Did human beings adopt language or religion first? This is a question which may need to be proved through research. I will not be doing this research for this article, rather, I will intuitively present my opinion about which was adopted first and proceed to show how Amharic is religious in comparison to English – the languages I know very well.

Ever since humans existed on this planet the questions of ‘Who are we?’, ‘Where did we come from?’ and ‘Where are we going to?” have been a vital quest for the human mind. As part of the answer to these questions, people in history had submitted to a supernatural body and they called that body a lot of different names, starting from the Sun, Water, Thunder, and later in time, Alla, Allah, God, Dieu, Deus, Diyos, Theos, Chukwu, Nkulunkulu, Igziabher, etc. in different languages.


Long before language was invented, people quested to know who or what brought them to this world, who or what brought the whole universe into existence. Then instinctively people began to associate themselves to a heavenly superpower and creator then started to fear and worship him in their own different ways. Logically, ideas or objects should come before power of expression to explain the idea. Then when language was invented, people named their gods and the creator of the universe different names according to their languages. Amharic is one of such languages, and due to how the language was invented, it is like a religion.

When I say Amharic is religious, I mean that the concept of the Creator or God is embedded in most expressions in the language. Even if a speaker of Amharic is a follower of a different religion, the expressions he or she uses are the same, but the sound may be slightly different according to the specific religion. I cannot speak many other languages, but to put this idea into context, I will compare Amharic with English and give you some examples.


A holiday greeting in English, can go like this, “Happy holiday/Happy celebration!” To which the other person replies the same way or just say, “Thank you”. The main theme of this greeting is happiness, making the holiday/celebration a happy moment. The equivalent in Amharic, can go like this, ‘Enkuan Adereseh/sh….” which roughly translates as “Happy that God let you get to this day”. The main theme in Amharic holiday greeting is safety, existence, and the safety or existence as attributable to God. The other person will answer, “Amen, enkuan abro aderesen” which again translates roughly to “Happy that God let both of us get to this day.”


In every day greeting, the English language send out good wishes for the times yet to come. For example, when English says, “Good morning”, it is wishing a second party a good morning ahead. The same goes for the afternoon, evening and the night. In Amharic, it is almost the reverse. In the morning it asks how a second person spent the night, “Endemn aderih/ader- ish?” (How did you pass the night), and the other person answers “Dehn, Igziabher Yimasgan!” (Fine thanks to God). Same happens in the afternoon when it asks how they spent the morning, and so on. This way, Amharic is asking ‘How have you spent the night?’ and the answer is ‘I’m well, thanks to God’. Here again, the theme is safety, existence, and the mercy or will of God.

Here, the theme is similar, both English and Amharic attribute the sneeze to God. The people who sneeze are wished blessings from God by persons present.

Whereas, when visiting a patient, English says, “I wish you well”, “I wish you fast recovery”, “I wish you feel better soon”, etc. These are wishes for the ‘betterment’ of the patient, but they do not directly invite or refer to God. Amharic say “Igziabher yimarh/yimarish” which

roughly means “Let God have mercy on you”, “Let God heal you soon”. The initiating party wishes that God heals the patient and the patient answers “Amen”, which they can translate to, “I accept your wish and prayer to God,


In English, when one sneezes, a person who is present may say “Bless you!” Conversely, an Amharic second party says, “Yimarh/Yimarsh!” which means, “Let God have mercy on you” or “Let God forgive you”.


In English, we receive a person by saying, “Welcome” (Well come), which seems to match the Amharic’s theme of safety and wellbeing. Amharic also says “Enkuan dehna metah/metash” meaning “Welcome, happy that you come safely”.

In these examples and
many more other instances, Amharic directly refers to God or the Creator. This characteristic is embedded in the language and used by every speaker of the language in most social interactions. God’s name in those expressions’ changes according to the faith. If the parties are Muslims, for instance, they change the name of God to Allah but the translation remains the same.

A language carries the faith, philosophy or thoughts of a speaker, but to figure out whether it comes before religion may be seen as the egg and the chicken puzzle.

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