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Pronounced “ha-DEETH.” A report or reports about a saying, action or tradition of Muhammad and his closest companions. Can be used as both a singular and a plural noun. Hadith are viewed by Muslims as explanations of the Quran and are second only to Islam’s holy book in terms of guidance and as a source of Shariah (Islamic law). The two most reliable collections are by Bukhari and his student Muslim, both ninth-century Islamic scholars.

Filed in Islam


Pronounced “hahj.” In Islam, a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. It is the fifth of the Five Pillars of Islam. Every Muslim who is physically capable and financially able is expected to make the hajj at least once. Hajj takes place during the 12th month of the Islamic year, and specific rites take place during a five-day period. Because Muslims follow a lunar calendar, the dates move each year. The festival of Eid al-Adha occurs at the end of hajj. A hajji is a person who has undertaken the pilgrimage. See Eid al-Adha.

Filed in Islam


Pronounced “ha-la-KHAH.” Jewish law, or the set of rules and practices that govern every aspect of life. They are defined by Jewish scripture and teachings. Jews believe that the law was given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai and that it has been interpreted for each generation by respected and learned rabbis.

Filed in Judaism


Pronounced “ha-LAL.” In Arabic, something that is lawful and permitted in Islam. It is often used to refer to Islamic dietary laws, which prescribe ritual slaughtering of beef and poultry, among other things.

Filed in Islam


Takes place in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain on Oct. 31, the day before All Saints Day. The day traces its roots to pagan celebrations, predominantly among the Celts in the British Isles. In recent years, some U.S. Christians have opposed Halloween celebrations and created alternative celebrations, claiming the day is satanic.

Filed in Christianity, Protestantism


An Islamic political party in Palestine. An armed wing of the party uses the same name.

Filed in Islam


The Jewish Festival of Lights. It usually falls in early or mid-December. The eight-day holiday celebrates the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrians in the second century B.C. The Maccabees were a first- and second-century B.C. Jewish family that brought about the restoration of Jewish religious and political life. They also made several unsuccessful attempts to overthrow Roman rule in Judea. Hanukkah is the preferred spelling. See Jewish holidays.

Filed in Judaism


Pronounced “HUN-oo-maan.” In Hinduism, an incarnation of Lord Shiva and the embodiment of devotion. Hanuman is generally depicted in a monkey form but can assume any form. He is most popular among devotees of the avatar Lord Ram and others following a devotional path. There are more temples and roadside shrines to Hanuman than any other deity in all of North India. For Hindus, Hanuman is one of the finest exemplars of a life of love and service of God.

Filed in Hinduism


Pronounced “ha-RAHM.” In Arabic, something that is forbidden or prohibited in Islam.

Filed in Islam


Pronounced “HAR-em.” In Arabic, a sanctuary or sacred territory in which all things are considered inviolable. Mecca and Medina both have this designation.

Filed in Islam

Hare Krishna

Pronounced “HA-rey KRISH-na.” This Hindu term can refer to a worshipper of Krishna or a mantra to him. It also can refer to a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which was founded in 1966 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and is a sect that focuses on the worship and understanding of God as Krishna.

Filed in Hinduism


A Hebrew term (Haredim in the plural) that literally means “fear” or “anxiety” and is used in the context of a devout believer who “trembles in awe of God.” The label can be applied to strictly observant Orthodox Jews instead of the term ultra-Orthodox, but Haredi is not widely used outside of Israel and Jewish media outlets.

Filed in Judaism, Religion and culture


Pronounced “HA-ree-jun.” The term literally means “people of God” and was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi to refer to those in the untouchable subcastes. Today, Hindu members of these jatis identify themselves by their sectarian affiliation or with the terms Harijan or Anasuchit Jati (“Scheduled Caste” in Hindi). See caste system.

Filed in Hinduism


Pronounced “hah-SHEM.” The word some Jews use in the place of the word God, which is considered to be too holy to utter. It literally means “The Name.”

Filed in Judaism


A social and religious movement in Judaism founded in 18th-century Poland. It stresses the importance of devotion in prayer and serving God in ecstasy amid day-to-day life. Hasidic Judaism is usually structured around a “rebbe,” or revered spiritual teacher whose interpretations of Jewish law govern the community. Its followers, called Hasidim, are among the most traditional of U.S. Orthodox Jews. Hasidic is the adjectival form.

Filed in Judaism


Lowercase in all references.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, Protestantism, Religion and culture


The language in which the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, was first written. Its ancient form consists only of consonants, although later scholars added “vowel points” under the letters to aid pronunciation. Jewish children preparing for their bar or bat mitzvahs learn Hebrew so they can read portions of the Torah in the synagogue. Biblical Hebrew differs from modern Hebrew, which is the language of the state of Israel. The term Hebrew is also an outdated way to refer to Jews and should not be used.

Filed in Judaism


Lowercase in all references.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Religion and culture


Pronounced “hur-muh-NOO-tiks.” The theory and principles of interpretation often associated with scriptural texts.

Filed in Religion and culture


A Shiite Islam political party in Lebanon. An armed wing of the party uses the same name.

Filed in Shiite

High Church

A description used in the Anglican tradition as well as more generally in Protestant traditions to describe churches that emphasize liturgical formality, which often includes formal vestments, the chanting or singing of parts of the service (beyond hymns), incense and the ringing of small bells. Lowercase when used for non-Anglican traditions.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian

High Holy Days

The High Holy Days are the 10-day period beginning with Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year, and ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Filed in Judaism

higher consciousness

The notion that there is a plane or state of existence that transcends day-to-day life and consciousness and that can be accessed through spiritual practice.

Filed in Religion and culture


Generally used to describe the scarf many women who are Muslims use to cover their head, but it can also refer to the modest dress, in general, that women wear because of the Quran’s instruction on modesty. Shiites are more likely to wear hijabs than Sunni Muslims, but women decide whether to wear one based on the dictates of their mosque, community and conscience. See abaya, burqa, niqab.

Filed in Shiite


Pronounced “HIJ-ra.” In Arabic, to flee in pursuit of sanctuary; the term refers to the flight of Prophet Muhammad in 622 from Mecca to Medina, and marks the start of the Islamic calendar. Also spelled hijira.

Filed in Islam


Pronounced “hi-nuh-YAA-nah.” A term meaning “little vehicle” that was originally used by Mahayana Buddhists to refer to early Buddhism. It is generally considered pejorative; use Theravada instead. See Theravada.

Filed in Buddhism


India’s most popular religious and cultural system and the world’s third-largest religion (after Christianity and Islam). Most followers live in India, but there are large populations in many other countries. Its oldest scriptures are the Vedas.

Hinduism, also known as Sanatana Dharma (“the eternal natural law”), is one of the world’s most ancient religious and spiritual systems and encompasses a broad spectrum of philosophies, ranging from pluralistic theism to absolute monism. Followers believe that God (Brahman), the ultimate reality or truth, can be understood in various ways and often use the two terms interchangeably. This not only reflects the diversity of practice and perspective in Hinduism, but also the belief that this infinite reality is beyond the comprehension of undisciplined minds. Therefore, Hindus celebrate God’s various attributes through different representations. Most Hindus believe in one God, who is all-pervasive, though he or she may be worshipped in different forms, in different ways and by different names. As such, Hinduism can be described as monotheistic and henotheistic: monotheistic in its belief in one God and henotheistic in that any one God can be worshipped without denying the existence of other forms or manifestations of God.

A basic belief in Hinduism is that the soul does not die but is reborn into another life form when the body dies. Under Hinduism’s rule of karma, every act and thought affects how the soul will be reborn. This cycle of birth and rebirth continues until the soul achieves spiritual perfection and is united with the Supreme Being.

Hindus believe that all living beings have souls, and some are revered as manifestations of God. These beliefs have evolved over several thousand years and are embedded in ritual, mystical and ascetic practices. There are many regional variations in Hindu practice.

Hindus have no formal clergy but do have spiritual teachers, or gurus. Capitalize guru before a name on first reference, and use only the last name on second reference. Swami is a title of respect and reverence conferred on a religious teacher and, in particular, one who has taken vows of celibacy and renunciation; it, too, should be capitalized before a name. See Vedas.

Filed in Hinduism

Hola Mohalla

A Sikh festival celebrated with mock battles and displays of horsemanship. The primary celebration takes place in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, India. Occurs in March, one day after the Hindu festival of Holi.

Filed in Sikhism


In philosophy, the belief in the interconnectedness of all things into a greater whole. In medicine, the belief in the treatment of the whole person, rather than certain aspects of a disease or other illness.

Filed in Religion and culture


Always capitalize when referring to the murder of 6 million Jews and others during World War II. Lowercase in other uses.

Filed in Judaism

Holy Bible

See Bible.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Protestantism

Holy Communion

See CommunionEucharist and sacrament.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism

Holy Father

Refers to the pope. However, the preferred form is the pope or the pontiff, or to give the individual’s name. Use Holy Father only as part of a quotation.

Filed in Catholicism

Holy Ghost

See Holy Spirit.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism

holy orders

See sacrament.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism

Holy See

A term of reverence for the Diocese of Rome, it is used to refer to the pope and his Curia, the Roman Catholic Church’s administrative offices, when official church actions are taken. The Holy See refers to an entity that is distinct from the city-state of the Vatican, although the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Filed in Catholicism

Holy Spirit

The third entity of the Christian Trinity of God, Son and Holy Spirit. Christians believe the Holy Spirit leads people to belief in Jesus and dwells in each Christian. The Holy Spirit is depicted in Christian art as an ascending dove bathed in light or as a flame. Once called the Holy Ghost, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the term Holy Spirit came into use. It is now the preferred term.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism

Holy Thursday

The day before Good Friday, when Jesus had his Last Supper with his disciples, washed their feet and instituted Holy Communion. In the Catholic Church, Lent ends whenever the Holy Thursday service begins in any given parish. Also called Maundy Thursday.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism

Holy Week

In Christianity, the week that begins with Palm Sunday and concludes with Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and Easter commemorates his rising from the dead. Also includes Holy Thursday, which commemorates the Last Supper (Jesus’ final meal with his disciples), and Good Friday, the day of Christ’s Crucifixion. The Roman Catholic Church has redesignated the period as Passion Week, but Holy Week is still the generally used and preferred term.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism


Pronounced “hah-muh-LET-iks.” The art or study of delivering sermons or homilies.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism


A person attracted to someone of the same sex. The preferred terms are gay and lesbian.

Filed in Gender and sexuality


Hyphenate when used as an adjective.

Filed in Religion and culture

house church

A small group of Christians who gather in a home for worship and fellowship, eschewing traditional church. They strive to reproduce the practice of the earliest churches formed after Jesus died. Also called home churches.

Filed in Christianity, Protestantism


Travelers on a hajj pilgrimage.

Filed in Islam


A rationalist who believes that humanity is capable of morality and self-fulfillment without reliance on supernaturalism.

Filed in Atheism/Agnosticism

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