AskDefine | Define Satan

Dictionary Definition

Satan n : (Judeo-Christian and Islamic religions) chief spirit of evil and adversary of God; tempter of mankind; master of Hell [syn: Old Nick, Devil, the Devil, Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Tempter, Prince of Darkness]

User Contributed Dictionary



Satan < Satān < < שָׂטָן () ‘adversary, accuser’.


Proper noun

  1. The Devil.


the Devil





  1. Satan



Proper noun

  1. The devil.

See also


Extensive Definition

Satan is a term that originates from the Abrahamic faiths, being traditionally applied to an angel in Judeo-Christian belief, and to a jinn in Islamic belief.
While Hebrew ha-Satan is "the accuser" and Satan itself means "to overcome" — the one who challenged the religious faith of humans in the books of Job and Zechariah — Abrahamic religious belief systems other than Judaism relate this term to a demon, a rebellious fallen angel, devil, minor god and idol, or as an allegory for evil.
'Satan' is Satan in Standard Hebrew, in Tiberian Hebrew, in Aramaic, Σατανάς Satanás in Koine Greek, in Persian, in Arabic, in Ge'ez, in Turkish, and in Urdu.


The word 'Satan', and the Arabic شيطان "shaitan", may derive from a Northwest Semitic root , meaning "to be hostile", "to accuse." An alternative explanation is provided by the Hebrew in Bible verse |Job|1:7|HE. When God asks him whence he has come, Satan answers: "From wandering () the earth and walking on it" (מִשּׁוּט בָּאָרֶץ, וּמֵהִתְהַלֵּךְ בָּה). The root signifies wandering on foot or sailing. 'Satan' would thus be "the Wanderer".


Satan has many appearances, depending on the source. Many people connect the term Satan with the more goat-like appearance of the devil, with cloven hooves, goat legs, and horns. This image of Satan may be related to the notion of the Satyr, a half-man/half-goat in Greek Mythology, but evidence for this connection is lacking. The name Satan can be used to describe all forms of the devil. For example, people may believe that Satan is invisible, that he resembles the Minotaur, that he is a small devilish spirit, or that he looks like a man. The human-like form is the one most commonly known as Mephistopheles. In many descriptions, he looks like a dark angel. He is typically depicted with horns, a pointed tail, bat-like wings, and a staff or trident. In the biblical Book of Revelation, he is described as a dragon.

In Judaism

In the Hebrew Apocrypha

The Apocrypha are religious writings which are not generally accepted as scripture by many mainstream sects of Christianity and Judaism. These works usually bore the names of ancient Hebrew worthies in order to establish their validity among the true writers' contemporaries. To reconcile the late appearance of the texts with their claims to primitive antiquity, alleged authors are represented as "shutting up and sealing" (Dan. XII. 4:9) the works until the time of their fulfillment had arrived; as the texts were not meant for their own generations but for far-distant ages (also cited in Assumption of Moses I. 16:17).
In the Book of Wisdom, the devil is represented as the being who brought death into the world.
The 2nd Book of Enoch, also called the Slavonic Book of Enoch, contains references to a Watcher Grigori called Satanael. It is a pseudepigraphic text of an uncertain date and unknown authorship. The text describes Satanael as being the prince of the Grigori who was cast out of heaven and an evil spirit who knew the difference between what was "righteous" and "sinful". A similar story is found in the book of 1 Enoch; however, in that book, the leader of the Grigori is called Semjâzâ.
In the apocryphal literature, Satan rules over a host of angels. Mastema, who induced God to test Abraham through the sacrifice of Isaac, is identical with Satan in both name and nature.
For the Chasidic Jews of the eighteenth century, Ha-satan was Baal Davar.

As the "accuser"

Where Satan does appear in the Bible as a member of God's court, he plays the role of the Accuser, much like a prosecuting attorney for God.
According to the article on 'Satan' in the Jewish Encyclopedia, Satan's role as the accuser is found:

In Christianity

seealso War of Heaven
In Christianity, terms that are synonymous with 'Satan' include:
  • The most common English synonym for 'Satan' is 'Devil', which descends from Middle English devel, from Old English dēofol, that in turn represents an early Germanic borrowing of Latin diabolus (also the source of 'diabolical'). This in turn was borrowed from Greek diabolos "slanderer," from diaballein "to slander": dia- "across, through" + ballein "to hurl." In the New Testament, 'Satan' occurs more than thirty times in passages alongside Diabolos (Greek for "the devil"), referring to the same person or thing as Satan.
  • Lucifer is sometimes used in Christian theology to refer to Satan, as a result of identifying the fallen "son of the dawn" of Isaiah 14:12 with the "accuser" of other passages in the Old Testament.
  • Beelzebub is originally the name of a Philistine god (more specifically a certain type of Baal, from Ba‘al Zebûb, lit. "Lord of Flies") but is also used in the New Testament as a synonym for Satan. A corrupted version, "Belzeboub," appears in The Divine Comedy.
  • "The dragon" and "the old serpent" in the Book of Revelation 12:9, 20:2 have also been identified with Satan, as have "the prince of this world" in the Book of John 12:31, 14:30; "the prince of the power of the air" also called Meririm, and "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" in the Book of Ephesians 2:2; and "the god of this world" in 2 Corinthians 4:4.
  • Leviathan is described as "that crooked serpent," which is also used to describe Satan in Revelation 12:9. 'Sar ha Olam,' a possible name for Metatron, is described as Satan by Michael, Jehoel and St. Paul.
In mainstream Christianity's understanding of the holy Hebrew scriptures, the Torah, Satan is a synonym for the Devil. For most Christians, he is believed to be an angel who rebelled against God— and also the one who spoke through the serpent and seduced Eve into disobeying God's command. His ultimate goal is to lead people away from the love of God — to lead them to fallacies which God opposes. Satan is also identified as the accuser of Job, the tempter in the Gospels, the secret power of lawlessness in Bible verse 2|Thessalonians|2:7, and the dragon in the Book of Revelation. Before his alleged insurrection, Satan was among the highest of all angels and the "brightest in the sky." His pride is considered a reason why he would not bow to God as all other angels did, but sought to rule heaven himself. The popularly held beliefs that Satan was once a prideful angel who eventually rebels against God, however, are barely portrayed explicitly in the Bible and are mostly based on inference. Moreover, in mainstream Christianity he is called "the ruler of the demons" (Matt. 12:24), "the ruler of the world" and even "the god of this world." (2 Cor. 4:4). The Book of Revelation describes how Satan will be cast out of Heaven, down to the earth, having "great anger" and waging war against "those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus". Ultimately, Satan is thrown into the "lake of fire" (), not as ruler, but as one among many, being tormented day and night for all eternity.
In other, non-mainstream, Christian beliefs (e.g. the beliefs of the Christadelphians) the word "satan" in the Bible is not regarded as referring to a supernatural, personal being but to any 'adversary' and figuratively refers to human sin and temptation.

In Islam

Shaitan (شيطان) is the equivalent of Satan in Islam.
While Shaitan (شيطان, from the root ) is an adjective (meaning "astray" or "distant", sometimes translated as "devil") that can be applied to both man ("al-ins", الإنس) and Jinn. Iblis () is the personal name of the Devil who is mentioned in the Qur'anic account of Genesis.
Whenever the Qur'an refers to the creature who refused to prostrate before Adam at the time of the latter's creation, it refers to him as Iblis. The Islamic view of Iblis has both similarities and differences with Christian and Jewish views. The character of Satan is generally similar to the one presented in Judeo-Christian thought. However, according to Islamic belief, Satan is not considered to be a 'fallen' angel, but a jinn who was among the ranks of angels due to his wisdom and piety; in Islamic belief, angels always follow God's commands, but jinns (like humans) have free will, which explains why Satan was able to rebel against God's command of bowing to Adam.

Other instances of Satan

Although some other faiths may have an evil figure or entity likened to Satan (see Devil), few have a figure actually named 'Satan'.


An alternate name for the main deity in the tentatively Indo-European pantheon of the Yezidi, Malek Taus, is Shaitan.

In the Bahá'í Faith

In the Bahá'í Faith, 'Satan' is not regarded as an independent evil power as he is in some faiths, but signifies the "base nature" of humans. `Abdu'l-Bahá explains: "This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan -- the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside."

In Satanism

Much "Satanic" lore does not originate from actual Satanists, but from Christians. Best-known would be the medieval folklore and theology surrounding demons and witches. A more recent example is the so-called Satanic ritual abuse scare of the 1980s; beginning with the memoir Michelle Remembers – which depicts Satanism as a vast conspiracy of elites with a predilection for child abuse and human sacrifice. This genre regularly describes Satan as actually appearing in person in order to receive worship. Claims of Satanic child-molesting or murder rings are largely unsubstantiated.
People claiming to be Satanists – or outsiders claiming to describe Satanism – ascribe a wide variety of beliefs to this movement. These range from the literal worship of a spiritual being (Theistic Satanism); to a kind of subversive ritual performance stressing the mockery of Christian symbols (most notably the Black Mass); to the claimed rediscovery of an ancient but misunderstood religion (e.g. Setianism, which conflates Satan with the Egyptian god Set).
The most prominent and widely known Satanist in recent years was Anton Szandor LaVey, who founded the Church of Satan in 1966. LaVey wrote The Satanic Bible (1969) and other works which remain highly influential (though controversial) among avowed Satanists. LaVey rejects the Black Mass, cruelty to animals, or a literal belief in (or worship of) Satan, instead considering Satan as the human instinct within ourselves, which is what LaVeyan Satanism celebrates. Instead he supports a view of human beings as animals and rejects many social structures that he believes inhibit human instincts.

Images of Satan

In art and literature, Satan has been depicted in numerous ways throughout history. According to one interpretation of the book of Genesis, Satan is identified as the serpent who convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit; thus, Satan has often been depicted as a serpent. This interpretation goes back at least as far as the time of the writing of the book of Revelation, which specifically identifies Satan as being the serpent (Rev. 20:2). In truth, Genesis makes no direct reference to the serpent having another identity, Satan or any other. It has been postulated by many Biblical scholars that Eden's snake is just a snake, able to speak, reason, and tempt Eve because it serves the explanatory purpose.

In popular culture

For a discussion of Satan in fiction and pop culture, see

In international relations

America is frequently referred to by its opponents as "The Great Satan", dating back to the time of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who referred to the United States as the "Great Satan" in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran. Some Islamic fundamentalists claim that the U.S.A. is Satan himself. They perceive they are on the side of God in a struggle against Satan who is personified by the U.S.A.
Pope Benedict XVI stated that "the red dragon" was responsible for the Nazi dictatorship and the dictatorship of Stalin. With respect to the international relations in 2007, the Pope charged that "the red dragon" is active currently in "new and different ways". Satan is held responsible for much of the world's troubles primarily by those who take a religious view of history.

See also



External links

Satan in Arabic: الشيطان في اليهودية
Satan in Bulgarian: Сатана
Satan in Catalan: Satan
Satan in Czech: Satan
Satan in Danish: Satan
Satan in German: Satan
Satan in Estonian: Saatan
Satan in Spanish: Satanás
Satan in Esperanto: Satano
Satan in Persian: شیطان
Satan in French: Satan
Satan in Friulian: Satane
Satan in Korean: 사탄
Satan in Hindi: शैतान
Satan in Croatian: Sotona
Satan in Igbo: Ekwensu
Satan in Indonesian: Setan
Satan in Italian: Satana
Satan in Hebrew: שטן
Satan in Latin: Satanas
Satan in Hungarian: Sátán
Satan in Malay (macrolanguage): Syaitan
Satan in Dutch: Satan
Satan in Japanese: サタン
Satan in Norwegian: Satan
Satan in Norwegian Nynorsk: Satan
Satan in Russian: Сатана
Satan in Serbian: Шејтан
Satan in Finnish: Saatana
Satan in Swedish: Satan
Satan in Tamil: சாத்தான்
Satan in Thai: ซาตาน
Satan in Turkish: Şeytan
Satan in Ukrainian: Сатана
Satan in Chinese: 撒但

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Aides, Aidoneus, Ananias, Apollyon, Baron Munchausen, Beelzebub, Cerberus, Charon, Cora, Despoina, Dis, Dis pater, Erebus, Father of Lies, Hades, Hel, His Satanic Majesty, Kore, Loki, Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Minos, Old Nick, Old Scratch, Orcus, Osiris, Persephassa, Persephone, Pluto, Proserpina, Proserpine, Rhadamanthus, Satanas, Sir John Mandeville, consummate liar, deuce, devil-god, diablo, dirty liar, equivocator, fabricator, fabulist, fallen angel, false witness, falsifier, fibber, fibster, fiend, habitual liar, liar, mythomaniac, palterer, pathological liar, perjurer, prevaricator, pseudologist, pseudologue, serpent, spinner of yarns, storyteller, the Adversary, the Arch-fiend, the Common Enemy, the Demon, the Devil, the Devil Incarnate, the Evil One, the Evil Spirit, the Fiend, the Foul Fiend, the Old Enemy, the Old Serpent, the Tempter, the Wicked One, the archenemy, the serpent, viper, yarn spinner, yarner
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