Armenian Language Corner


Thanksgiving is as American a holiday  as apple pie but, of course, the word “thanksgiving” existed before the holiday as well as its translations. And if we return to it weeks after the holiday, it is just because to give thanks and share in the joy and goodness is not just a matter of one day.

That’s why you may be surprised to know that the word գոհաբանութիւն (kohapanutioon) has not been invented to have an Armenian word for everything, as some people tend to think when someone else tells them that such or such word has an Armenian equivalent.

Long before 1991, there was a Thanksgiving Prayer for the independence of 1918-1920, which is what we use today on every anniversary of the first and second independences. This prayer was written in 1920 by Bishop Torkom Koushagian, then prelate of Egypt and later Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. Of course, Bishop Koushagian did not create the word kohapanootioon, which already appeared in the Book of Hours of the Armenian Church, in Classical Armenian, as part of the deacon’s exhortation in the vesper prayers: “Make us worthy, O Lord, with pure heart and with angelic song to offer thanksgiving [kohapanootioon madootsanel] unto thee, the almighty Lord God.”

Interestingly, kohapanootioon is a compound word formed by the roots գոհ (koh) and բան (pan) and the suffix ութիւն (օօtioon). The word koh meant “joyful” in Classical Armenian, while the noun գոհութիւն (kohootioon) expressed both meanings of “joy,” which generates satisfaction (the Modern Armenian meaning of koh, “satisfied”) and “gratitude.” Here we find the roots of kohapanootioon, where the word pan has the meaning of “word,” as in Gen. 1:1 (Ի սկզբանէ էր Բանն, I skzpane er Panun, “In the beginning was the Word”). Thus, kohapanootioon came originally to mean “to express the word of gratitude.”