7 Hebrew words for Praise
When reading the Psalms, it is important to note that there are several words translated into English as "praise," but the various root words have very different meanings.
"O God, my heart is fixed, I will sing and give praise (ZAMAR), even with my glory (honor)...I will praise (YADAH) Thee, O Lord among the people. And I will sing praises (TEHILLAH) unto Thee among the nations."
Verse 2: "Every day I will bless Thee, and I will praise (HALAL) Thy name forever and ever."
Verse 3: "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised (HALAL)"
Verse 4: "One generation shall praise (SHABACH) Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts."
Verse 10: "All Thy works shall praise (YADAH) Thee O Lord, and Thy saints shall bless Thee."
Definition: Yadah is a verb with a root meaning, "the extended hand, to throw out the hand, therefore to worship with extended hand." According to the Lexicon, the opposite meaning is, "to bemoan, the wringing of hands."
Example: Psalm 63:4 -- "Thus I will bless Thee while I live, I will (YADAH) lift up my hands in Thy name"
Other References: Ps 134:2, Ps 141:2; II Chron 20:19-21
Definition: Towdah comes from the same principal root word as Yadah but is used more specifically. Towdah literally means, "an extension of the hand in adoration, avowal, or acceptance." By way of application, it is apparent in the Psalms and elsewhere that it is used for thanking God for "things not yet received" as well as things already at hand.
Example: Psalm 50:14 -- "Offer unto God praise (TOWDAH) and pay thy vows unto the Most High"
"What I want from you is your true thanks. I want your promises fulfilled." [Tay]
Other References: II Chron 29:31; Jer 30:19; Ps 26:7
Definition: Halal is a primary Hebrew word for praise. Our word "hallelujah" comes from this base. It means, "to be clear, to shine, to boast, show, to rave, celebrate, to be clamorously foolish."
Example: Psalm 113:1 -- "Praise (HALAL) ye the Lord, Praise (HALAL) O ye servants of the Lord, praise (HALAL) the name of the Lord."
Other References: Ps 104, 105, 106
Definition: Shabach means, "to address in a loud tone, to commend, to triumph, to exclaim, glory, shout."
Example: Psalm 145:4 -- "One generation shall praise (SHABACH) thy works to another and declare Thy mighty acts."
Other References: Ps 63:1,3,4; Ps 117:1; Ps 35:27; Is 12:6; Ps 106:47
Definition: Barak means, "to kneel down, to bless God as an act of adoration." When used in the scripture it implies, "expecting to receive a blessing from the Lord."
Example: Psalm 95:6 -- "O come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel (BARAK) before the Lord our maker."
"Come let us throw ourselves at His feet in homage." [NEB]
"Let us bend thy knee in the presence of Jehovah our Creator." [Spurrel]
Other References: I Chron 29:20; Neh 9:5
Definition: Zamar means, "to touch the strings" and is used concordantly with instrumental worship. Psalm 150 is a perfect example of this kind of praise. David said, "Awake my glory; awake harp and lyre, I will awaken the dawn!
I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises (ZAMAR) to Thee among the nations."
Example: Psalm 21:13 --
"Be Thou exalted O Lord, in Thine own strength, so will we sing and praise (ZAMAR) Thy power."
"We sing and strike the harp to Thy power" [DeWitt]
"With song and with string we will sound forth Thy power" [RHM]
Other References: Ps 66:2,4; Is 12:5
Definition: Tehillah simply means, "to sing, to laud." "God is enthroned on the praises (TEHILLAH) of Israel" (Ps 22:3). This is the kind of praise that God dwells in. Any form of singing can be praise, but one of the higher forms was the Dorean mode which was neither western major nor oriental minor. It was sort of chanting whereby the words of HALAL were melodiously chanted. This is the expression of praise the Psalmist said God inhabited.
Psalm 33:1 -- "Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous; for praise (TEHILLAH) is comely for the upright."
Psalm 34:1 -- "...His praise (TEHILLAH) shall continually be in my mouth."
Other References: I Chron 16:35; Is 42:10,12; II Chron 20:22