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The name Jesus translates simply as Jesús, and Christ as Christo. So why is Jesus Christ translated as Jesucristo rather than Jesús Cristo or Cristo Jesús?

Google gives me a plethora of explanations for the origin of the name Jesús or the term Cristo (which are quite similar to the origins of the respective words in English), but I'm curious about the origin of the contraction Jesucristo. So far my searching has found nothing about the history of this word.

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7 Answers 7

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The Latin Iesus is an irregular form of the 4th declension. (The Latin declensions are like verb conjugations in Spanish, but applied to nouns).

Iesus is in the singular nominative case: the "name" of the word (as seek it in the dictionary) and the form it takes when is grammatical nucleus of subject. Iesum is in singular acusative (like direct complement). And Iesu is the form that takes all another cases (dative, genitive and ablative singular and plural).

Since the formation of the Spanish language until the mid-20th century all Spanish speakers say the Latin name of Jesus Christ weekly in a ceremony: Mass. Consider the following passages of Mass in Latin:

Grátia Dómini nostri Iesu Christi, et cáritas Dei, et communicátio Sancti Spíritus sit cum ómnibus vobis.

...exspectántes beátam spem et advéntum Salvatóris nostri Iesu Christi.

Dómine Iesu Christe, qui dixísti Apóstolis tuis...

In the simplified version of the Roman Missal of St. Pius V in 1570 I count 3 mentions of Iesu and none of Iesus or Iesum. In a full version of modern Latin Mass I count 10 mentions of Iesu, 5 Iesum and none of Iesus. (It's an approach, the text changes daily).

Consequently, we can say that there is not really a loss of -s sound in the Spanish word "Jesús". What we have is a Latin cultism that led to the synthesis of two words in one. Iesu Christi became Jesucristo.

Until the eighteenth century remains the original orthographic form with two words separated by a space, by example this Spanish book titles:

But in the late eighteenth century there is evidence that the words are coming together in one compound word. A hyphen shows the first step of this join:

In 1790, an edition of a book prefers to use the hyphen, and 27 years later, the new edition of 1817 already uses the modern form (and has even lost the H):

Then we could say that the current Spanish form Jesucristo is used since circa 1800. A good evidence of this transition is found in this book

in which among the hundreds of references to Jesuchristo, appear hidden 3 times Jesu-Christo with an hyphen.

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This is exactly the type of answer I'm looking for! I wonder if you can add some sources, especially for the second to last paragraph, about the origin of the two Spanish words. – Flimzy Aug 9 at 18:29
Fantastic answer, well done! – fedorqui Aug 9 at 18:31
Exactly. In medieval periods it was most common to see Jesus' name spelt jheſu. I'm currently transcribing a book from 1495 and it exclusively uses that spelling (jheſsu chriſtu in full, with a space) – guifa Aug 10 at 12:52
@guifa, sorry, what means "with a sieve" in your comment? – Rodrigo Aug 10 at 22:01
@Rodrigo "with a space", stupid autocorrect on my phone (and no editing of comments) – guifa Aug 10 at 22:22

In many dialects (or forms, if you wish) of Spanish, the S before a consonant transforms into an aspirated sound very similar to the english H.
So imagine something like Jesuhcristo and it's only logical that it ends up like Jesucristo

* Yes, the S in Cristo could have suffered the same process, so there's a hole in my theory. :D

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Interesting. Can you provide some additional examples where this is true? – Flimzy Jan 2 '12 at 22:18
Not sure, jesucristo is the only one I can think of right now. Anyway it's just speculation. But I'll post some if can remember. – Petruza Jan 3 '12 at 0:24
It sounds like an interesting theory... but if that's the only case, then it's not much of a pattern :) Yes, if you think of others, please let us know! – Flimzy Jan 3 '12 at 0:29
I cannot validate, but this does really sound feasible. The difference between the two Ss is really the phonetic emphasis they get because of their position in the word. Sadly, I cannot come up with any other examples right now. I will ask a language expert and see what she has to tell me on this later. – Alpha Jan 6 '12 at 18:17
@Flimzy: In spoken Spanish, even if not written, such a change occurs extremely frequently, and is well-documented in the literature as well. – Aprendedor Aug 10 at 21:48

He encontrado una referencia en la Enciclopedia Católica Online que menciona al libro "Origin of the Name of Jesus Christ", Maas, Anthony. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

Esta referencia incide en el hecho de que "Jesús" era un nombre común en la época y que "Cristo" era una denominación, por lo que "Jesucristo" es resultado de su uso conjunto.

La palabra Jesus es la forma latina del griego Iesous, que a su vez es la transliteración del hebreo Jeshua, o Joshua, o también Jehoshua, que significa “Yahveh es salvación”. (...) El nombre griego está relacionado con el verbo iasthai, sanar; (...) Si bien en el tiempo de Cristo el nombre Jesús parece haber sido bastante común le fue impuesto a Nuestro Señor por orden expresa de Dios (Lc. 1,31; Mt. 1,21), como señal de que el Niño estaba destinado a “salvar a su pueblo de sus pecados.”

La palabra Christ, Christos, equivalente griego para la palabra hebrea Messias, significa “ungido”

Sólo luego de la Resurrección el título se convirtió gradualmente en nombre propio, y la expresión Jesucristo o Cristo Jesús se convirtió en una sola designación. (...)

El uso del artículo definido antes de la palabra Cristo y su gradual desarrollo hacia un nombre propio muestra que los cristianos identificaban al portador de ese nombre con el Mesías prometido de los judíos.

La caída de la s forma parte del proceso histórico de la evolución de las palabras a través de su uso. Sin embargo, no puedo encontrar una regla general que la explique con mayor detalle.

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lt might come from Latin, perhaps because all the declensions but two are Iesu (nominative Iesus, and accusative Iesum), v.g. Jesu Christi. This might have lead to a hyphenated use in Spanish as Jesu-Christo. The RAE erased the h. And, I don't know when or how, it got merged. (Still, I realize it's just a theory. Somehow I managed to be sure, so I checked and I'm editing this. I apologize.)

  • Christ means Messiah, not king.

You can absolutely say/translate it as Cristo Jesús. It is perfectly fine, and perhaps more appropriate than Jesucristo.

You cannot say Jesús Cristo, even if it's right, because it is not commonplace at all. But I would agree and advocate for writing "Jesu-Christo" as it was before,

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In Spanish counpound words (and I guess names too) the first word almost always ends in a vowel.

Besides this makes it alot easier to say too! =)

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Well, that doesn't say anything about what happens when the first words does not end in a vowel. – leonbloy Oct 28 '14 at 13:50

The term "Cristo Jesús" does occur in several places in the Bible. For example, in Efesios 2:10.

I think this follows the word order chosen in the original Greek. The English translations do the same thing. Paul sometimes uses one word order, sometimes the other.

As to why "Jesús Cristo" becomes "Jesucristo", I concur with the repsonders who theorize that it rolls off the tongue easier, and that's why it evolved that way.

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Most likely it is a mix of Spanish and Greek.

JesuCristo => Jesus + Cristo Jesus (no explanation needed right?) Cristo comes from greek Xristo, which was a way to refer to the kings of Israel, so at the end Jesucristo is some kind of "Jesus, the king".

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This does not answer the question: why is it Jesucristo instead of Jesuscristo? – Gorpik Oct 28 '14 at 11:05

protected by Diego Dec 24 '14 at 1:59

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