Sunday, September 17, 2006

Armenian Church Vocabulary

If you are like me, you know very, very little Armenian, either liturgical or conversational. This post will help you out with some of the vocabulary you will need to know to get along in the church:


If you are visiting the Armenian Church for the first time, people will probably assume you know Armenian, and try to talk with you. In my regular church, people are happy if you even just know a little. This list will also help you out if you are an odar (outsider, i.e. a non-Armenian) dating an Armenian. If you are lucky (like me), you will be familiar with the pronunciation, and can pronounce "gh" and "kh" etc. This is all Western Armenian, by the way.

Eenchbes es/ek? - How are you? ("es" is "you are" informal, "ek" is "you are" formal. It's like tu/usted in Spanish)
Lav em - I am fine
Shad lav - very well
Paree looys - good morning
sireli - dear ones (you will sometimes hear the priest address the congregation as "sireli")
shnor hagalem - thank you
Keech keedem - I know a little (as in "I know a little Armenian")
chem keeder - I don't know
Ayo - yes
Voch/che - no. There is some disagreement among my sources about which to use when. Voch seems to be the formal "no" and che (literally "it's not") is the informal "no," but according to my mother, her mother wouldn't let them say "voch" because (and I'm translating loosely here) "brats say voch." Not sure what the real story is there, but "ayo" seems to be more helpful anyway, although knowing "che" will help you pick out the negative expressions in a conversation.
aysor - today

This is enough to get by. People will know you don't know Armenian, but they will appreciate your efforts nonetheless.


The liturgy is in Classical Armenian, which apparently isn't much like either Eastern or Western Armenian. Here are some terms that will help you understand what the heck is going on during the Badarak.

Badarak - literally, "sacrifice", but used to refer to Armenian church service.
Der Hayr/ Soorp Hayr- the priest. Der Hayr is a married priest, and Soorp Hayr is a celibate priest. Soorp Hayr may also possibly refer only to those celibate priests who have achieved a particular level in the hierarchy, but I am not sure about this. I don't think that this is the case, but it's possible (hey, we're all learning here)
Der voghormia - Lord, have mercy. This gets used A LOT in the service.
Soorp - Holy
Khatch - Cross
Hayr Mer - Our Father (the Lord's Prayer
Adzvadz - God
Hoki - spirit
Hokehankist - literally "spirit rest," hokehankist is the service after the Badarak said in memory of those who have died. You have it said a certain period of time after the death (40 days?), and then every year.

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