The evil one goes by many a name: Satan, the Prince of Darkness, the Devil, and Lucifer to name a few.

What do all of these names mean, and where do they come from?


The modern English satan comes from the Hebrew שָּׂטָן‎, or sâtan, a generic noun meaning accuser or adversary. The word is derived from a Hebrew verb meaning primarily to obstruct or oppose. Satan is used throughout the Hebrew Bible referring to ordinary human adversaries, however when used as the proper name with the article ha-Satan, it refers to the satan: the heavenly accuser.

“The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan [Koine Greek: Σατανᾶς, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.” – Revelation 12:9

During the writing of the New Testament from 40 – 90 A.D., the Hebrew sâtan was transliterated into the Greek for satan, σαταν, and thereafter became used as a proper name for the Satan. An example of this usage was seen in the writings of Saint Columba to Pope Boniface IV around the year 590 A.D.:

“Once and again Satan hindered the bearers of our letters written formerly to Pope Gregory of good memory, which are subjoined below.”

The Devil

Just as satan can be a generic noun or a proper name, so too can devil refer to any fallen angel or their chief:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.'” – Matthew 25:41

When the Septuagint was translated from Hebrew into Greek, the Greek diabolos, meaning accuser, was used to translate the Hebrew satan of the same meaning. The modern English devil, from the Old English dēofol, therefore finds its origin in the exact same place as that of satan.


From the Hebrew word hêlêl meaning “shining-one, light-bearer,” the name Lucifer was originally used to describe the planet Venus, emphasizing its brilliance. When the King of Babylon is condemned in a prophetic vision, he is called the morning star, as the term has not always referred to Satan.

“How you have fallen from the heavens, O Morning Star [Latin: Lucifer], son of the dawn!” – Isaiah 14:12

The early Church Fathers are to thank for the tradition associating Lucifer as a proper name for the Devil as he was before his fall: “Lucifer has become a byword for Satan or the Devil in the church and in popular literature.”

Editorial credit: godongphoto /
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