Adonai is the plural of Adon, meaning “Lord, Lord, LORD, master, or owner” (the word Adon derives from a Ugaritic word meaning “lord” or “father”). In the Tanakh, the word Adon can refer to men and angels as well as to the LORD God of Israel (e.g., Exodus 34:23). God is called the “Lord of lords”(Deuteronomy 10:17) and Psalm 8:1 mentions God as “YHVH our Lord.”
The plural form Adonai, like the plural form Elohim, is regularly used with singular verbs and modifiers, so it is best to construe the Name as an “emphatic plural” or “plural of majesty.” When the plural is formed using a singular possessive ending (“my Lords”), it always refers to God, and occurs over 300 times in the Tanakh in this form.
The Masoretes ensured that the sacred Name of the LORD YHVH would not be taken in vain by putting the vowel marks for Adonai under the letters in the running text (ketiv). They did this to remind the reader to pronounce Adonai regardless of the consonants in the text (qere). However, Adon and Adonai also appear as Names of God in the Hebrew Masoretic text, and some of these will be listed here.
Adonai and Adonai Constructs
For each name in the list below, I provide the following information:
- The Hebrew text for the name
- The most common English transliteration (in italics)
- A definition for the name, references to the Tanakh, and frequency information
- Additional comments, if applicable.
Adon. [basic form]
A title variously used to refer to men, angels, and to the true God of Israel, meaning “lord, master, owner.” From the Ugaritic adn meaning "lord" or "father" and the Akkadian adannu, "mighty."
References: Jos. 3:11, 13; Neh. 7:61; Ps. 12:5; 97:5; 105:21; 114:7; Jer. 22:18; 34:5; Zech. 4:14; 6:5.
Lord; God; name used as a substitute for the sacred Tetragrammaton; emphatic form of ’Adon (Isa. 6:1). Occurs 300 times in the Tanakh. The first use appears in Gen. 15:2 where Abram addresses God as “Adonai YHVH.”
The LORD of lords
Lord of lords (Deut. 10:17; Psalm 136:3).
The LORD YHVH
Lord YHVH. Lord GOD.
References: Gen. 15:2, 8; Deut. 3:24; 9:26; Jos. 7:7; Jdg. 6:22; 16:28; 2 Sam. 7:18ff, 22, 28f; 1 Ki. 2:26; 8:53; Ps. 69:7; 71:5, 16; Isa. 3:15; 7:7; etc.; Amos 1:8; 3:7f, 11, 13; 4:2, 5; 5:3; 6:8; 7:1f, 4ff; 8:1, 3, 9, 11; 9:8; Obad. 1:1; Mic. 1:2; Zeph. 1:7.
The LORD YHVH of hosts
Adon Adonai Tseva'ot.
The Lord GOD of hosts. (Tsava means army or host). This often appears with the prefixive Hey: ha-adon Adonai Tzeva’ot. References: Isa. 1:24; 3:1; 10:16, 33; 19:4; Mal. 3:1.
My Lord (Psalm 110:1).
The Lord YHVH
The Lord God (Ex. 23:17, Ex. 34:23).
Our Lord (1 Sam. 16:16).
Our Lord. Spelling variant. Often used to refer to leaders (such as King David).
References: 1 Sam. 25:14, 17; 1 Ki. 1:43, 47; Neh. 10:30; Ps. 8:2, 10.
The Lord of all the earth
Lord of all the earth.
References: Jos. 3:11, 13; Ps. 97:5; Zech. 4:14; 6:5.