Definition: Heaven

From New World Encyclopedia


From a wide variety of Middle English forms including hevene, heven, hevin and hewin (heaven, sky), from Old English heofon, heofone (heaven, sky), from Proto-West Germanic *hebn (heaven, sky), of uncertain origin.

Cognate with Scots heiven, hewin (heaven, sky), Old Saxon heƀan (heaven, sky), Low German Heven (heaven, sky), Middle High German heben (sky, heaven), and possibly the rare Icelandic and Old Norse hifinn (heaven, sky), which are all probably dissimilated forms of the Germanic root which appears in Old Norse himinn (heaven, sky), Gothic 𐌷𐌹𐌼𐌹𐌽𐍃 or himins (heaven, sky), Old Swedish himin, Old Danish himæn and probably also (in another variant form) Old Saxon himil, Old Dutch himil (modern Dutch hemel) and Old High German himil (German Himmel).

Accepting these as cognates, some scholars propose a further derivation from Proto-Germanic *himinaz (cover, cloud cover, firmament, sky, heaven).


heaven (countable and uncountable, plural heavens)

  1. The sky, specifically:
    1. (poetic, now usually in the plural) The distant sky in which the sun, moon, and stars appear or move; the firmament; the celestial spheres.
  2. (religion) The abode of God or the gods, traditionally conceived as beyond the sky; especially:
    1. (Christianity, usually capitalized) The abode of God and of the angels and saints in His presence.
    2. (religion, often capitalized) The abode of the Abrahamic God; similar abodes of the gods in other religions and traditions, such as Mount Olympus.
    3. (usually capitalized) Providence, the will of God or the council of the gods; fate.
  3. (religion) The afterlife of the blessed dead, traditionally conceived as opposed to an afterlife of the wicked and unjust (compare hell); specifically:
    1. (Christianity, Islam) Paradise, the afterlife of the souls who are not sent to a place of punishment or purification such as hell, purgatory, or limbo; the state or condition of being in the presence of God after death.
    2. (religion, often capitalized) The afterlife of the blessed dead in other religions and traditions, such as the Pure Land or Elysium.
  4. Any paradise; any blissful place or experience.
  5. A state of bliss; a peaceful ecstasy.

Usage notes

Frequently capitalized as "Heaven" in all senses when regarded as a proper name.

When used as a synonym for the impersonal sky, the word has typically been plural ("heavens" or "the heavens") since the seventeenth century, except in poetry.

Derived terms

  • heavenlike
  • heavenly
  • heaven on earth
  • Kingdom of Heaven
  • match made in heaven
  • seventh heaven


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