Meaning of "Ϣⲉⲛⲟⲩϯ"

I'm curious to know the root word of "Shenoute".  It seems clear to me it has "God" in it (Noute).  What does the "She" indicate?


  • "He chose him since childhood, the Theotokos named him "Shenouda", how cherished! It means "the son of God". - Melody of St Shenouda the Archmandite

    Maybe 'She' is the equivalent of 'Sheeri' in the south.
  • Ϣⲉ has seven meanings in Coptic (this is taken from Moawad's Dictionary)
    1. to go (Sahidic only). Bohairic equivalent is ⲃⲱⲕ.
    2. Wood/cross
    3. the number 100
    4. Swearing
    5. Son/Daughter
    6. Blow/Stroke.
    7. Nose.

    If Shenoute was meant to be "son of God", it would be ϣⲉⲛⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ not ϣⲉⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ. I have a problem with this meaning because it is never used in the Bible. We do have ϣⲉⲛⲓⲱⲧ (son of the father) and ϣⲉⲛⲙⲁⲩ (daughter of the mother). There are a lot of combinations found using ϣⲉ as "son/daughter": ⲥⲟⲛ ϣⲉⲛⲥⲟⲛ (son of the brother/nephew), ϣⲉⲛⲥⲟⲛⲱⲓⲧ (daughter of the father's brother/paternal niece) or ϣⲉⲛⲥⲱⲛⲙⲁⲩ (son of the mother's sister/maternal cousin), etc. In all of these cases the genitive (ⲛ) is used after ϣⲉ, always resulting in ϣⲉⲛ not ϣⲉ.

    Now it is possible ϣⲉⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ can mean "cross of God" as in "the one who carries the cross of God". But it is unlikely because this definition and was common in Bohairic Coptic and not Sahidic. (FYI, this is also where we get the word ⲁⲙϣⲉ or ϩⲁⲙϣⲉ meaning "carpenter"). 

    There is nothing to stop us from suggesting that Ϣⲉⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ means "the hundred God" or "hundreds of gods", "Strike/blow of God", "Nose of God", or "oath/swearing of God".

    It is possible that ϣⲉⲛ can be a form of ϣⲓⲛⲓ "ask", which would give us a meaning of "Ask God" for ϣⲉⲛⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ. 

    Grammatically speaking both "Son of God" and "Ask God" are not Ϣⲉⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ but Ϣⲉⲛⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ. There is no evidence or reason to think one is a more plausible source for the name Shenoute. 

    What also makes this difficult is that I don't think the name Shenoute was ever used before our 5th century saint. So it is hard to imagine this was a common Egyptian name or a name that can be linked to Ancient Egypt. I think the answer will likely be found in the Vita of St Shenoute in the original Coptic. (Which will take some research to figure this out).

    As far as I know, no Coptologist has ever given an etymological source for Shenoute. 

    For now, it is universally accepted that Ϣⲉⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ means "son of God" (only from modern Coptic sources like dictionaries and melodies) and not any other etymological possibility. 

    If you have problems with the Coptic Unicode text, let me know and I will rewrite this without Coptic. I hoped this helped. 
  • I'll have to check my computer because my iphone isn't recognizing it
  • Did it work for you Mina?
  • Yes, I just checked my computer works.

    I wonder if it's possible that ancient Copts use the name as an abbreviated form of the longer meaning, just like Hebrew names.  "Yohanan" seems to have the abbreviated "Yahweh" in its name.  I wonder if other examples of Coptic names with ancient documentation of the meaning might have a similar ring to that.
  • Maybe, but I'm not an Egyptologist. So your guess is as good as mine.
  • Unfortunately I cannot use the unicode text, so I will try to be clear, and if I am not please let me know. 
    It makes perfect sense for shanouda to be "son of God", or "belongs to God". None of the other six meanings of "sha" would fit (except maybe as a swearing article to mean "by God" (= wallahy in Arabic - however this is not actually a Christian style of phrase, and as @Remenkimi pointed out it may have been present before the emergence of islam)). It is not uncommon for the letter "nai" or "mai" in Coptic to fuse together in some commonly used combinations. Examples are "emmon endaf - emmondaf", and also "sa akhown - sakhown", etc. It is therefore more plausible to be "belonging to God" rather than ask of God, or hundred gods, in agreement with what @minasoliman said.
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • Opadece,
    You're right about double letters fusing. However, if the phenomenon of fusing letters was so prevalent, it would have happened in other conjugated words with "she". So "shennoufi" would be "shenoufi" but it is not. There are other words that use "she" that result in double "n" and they are not fused. I have a hard time believing the fusing happened for "shenoute" only.

    In addition, since "shenoute" doesn't follow grammatically, there is nothing to say the meaning is not "the Hundred God" or "Ask God" or any other possibility based on linguistics. When you interpolate and add the meaning with a Christian background, sure these can't be possible. But names are not always based on religion, especially in Ancient Egypt. 

    I also find it suspicious that Shenoute means "son of God" because no Coptologist or etymologist has said Shenoute means "Son of God". And Shenoutean Coptic is one of the most studied figures in Antiquity. 

    By the way, if you have a unicode Coptic font, the text should read fine. Make sure you have some installed and you should be able to see the unicode text.
  • @Remenkimi,
    well there's nothing concrete about this, and I just threw my two pence worth.. I still don't think it's hundred gods or ask of God although I agree with you that names are not just based on religious words.. lastly shannowfi is a compound word not a combination of two separate words..
    oujai khan ebshois
  • We also have to look at the Greek version of the name, which is Senotheo. I believe that also means son of God. The names of the Patriarchs have shenouda and the greek version of the name
  • Wouldn't son of God in Greek be "iouototheo"?
  • Yios tou Theou (nominative), Yie Theo (dative I think) and a bunch of other forms all mean Son of God. Senothiou is not Son of God in Greek. It is the Greek equivalent of Shenoute, nothing more. 
  • edited January 2015
    You have to admit though, "Sinuthius" does end in "Theos", like Shenoute ends in "noute"...could "sen" = "she"?
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