pneu·​ma | \ ˈnü-mə How to pronounce pneuma (audio) , ˈnyü- \
plural pneumas or pneumata\ ˈnü-​mə-​tə How to pronounce pneuma (audio) , ˈnyü-​ \

Definition of pneuma

1 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
2 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
3 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

First Known Use of pneuma

1559, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pneuma


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Cite this Entry

“Pneuma.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

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