defining joy

Posted by on Jan 3, 2012 in Defining Joy, The Joy Project | 4 comments

defining joy

It only seems right, as we embark on our year-long pursuit of joy, to first spend a moment defining just what it is we’re pursuing.

Below is a compilation of definitions for the word “joy,” including the original Hebrew and Greek found in the biblical texts.

As you read them, what stands out to you?  Which aspects of joy seem most accurate?  Which do you most identify with?  Desire?  Which are you missing?

Definition of JOY (noun)


  1. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness; a deep feeling or condition of happiness or contentment; the feeling of lively and cheerful excitement and exhiliration.
  2. The expression or manifestation of such feeling.
  3. The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; delight.
  4. To take great pleasure; rejoice.
  5. An outward show of pleasure or delight; rejoicing
  6. A state of happiness or felicity; bliss.
  7. A source, cause, or object of delight, pleasure, or satisfaction.


Strong’s Number: 8057

Transliteration: śimḥâ

Phonetic Pronunciation:sim-khaw’

Definition: from <H8056> (sameach); blithesomeness or glee, (religious or festival) :- × exceeding (-ly), gladness, joy (-fulness), mirth, pleasure, rejoice (-ing).

Hebrew Word: ‏שִׂמְחָה‎

Root: from <H8056>

Part of Speech: noun feminine

Usage Notes:

English Words used in KJV:

joy (44 occurrences)
gladness (31 occurrences)
mirth (8 occurrences)
rejoice (3 occurrences)
rejoicing (2 occurrences)
miscellaneous translations 6
[Total Count: 94]

English Words used in HCSB:

joy (41 occurrences)
gladness (14 occurrences)
rejoicing (14 occurrences)
pleasure (6 occurrences)
joyfully (3 occurrences)
rejoiced (3 occurrences)
joyous (2 occurrences)
rejoice (2 occurrences)
pleased (1 occurrence)
grateful (1 occurrence)
miscellaneous translations 7
[Total Count: 94]


Strong’s Number: 5479

Transliteration: chara

Phonetic Pronunciation:khar-ah’

Definition: from <G5463> (chairo); cheerfulness, i.e. calm delight :- gladness, × greatly, (× be exceeding) joy (-ful, -fully, -fulness, -ous).

Greek Word: χαρά

Root: from <G5463>

Part of Speech: noun feminine

Usage Notes:

English Words used in KJV:

joy (51 occurrences)
gladness (3 occurrences)
joyful (1 occurrence)
joyous (1 occurrence)
joyfulness (1 occurrence)
joyfully + <G3326> (1 occurrence)
greatly (1 occurrence)
[Total Count: 59]

English Words used in HCSB:

joy (56 occurrences)
overjoyed (1 occurrence)
enjoyable (1 occurrence)
greatly (1 occurrence)
[Total Count: 59]

The word or idea that stands out most to me, and that which I most desire, is “delight.”  I miss taking delight in things, and long to “delight myself in the Lord.”  It speaks of great pleasure, enjoyment, gratification, and satisfaction.  I want it.

What about you?


  1. I am really looking forward to this. We are in sync here. I’ve been praying about experiencing more biblical joy – this will be my 3rd year. So , hopefully, it’s THE year:) I guess I experience fleeting moments of real delight – some like your experience watching cross country running, are tears of joy watching others being passionate about something worthwhile and some are because of my great God and what He is doing. But I think, no I know, it wouldn’t be such a repeated topic for God if He didn’t have more in mind. I think we have it in more abundance as kids and the weight of responsibility and self-protection kills it, but if I truly give all responsibility for my well being (work, marriage, parenting, finances, health and protection) over to God, then that leaves child-like living in His presence. And as His child, I should be able to delight in wonder (but not in self-indulgence). Too much for 7:45 in the morning. Thanks for being a tour guide on the journey, Lori.

    • I was thinking, Laurie, about the word “delight” and about how that came so much more easily as a child. (As a side note–perhaps this is one of the reasons we are urged to pursue Christ with a child-like faith!) I think you nailed it with responsibility (particularly the weight of responsibilities we aren’t meant to carry or to carry on our own) and especially with self-protection. I know those are definitely two key joy-stealers for me!

  2. I am also very excited for this project. Last year I started really trying to “find” more joy in my life. I have lived for circumstances most of my life and I have struggled with a lot of depression. Over the last couple of months, God has blessed me with joy and it was nothing I did or didn’t do, it just happened. It was and is so wonderful to experience the joy that God has for all of us!

    • Here’s your comment, Amy! It just had to get approved b/c it was the first time you’ve commented on this particular blog!

      And so excited about what God has been doing!

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