Etymology of Church

The word church can mean several things. The most common meaning is the building–a structure where religious activities (usually of a Christian nature) take place.

Church is also a surname.

There is also a lake in Minnesota called Church Lake.

Two of the oldest churches in the world are Jordan’s Saint Georgeous, which allegedly once hosted seventy disciplines of Christ, and Kerala’s St. Thomas Syro-Malabar, founded by Saint Thomas, one of the apostles of Christ.


We have to go all the way back to Medieval Greek to understand where the word church came from.

The Medieval Greek word kuriakon (κυριακόν) means belonging to the Lord and the Medieval Greek doma (δόμα) means house.

Combined, they form kuriakon domathe lord’s house.

The Common Germanic language eventually borrowed from Medieval Greek to make kiriko, which means church.

This word eventually evolved into the Old English cirice (also means church) and the Middle English chirche (again, church).

Modern English eventually changed this word into church, and that’s what we’re stuck with today.

Church shouldn’t be confused with chapel, which has a different etymology and comes from the Medieval Latin cappa and the Old French chapele.

Church in Other Languages

Bosnian: crkva

Catalan: església

Czech: kostel

Danish: kirke

Dutch: kerk

Estonian: kirik

Finnish: kirkko

French: église

Galician: igrexa

German: Kirche

Hungarian: templom

Irish: eaglais

Italian: chiesa

Norwegian: kirke

Polish: kościół

Portuguese: igreja

Spanish: iglesia


Barnhart, Robert K., ed., Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, H.W. Wilson Co., 1988.

Bede,. A History Of The English Church And People. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968. Print.

de Vaan, Michiel, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages, Alexander Lubotsky ed., Leiden: Brill, 2008.,. “Church – Wiktionary“. N.p., 2016. Web. 3 Mar. 2016.

Liddell, Henry George, and Robert Scott, eds., Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford Univ. Press, 1883.

McSparran, Frances, chief editor, The Middle English Compendium, University of Michigan, 2006.

The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., Clarendon Press, 1989.