An 18th-century Russian chart of the various types of Bogoroditsa (Mother-of-God) icons

Theotokos (Greek Θεοτόκος Greek pronunciation: [θeoˈtokos][1]) is a title of Mary, mother of God, used especially in Eastern Christianity. The usual Latin translations, Dei Genetrix or Deipara (approximately "parent (fem.) of God"), are translated as "Mother of God" or "God-bearer".[a][2][b][3]

The title has been in use since the 3rd century, in the Syriac tradition (as Classical Syriac: ܝܳܠܕܰܬ ܐܰܠܳܗܳܐ‎, translit. Yoldath Aloho) in the Liturgy of Mari and Addai (3rd century)[4] and the Liturgy of St James (4th century).[5] The Council of Ephesus in AD 431 decreed that Mary is the Theotokos because her son Jesus is both God and man: one divine person with two natures (divine and human) intimately and hypostatically united.[6][7]

Theotokos is also used as the term for an Eastern icon, or type of icon, of the Mother with Child (in the western tradition typically called a Madonna), as in "the Theotokos of Vladimir" both for the original 12th-century icon and for icons that are copies or imitate its composition.

The title of Mother of God (Greek Μήτηρ (του) Θεοῦ; abbreviated ΜΡ ΘΥ, Latin Mater Dei) (and equivalents) is most often used in English (and other modern western languages), largely due to the lack of a satisfactory equivalent of Greek τόκος / Latin genetrix.


Theotokos is an adjectival compound of two the Greek words Θεός "God" and τόκος "childbirth, parturition; offspring". A close paraphrase would be "[she] whose offspring is God" or "[she] who gave birth to one who was God".[8] The usual English translation is simply "Mother of God"; Latin uses Deipara or Dei Genetrix. The Church Slavonic translation is Bogoroditsa (Russian/Serbian/Bulgarian Богородица). The full title of Mary in Slavic Orthodox tradition is Прест҃а́ѧ влⷣчица на́ша бцⷣа и҆ прⷭ҇нод҃ва мр҃і́а (Russian Пресвятая Владычица наша Богородица и Приснодева Мария), from Greek Ὑπεραγία δεσποινίς ἡμῶν Θεοτόκος καὶ ἀειπαρθένος Μαρία "Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary". German has the translation Gottesgebärerin.

"Mother of God" is the literal translation of a distinct title in Greek, Μήτηρ του Θεού (translit. Mētēr tou Theou), a term which has an established usage of its own in traditional Orthodox and Catholic theological writing, hymnography, and iconography.[9] In an abbreviated form, ΜΡ ΘΥ (М҃Р Ѳ҃Ѵ), it often is found on Eastern icons, where it is used to identify Mary. The Russian term is Матерь Божия (also Богома́терь).[10]

Variant forms are the compounds Θεομήτωρ (translit. Theomētor; also spelled Θεομήτηρ, translit. Theomētēr) and Μητρόθεος (translit. Mētrotheos), which are found in patristic and liturgical texts.[11][12]

The theological dispute over the term concerned the term Θεός "God" vs. Χριστός "Christ", and not τόκος (genetrix, "bearer") vs. μήτηρ (mater, "mother"), and the two terms have been used as synonyms throughout Christian tradition. Both terms are known to have existed alongside one another since the early church, but it has been argued, even in modern times, that the term "Mother of God" is unduly suggestive of Godhead having its origin in Mary, imparting to Mary the role of a Mother Goddess. But this is an exact reiteration of the objection by Nestorius, resolved in the 5th century, to the effect that the term "Mother" expresses exactly the relation of Mary to the incarnate Son ascribed to Mary in Christian theology.[c][d][e][13]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Teotokos
العربية: ثيوتوكس
català: Mare de Déu
čeština: Theotokos
Ελληνικά: Θεοτόκος
español: Theotokos
Esperanto: Dipatrino
français: Théotokos
한국어: 테오토코스
hrvatski: Bogorodica
Bahasa Indonesia: Theotokos
italiano: Theotókos
Kiswahili: Mama wa Mungu
Lëtzebuergesch: Muttergottes
magyar: Theotokosz
മലയാളം: ദൈവമാതാവ്
Nederlands: Theotokos
日本語: 神の母
norsk: Theotokos
norsk nynorsk: Guds mor
polski: Matka Boża
português: Teótoco
română: Theotokos
Scots: Theotokos
slovenčina: Theotokos
slovenščina: Marija Božja mati
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Bogorodica (titula)
svenska: Guds moder
Tagalog: Theotokos
Türkçe: Theotokos
українська: Богородиця
Tiếng Việt: Mẹ Thiên Chúa