Rev. Meredith Garmon

It’s an Anglo-Saxon word that hasn’t changed since the Old English god -- "supreme being, deity." It derives from Proto-Germanic guthan, which derives from Proto-Indo-European ghut- "that which is invoked." Ghut- also morphed into the Old Church Slavonic zovo -- "to call," and into the Sanskrit huta- "invoked," an epithet of Indra, the Vedic deity of Hinduism, with mythology and powers roughly similar to the Greek Zeus. Also, the root of Ghut- is gheu(e)- -- "to call, invoke." So God is that which we invoke, call (upon) – whatever that may be. You know that old, terrible joke that the only time a Unitarian Universalist minister says the word “God” is when he stubs his toe? Turns out, that use of “God” may not be very far from its most ancient original meaning.

Alternatively, some trace the word to Proto-Indo-European ghu-to- -- "poured," from root gheu- -- "to pour, pour a libation." From this comes the Greek phrase, khute gaia -- "poured earth," referring to a burial mound.
"Given the Greek facts, the Germanic form may have referred in the first instance to the spirit immanent in a burial mound." (Calvert Watkins, The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots)
On this line, “God” is “that which is poured.” Isn’t that evocative? I love the way this mixes sacredness with a flowing quality.

From the Proto-Indo-European dewos- came: the Greek Zeus “supreme god and master of the others;” the Latin deus "god; deity" and the Sanskrit deva-. The root of dewos- is dyeu- "to gleam, to shine," also the root of words for "sky" and "day" (e.g. diurnal). The god-sense is originally "shining," but "whether as originally sun-god or as lightener is not now clear." Putting together this etymological line with the first two gives us a definition of “God” as: the shiny, flowing thing that we call upon. As attempts to eff the ineffable go, I think that’s actually pretty good.

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