I have recently asked a question about taking God's name in vain. And I have been told that swearing is taking his name in vain. So in teachings I see it mentioned G-d or Gcd. Showing to me a resistance of even saying the word "God". Why is this necessary? For when I say "God" I most likely am not swearing an oath. Do Jews believe that God's name is "God"?

  • Is your name "Only he is good."?
    – Double AA
    May 23, 2014 at 21:22
  • 1
    dupe? judaism.stackexchange.com/q/83/759
    – Double AA
    May 23, 2014 at 22:20
  • @DoubleAA No that is not my name. Do you think it is dupe?
    – Decrypted
    May 24, 2014 at 1:32
  • @DoubleAA I feel from the nature of the answers that your right, I want to re-ask the question.
    – Decrypted
    May 24, 2014 at 9:45

5 Answers 5


In Judaism we believe that there are many names of God, all in Hebrew. However, translations of the word, such as "God" and "LORD," and transliterations, such as "Elohim," should also be treated with respect. That is why some Jews hyphenate the name.

Additional information can be found at

  • Those are all titles. Calling them 'names' perpetuates confusion.
    – user34203
    Feb 28 at 3:19

There is a serious sin of swearing, using God's name, for no good reason; however we try not to use God's name generally unless there's a good reason. (For instance, there's an instructional CD of how to sing the prayers that uses the actual names, so you'll learn to do it right.)

In writing, the reason people use "G-d" or the like is because there are problems with discarding material containing the name of God. So if I printed out this answer, according to some opinions I couldn't throw out the piece of paper with the dirty diapers.

And you're correct, it's much worse to use one of the Biblical Hebrew names of God than it is to use the English word "God."

  • I don't see the difference. If I threw away a piece of paper that used "G-d" why should less offense occur then if I threw away a piece that had the pure Hebrew form? In programming we call it a pointer. If the Variable points to the Value then the Variable represents that Value. A Variable can have a multitude of forms, even the Pure Hebrew version is only a pointer. For the Words point to the Creator.
    – Decrypted
    May 24, 2014 at 1:22
  • Both the amateur linguist and the programmer in me want to agree with your reasoning that referring to G-d is analogous to dereferencing a pointer and that the names we use are only significant to the extent that we know what they are pointing to. However, on balance, it is important to remember that "to sanctify" (kadesh) is an action verb, a choice that we make to value certain things as being holy. One could ask why a Sefer Torah is holier than a printed bible. It is because we choose to value it more.
    – Mike
    May 28, 2014 at 2:16

The name is supposed to capture the essence of a thing. Since we have no way whatsoever to comprehend God, the names of Him we find in the torah are just representative of His mode of conduct, how He relates towards us. So, to answer your question. Strictly speaking - No. because He does not have a name since we cannot represent as He truly is.

Here's a relevant quote from the chovos halevavos shaar yichud ch.10 (see there for much more)

Since it is impossible to form a representation of Him with the intellect or picture Him with the imagination, we find that Scripture ascribes most of its praises to the "name" of G-d, as written: "And they shall bless Your glorious Name" (Nehemiah 9:5), and "that you may fear this glorious and revered Name" (Devarim 28:58), and "Let them praise Your Name, great and revered" (Tehilim 99:3), and "and of My Name he was afraid" (Malachi 2:5), and "But unto you that fear My Name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings" (Malachi 3:20), and "Sing unto G-d, sing praises to His Name, extol Him that rides upon the skies, whose Name is the L-ORD" (Tehilim 68:5).

All this is in order to honor and exalt His glorious essence because, besides clarifying that He exists, it is impossible for us to clarify in our minds anything about His Being except for His great Name.

But as for His glorious essence and His true nature - there is no picture or likeness that we can grasp in our minds. Therefore, His Name is frequently changed in the torah and likewise in the books of the prophets.

Because we cannot understand anything about Him except for His Name and that He exists. His glorious Name is also associated with heaven and earth and the Spirits, as Abraham said: "And I will make you swear by the L-ord, the G-d of heaven and the G-d of the earth" (Bereishis 24:3), and Yonah said: " I fear the L-ord, the G-d of heaven" (1:9), and Moshe said: "the G-d of the spirit of all flesh" (Bamidbar 27:16). And the verse proclaims: "Behold, I am the L-ord, the G-d of all flesh" (Yirmiya 32:27).

and the Tov Halevanon Commentary there:

(Tov Halevanon: His name is changed in the torah) such as the name "Yud-Hey-Vuv-Hey" which teaches that He was, is, and always will be. Or the name "Adon-ay" which teaches that He is master over the creations, or the name "Elo-him" - that He is powerful and all-capable, or the name "Sha-day" - that He is "meshaded" the marachos. The verse adds "of heaven and earth" to teach that we do not completely understand His true Name but rather we see Him according to what we understand through His existence and deeds)

  • Does "ray" capture your essence?
    – Double AA
    May 25, 2014 at 13:11
  • @DoubleAA it's not my real name upstairs. see this also www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/13937
    – ray
    May 25, 2014 at 18:25
  • What's the difference between a "real name" and a "fake name"?
    – Double AA
    May 29, 2014 at 1:24
  • @DoubleAA there's two types of names. One is the name which captures the essence of a thing. In that case my name is like all other human beings - Adam. then there's the particular name of each jew which relates to how his soul is "connected" upstairs.
    – ray
    May 29, 2014 at 11:45
  • @ray please refer me to any passage in gemora, halacha, midrash, mishna or anywhere authoritative that states that a name represents the person or captures the essence of the person.
    – ninamag
    Aug 16, 2017 at 5:09

In some places such as http://Jewishworldreview.com, people will use the number 0 instead of the letter o. This is because many editors will use the hyphen to put the d on the next line. The number 0 allows the word to be treated as a single word. The story of Rabbi Soloveitchik below was verified by someone who was in the class at the time.

When I helped write soc.culture.jewish FAQ we explained that it is not a matter of taking the name "in vain" but of making sure that one has the habit of not writing any name (even if not really a name) in a place or in a manner that might lead to its being erased.

Question 11.3.1:
Writing: Why do some people write "G-d" with a hyphen instead of an `o'?


Based on the words in Deut. 12:3-4, the Rabbis deduced that it is forbidden to erase the name of G-d from a written document. Since any paper upon which G-d's name was written might be discarded and thus "erased", the Rabbis forbade explicitly writing the name of G-d, except in Holy Books, with provisions for the proper disposal of such books.

According to Jewish Folklore, G-d has 70 names. However, only one of these names is the ineffable name, which cannot be erased or pronounced. Further, of the 70 names, seven may not be erased but they can be pronounced on certain occasions (such as when reading the Torah). The other names may be erased and pronounced, but still must be treated with respect. The Talmud (Shevuot 35a-b) makes it clear that this prohibition applies only to seven Biblical names of G-d and not to other names or attributes of G-d, which may be freely written. The prohibition was later codified by Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah 6:1-2). The practice of writing "G-d" is supported in Shut Achiezer, 3:32, end, where it is endorsed and accepted as the prevailing custom. Rambam cites Deut. 12-03:04, which states "and you shall destroy the names of pagan gods from their places. You shall not do similarly to G-d your Lord." The intent of this is to create an atmosphere of respect for G-d's name vs pagan gods names.

As a result of this, people acquired the habit of not writing the full name down in the first place. Strictly speaking, this only applies to Hebrew on a permanent medium, but many people are careful beyond the minimum, and have applied it to non-Hebrew languages. Hence, "G-d". One explanation is that using G-d is a reminder that anything which we may say about G-d is necessarily metaphorical. Spelling out the Name (even in a language other than Hebrew) would imply that one could speak meaningfully (not just metaphorically) about G-d.

However, the Shach (Yoreh De'a 179:11) ruled that "God" spelled in a foreign language does NOT have the status of a "shem" and thus may be erased, lehatkhila. There is a story about Rav Soloveitchik (z"l) intentionally writing GOD on the board while teaching a class and then just as deliberately and intentionally erasing it, so as to demonstrate by his own example that this was not a halakhically a problem.

Note: There is one exception to the destruction of G-d's name. In Numbers 6, the Suspected Wife Ceremony, a man who suspects his wife of adultery (with witnesses seeing a forbidden seclusion) brings his wife to the temple. The Priests test the women by pronouncing the horrible Biblical curse. After reading the curse it is written on parchment and dissolved in water (which the women drinks). If she is guilty she dies and otherwise the couple gets their marriage back. Thus, G-d actually allows the ineffable name to be dissolved in water that the women drinks. As the Talmud notes: G-d allows the ineffable name to be erased for the sake of bringing peace between a husband and wife.

  • 1
    The purpose to the question was not why people write "G-d". It is whether it is connected to taking his name in vain.
    – Decrypted
    May 29, 2014 at 2:22
  • @Only he is good The answer explains that it is connected to the prohibition of erasing His Name, not "taking it in vain". It is a different reason. Even if done as part of the most serious and solemn purpose, it is still forbidden to erase it (except as part of the sotah ceremony). Similarly, the explanation as to the fact that G0d is allowed to be erased but is treated with respect is also not part of taking it in vain. May 29, 2014 at 2:52
  • Do you feel disrespected if I erase your name?
    – Decrypted
    May 29, 2014 at 12:28
  • @Only he is good. The whole point is that the Torah explicitly forbids erasing the Name of G0d and states that erasing it is like erasing the names of the idols. The erasing of the name of the idols was done as a deliberate sign of mockery and disrespect. It would be like laying out the flag of a country and calling on crowds of peopele to trample it as a political statement. Erasing the Name of G0d is similarly a specific statement. It is like the gesture of removing the letter "W" from the keyboards in the White House just before the Democrats left and George W. Bush moved in May 29, 2014 at 13:29
  • "..wipe out their names from those places." (Deut 12:3) "..put his Name there.." (Deut 12:5). The opposite equal reaction is "wiping out his name" and "placing their names there". "Wiping out his name" alone does not satisfy the law of opposite equal reaction.
    – Decrypted
    May 29, 2014 at 18:03

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his book "Innerspace" compares it to someone making a phone call to the president. The same way by taking the name of Hashem, We're making it a way to communicate with Hashem and doesn't mean the Name is 'G-d' himself.

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