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Adonai, Hashem, and Adoshem


Jews also call God Adonai, Hebrew for "Lord." Formally, this is plural ("my Lords"), but the plural is usually construed as a respectful, and not a syntactic plural. (The singular form is Adoni: "my lord". This was used by the Phoenicians for the god Tammuz and is the origin of the Greek name Adonis. Jews only use the singular to refer to a distinguished person.) "Adon" is linguistically similar to "Aten", the first recorded monotheistic god of Akhenaten in Egypt, and may be related.

Alternatively, Adonai and other names of God may be written in the plural form to point out that this one God embodies all of the many gods that were worshipped by the ancestors of the Israelites and concurrently by the surrounding peoples.

Since pronouncing YHWH is considered sinful, Jews use Adonai instead in prayers, and colloquially would use Hashem (The Name). When the Masoretes added vowel pointings to the text of the Hebrew Bible in the first century CE, they gave the word YHWH the vowels of Adonai, to remind the reader to say Adonai instead.


Jewish law requires that secondary rules be placed around the primary law, to reduce the chance that the main law will be broken. As such, it is common Jewish practice to restrict the use of the word Adonai to prayer only. In conversation, many Jewish people will call God "Hashem," which is Hebrew for "the Name" (this appears in Leviticus 24:11). Many Jews extend this prohibition to some of the other names listed below, and will add additional sounds to alter the pronunciation of a name when using it outside of a liturgical context, such as kel or elokim.

While other names of God in Judaism are generally restricted to use in a liturgical context, Hashem is used in more casual circumstances. Hashem is used by Orthodox Jews so as to avoid saying Adonai outside of a ritual context. For example, when Orthodox Jews make audio recordings of prayer services, they generally substitute Hashem for Adonai.


Up until the mid twentieth century, however, another convention was quite common, the use of the word, Adoshem - combining the first syllable of the word Adonai with the last syllable of the word Hashem. This convention was discouraged by Rabbi David HaLevi Segal (known as the Taz) in his commentary to the Shulchan Aruch. However, it took a few centuries for the word to fall into almost complete disuse. The rationale behind the Taz's reasoning was that it is disrespectful to combine a Name of God with another word. Despite being obsolete in most circles, it is used occasionally in conversation in place of Adonai by Orthodox Jews who do not wish to say Adonai but need to specify the use of the particular word as opposed to God.