St. Teresa of Ávila. In traditional Christian iconography, saints are often depicted with halos as a symbol of holiness.

A saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God. However, the use of the term "saint" depends on the context and denomination. In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox, and Lutheran doctrine, all of their faithful deceased in Heaven are considered to be saints, but some are considered worthy of greater honor or emulation;[1] official ecclesiastical recognition, and consequently veneration, is given to some saints through the process of canonization in the Catholic Church or glorification in the Eastern Orthodox Church.[2]

While the English word saint originated in Christianity, historians of religion now use the appellation "in a more general way to refer to the state of special holiness that many religions attribute to certain people", with the Jewish tzadik, the Islamic walī, the Hindu rishi or Sikh guru, and the Buddhist arhat or bodhisattva also being referred to as saints.[3] Depending on the religion, saints are recognized either by official ecclesiastical declaration, as in the Catholic faith, or by popular acclamation (see Folk saint).[4]

General characteristics

The English word "saint" comes from the Latin "sanctus". The word translated in Greek is "ἅγιος" (hagios), which means "holy".[5] The word ἅγιος appears 229 times in the Greek New Testament, and its English translation 60 times in the corresponding text of the King James Version of the Bible.[6]

The word sanctus was originally a technical one in ancient Roman religion, but due to its "globalized" use in Christianity the modern word "saint" in English and its equivalent in Romance languages is now also used as a translation of comparable terms for persons "worthy of veneration for their holiness or sanctity" in other religions.

Many religions also use similar concepts (but different terminology) to venerate persons worthy of some honor.[3] Author John A. Coleman S.J. of the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California wrote that saints across various cultures and religions have the following family resemblances:[7]

  1. exemplary model
  2. extraordinary teacher
  3. wonder worker or source of benevolent power
  4. intercessor
  5. a life often refusing material attachments or comforts
  6. possession of a special and revelatory relation to the holy.

The anthropologist Lawrence Babb in an article about Sathya Sai Baba asks the question "Who is a saint?", and responds by saying that in the symbolic infrastructure of some religions, there is the image of a certain extraordinary spiritual king's "miraculous powers", to whom frequently a certain moral presence is attributed. These saintly figures, he asserts, are "the focal points of spiritual force-fields". They exert "powerful attractive influence on followers but touch the inner lives of others in transforming ways as well".[8]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Heilige
Ænglisc: Sanct
العربية: قديس
asturianu: Santu
বাংলা: সন্ত
беларуская: Святы
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Сьвяты
български: Светец
brezhoneg: Sant
català: Sant
čeština: Svatý
corsu: Santi
Cymraeg: Sant
dansk: Helgen
Deutsch: Heiliger
eesti: Pühak
Ελληνικά: Άγιος
español: Santo
Esperanto: Sanktulo
euskara: Santu
فارسی: قدیس
français: Saint
Frysk: Hillige
Gaeilge: Naomh
Gàidhlig: Naomh
galego: Santo
хальмг: Бодь
한국어: 성인 (종교)
հայերեն: Սրբեր
hrvatski: Svetac
Ido: Santo
Bahasa Indonesia: Santo
interlingua: Sancto
íslenska: Dýrlingur
italiano: Santo
Jawa: Santo
ქართული: წმინდანი
қазақша: Әулие адам
Kiswahili: Mtakatifu
Latina: Sanctus
latviešu: Svētais
Limburgs: Heilige
magyar: Szent
македонски: Светец
मराठी: संत
مصرى: قديس
Bahasa Melayu: Santo
日本語: 聖人
norsk: Helgen
norsk nynorsk: Helgen
Nouormand: Saint
پنجابی: سینٹ
polski: Święty
português: Santo
Ripoarisch: Hellije
română: Sfânt
Runa Simi: Santu
русский: Святой
Scots: Saunt
shqip: Shenjtor
Simple English: Saint
slovenčina: Svätec
slovenščina: Svetnik
српски / srpski: Светац
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Svetac
suomi: Pyhimys
svenska: Helgon
Tagalog: Santo
தமிழ்: புனிதர்
ไทย: เซนต์
українська: Святий
اردو: بزرگ
vèneto: Santo
Tiếng Việt: Thánh (Kitô giáo)
walon: Sint
Winaray: Santo
粵語: 聖人
中文: 圣人