It is forbidden to say foreign gods names or even to cause other to say them (see Shemot 23, 13 and Sanhedrin 63b).

What about saying the word without intention for a deity?

For example, (1) a lot of Western words derive from Greek mythology: chronometer, thalassotherapy, uranium, neptunium, plutonium...?

And (2) even worse: project athena, apollo mission...? (Because here the name itself is used).

Or, (3) names of planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter...? (that were pagan gods?...)

More subtle, (4) suppose the greek city Athens comes from a Greek goddess name; would be permitted to say it, given the intention is for the city only?

  • You can say Elohim when it refers to judges
    – Double AA
    Apr 9, 2017 at 14:40
  • See also judaism.stackexchange.com/q/10946
    – msh210
    Apr 9, 2017 at 16:02
  • @DoubleAA Interesting. But it is not the same problem. There the goal is not to say h-m's name, and one doesn't; but in our question, the problem is the reference to the god, and it may (chronometer derives from chronos their god of time...)
    – yO_
    Apr 9, 2017 at 16:07
  • 2
    Or any of the planets, besides ours...
    – DonielF
    Apr 9, 2017 at 17:50
  • 1
    What about foreign deity names like Tammuz?
    – Aaron
    Feb 14, 2018 at 4:39

2 Answers 2


The author of Yereim addresses your issue and permits it, it is brought down by R Meir hakohen (commonly known as the hagahot maimoniyot), Mordechai (AZ 809) and the Rama YD siman 147. The following is a citation from the hagahot maimoniyot (rambam AZ chapter 5)

כתב רא"ם שאין אסור אלא שם שניתן לה לשום אלהות שמשמע אלהות, אבל שם הדיוטות כגון שמות בעלמא כשמות הגוים אע"פ שעשאהו אלוה כיון שבזה השם אין בו אלהות ואדנות וגם לא ניתן לו לשם כך מותר. וטעמא, דכתיב ושם אלהים אחרים לא תזכירו, בשם אלהות הקפיד הכתוב. וכן תנן אלו הן אידיהן של גוים קלנדא וכו' שאלו שמות הדיוטות הם, ובכמה מקומות בתלמוד הוזכרו ישו הנוצרי ותלמידיו, ואין אלוה גוים יותר ממנו

In short, if the name is used regularly and not in the context of divinity one is permitted to invoke it. The prohibition is only when he invokes the name in the context of divinity and it connotes a deity, but if it is just a name given to a person or object the fact that its origin is pagan is insignificant and its use is permitted. For this reason he says the sages called Jesus by his name, since it was not used in such a context.

  • What you are trying to extrapolate in order to answer the question is not implied there whatsoever. A secular name which is turned into a god can still be uttered. Nowhere in this quote does he say that once a god's name is used for a secular item is it allowed to refer to that item by that name. In fact the onus of proof would be on the one claiming the item was in fact named with completely secular intentions.
    – user6591
    Jul 19, 2017 at 1:28
  • @user6591 i'm not sure i get your point, can i burden you to clarify your point once more?
    – Bach
    Jul 19, 2017 at 1:42
  • @user6591 "Nowhere in this quote does he say that once a god's name is used for a secular item is it allowed to refer to that item by that name." Doesn't אבל שם הדיוטות כגון שמות בעלמא כשמות הגוים אע"פ שעשאהו אלוה כיון שבזה השם אין בו אלהות ואדנות וגם לא ניתן לו לשם כך מותר imply this?
    – Bach
    Jul 19, 2017 at 2:31
  • After writing a lengthily comment and not posting it, I guess the crux of our discussion is what he means by וגם לא ניתן לו לשם כך מותר. It sounds like you are understanding that to be a completely independent allowance and I think it would not function on its own. Also his exact intention by these words is not so clear.
    – user6591
    Jul 19, 2017 at 13:05
  • Very interesting +1 but as said, maybe this only addresses the problem when a regular name was given for an avoda zara, not for the original problem of recycling a name that was invented for the avodazara?..
    – yO_
    Apr 16, 2018 at 7:53

I wrote about this issue at great length in my essay "Uttering the Names of Idols" which was published in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society vol. 73. The crux of my argument is that if you don't mean to refer to the deity (like you refer to Nike the shoe, not Nike the Greek god), then it's less of a problem. Also, if people don't even realize that it's the name of a god (like Mumbai, the city formerly known as Bombay or the month of April--an alternate name for the Greek goddess Aphrodite), it's also permitted. Also, if you write the name instead of say it, there are more poskim who are lenient. Also, when you say the name of an Avodah Zarah in the context of learning (like if you were to verbally ask the question that I am answering), then Rabbeinu Tam according to many sources would allow it. And certainly if it is the the name of an Avodah Zarah that appears in Tanach, it is permitted to say.

  • 1
    Very interesting, thank you so much! Still not had time to read all the essay...
    – yO_
    Apr 22, 2019 at 21:10

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