The word is identical to the usual plural of el, meaning gods or magistrates, and is cognate to the 'l-h-m found in Ugaritic, where it is used for the pantheon of Canaanite gods, the children of El, and conventionally vocalized as "Elohim". Most use of the term Elohim in the later Hebrew text imply a view that is at least monolatrist at the time of writing, and such usage (in the singular), as a proper title for the supreme deity, is generally not considered to be synonymous with the term elohim, "gods" (plural, simple noun). Hebrew grammar allows for this nominally plural form to mean "He is the Power (singular) over powers (plural)", or roughly, "God of gods". Rabbinic scholar Maimonides wrote that the various other usages are commonly understood to be homonyms.
It is generally thought that Elohim is derived from eloah, the latter being an expanded form of the Northwest Semitic noun ’il. The related nouns eloah (אלוה) and el (אֵל) are used as proper names or as generics, in which case they are interchangeable with elohim. The term contains an added heh as third radical to the biconsonantal root. Discussions of the etymology of elohim essentially concern this expansion. An exact cognate outside of Hebrew is found in Ugariticʾlhm, the family of El, the creator god and chief deity of the Canaanite pantheon, in Biblical AramaicʼĔlāhā and later SyriacAlaha ("God"), and in Arabic ʾilāh ("god, deity") (or Allah as "The [single] God").
"El" (the basis for the extended root ʾlh) is usually derived from a root meaning "to be strong" and/or "to be in front".