Quick, what are some images that come to mind when you think of the word “awesome”? A cool snowboarding trick? A way of saying congratulations to someone who just got a promotion? A comment under every Instagram photo ever? The word “awesome” is used in many different ways in society.
Essentially, we use it to mean that something is very impressive. However, the word did not start out this way.
The word “awesome” means to cause or be filled with awe, which is the overwhelming sense of reverence, admiration and fear. Often, it is produced by something that is large and powerful. As you can see, commenting “awesome” under a picture of someone’s food on Instagram doesn’t quite capture the definition of the word.
Why does it matter to understand what awesome means?
Language is constantly evolving. English has undergone several changes over the years. Look up a video of someone from the 1940s giving a speech and notice not only the different kinds of words they use in what’s common language to them, but also the way they speak. It doesn’t sound like most people you hear around you today, huh?
Language evolves. The use of words changes and, sometimes, the definition of a word can change. While the traditional understanding of a word is always there in some circles, the slang or contemporary understanding of a word can change how it’s used.
This is what happened with “awesome.” So, why does it matter?
Well, the word “awesome” is used in Scripture (Psalm 68:35, Genesis 28:17, Exodus 15:11), we need to understand that it doesn’t mean “very impressive.” The words the translators translated into awesome from the original languages of Scripture are meant to convey the traditional understanding of the word: to fill with an overwhelming sense of reverence, admiration and fear.
This is what we need to remember when we read the word “awesome” in Scripture or use it to refer to God in our conversations or in our music.
It’s okay to still use “awesome” in the contemporary sense in other parts of your life. Like we said, language changes. However, knowing the traditional understanding of the word can help you broaden your view of God and what it means to read about or be in His presence.
At Unfiltered Radio, we strive to be in the presence of the Lord. We love to learn more about Him, how to grow closer to Him and how to follow His example to love others as we love ourselves. Check out our podcast series and join us as we continue to grow and explore what it means to live in this world and have a relationship with the Lord.