pneu·​ma ˈnü-mə How to pronounce pneuma (audio)
plural pneumas or pneumata ˈnü-mə-tə How to pronounce pneuma (audio)
in theology : soul, spirit
specifically : holy spirit
The adherents of these movements believe that the pneuma—Holy Spirit—plays a central role in their lives and their communities … David Maxwell
in classical medicine : an invisible liquid or vapor held to travel throughout the body and to be necessary to and associated with life
Pneuma, according to ancient Greeks and Romans, was a driving force in the body, necessary for maintaining bodily functions.Judy Duchan
in Stoicism : a mixture of air and fire held to be the divine organizing principle of the universe
Of the four elements, the Stoics identify two as active (fire and air) and two as passive (water and earth). The active elements, or at least the principles of hot and cold, combine to form breath or pneuma. Pneuma, in turn, is the 'sustaining cause' … of all existing bodies and guides the growth and development of animate bodies.Dirk Baltzly
The distinctive contribution of Stoicism, at any rate by the time of Chrysippus, was to extend the explanatory role of pneuma beyond individual animal life, and to make it the vital power of the world as a whole. … Pneuma is the vehicle of the divine 'reason' (logos) which pervades and governs the entire world …David Sedley

Word History



First Known Use

1559, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pneuma was in 1559

Dictionary Entries Near pneuma

Cite this Entry

“Pneuma.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 2023.

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