play: The original meaning of today's word was the first four books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—or the doctrine contained in them: "Findley was hired by the church to preach the gospel according to Jesus Christ." However, in modern times that sense of the word has become secularized: "The boss expects us to take every word he utters as gospel."
Word History: Today's Good Word came from Old English godspel "glad tidings", made up of god "good" + spel "news" (ultimately a calque or loan translation of Greek euangelion "good news"). Good goes back to a Proto-Indo-European root that meant "unite, fit", which also emerged in English in together and gather. It turns up in Russian ugodnyj "suitable", German gut "good", and Dutch goed "good". Good is unrelated etymologically to god. God originated in a PIE word meaning "he who is invoked"; however, over time these two words were drawn toward each other for obvious reasons. Spel comes from Old English spellian "to tell, to announce". Outside gospel it went on to acquire magic powers and became today's magical spell. The spelling of the letters of a word was at one point considered a magic power (still is, in some quarters), so that meaning split off from the original one. (Today's appreciation is due Susanne Russell, who suggested this word—and that's the gospel truth.)
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