Methodist pastor and Missouri state representative Emanuel Cleaver delivered the opening prayer for the 117th national congress and ended his address with “Amen and Awomen”. Baffled by that closing remark, some attentive viewers shared their confusion online. We do our best to explain the possible meaning of “awomen”.

Amen and…”awomen”?

Representative Emanuel Cleaver represents Missouri’s fifth congressional district. He is also a United Methodist pastor.

Yesterday, he opened the 117th Congress with a prayer, which ended with the traditional “amen” and a less-traditional, “awomen.”

Rep Cleaver’s choice of language could be in response to Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic party’s proposed ban on the use of gender-specific words in congress. Under the ban, words like he/she would become gender neutral terms such as “delegate” or “member”. Other words such as “father” and “mother” would become “parent”.

What is the meaning of “awomen”?

As used by Rep Cleaver, “awomen” was probably intended as a gender-inclusive alternative to “amen”, the typical ending of Christian prayer. The intended meaning of “awomen” here might have been to provide the feminine version of “amen”.

However, issues arise when we look at the etymology of “amen” in order to understand its meaning. Originally, “amen” comes from Hebrew, traveling through Greek and into Latin and means “truth” or “certainty”. It was first found in the Hebrew Bible and is commonly used in Christian, Jewish and Islamic worship as a conclusion or response to prayer.

In Hebrew it also means “it is so” or “so it be”.

So, in its original meaning, “amen” is not a gendered word. However, seeing as the last three letters of the word also form the English word “men”, it’s easy to understand where the “awomen” confusion could have come from.

Twitter reacts to “amen and awomen”

Many people on Twitter are not getting behind this new term.

It seems that this new word isn’t going to be catching on very quickly!

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