The word dulia comes from the Greek doulia (meaning "slavery" or "servitude"). But in Catholicism, the word has taken on a theological meaning, as described in the Catholic Encyclopedia, "signifying the honour paid to the saints."

I see the connection between servitude and veneration, in that a servant shows a sort of respect to his master. But yet the two meanings, I think, are distinct enough that this transition wouldn't have been automatic.

So, I'd like to know when this transition occurred. Did the "veneration" meaning first appear in Latin, or originally in Ancient Greek? I know from that CE entry that Augustine weighed in on this subject, so it seems to have happened at least that early, but did it happen earlier than that?


2 Answers 2


I suspect this is a calque from Hebrew. The root עבד `-b-d means both "serve, be a slave" and "worship, venerate", and is common in both meanings in the Old Testament. Greek translations of the OT were extremely slavish (fittingly enough), so such calques are pretty frequent.


I can only give a partial answer:

The meaning in question definitely isn't of Latin origin, it came to the (Christian) Latin from Greek, together with the word. The (Greek) word "dulia" was used as terminus technicus throughout the struggle over veneration of icons, which was resolved by the Second Council of Nicaea (787) - but I don't know for how long it had been used in this meaning at that time.

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