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James Tissot, Adam and Eve Driven from Paradise (c. 1896–1902);[n 1] the painting depicts cherubim (sense 1) preventing Adam and Eve from returning to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24)
A cherub (sense 2) decorating a lavabo or washbasin in the Misericórdia Church in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
A detail depicting cherubs (sense 2) or putti from Pieter de Grebber’s Aanbidding der herders (Adoration of the Shepherds, 1633)[n 2]

From Middle English cherub, cherube, cherubin, cherubine, cherubym, cherubyn, cherybin, gerubin, jerubin (angel of the second highest order; depiction of such an angel),[1] from Old English cerubin, cerubim, ceruphin, cherubin, from Latin cherūbīn, cherūbīm, from Ancient Greek χερουβίν (kheroubín), χερουβείν (kheroubeín), χερουβίμ (kheroubím), from Hebrew כְּרוּבִים(k'ruvím)[2]; further etymology uncertain.

The English and Middle English word cherub(e) is derived from Latin cherub (cherub) (the singular form of cherūbīm, cherūbīn), from Ancient Greek χερούβ (kheroúb), ultimately from Hebrew כְּרוּב(kerúv). Because it was not always clear from Bible passages whether a single being or group of beings was being referred to, cherubin was used both as a singular word (plural cherubins) and plural word up to the 18th century. However, in Bible translations particularly from the 16th century onward cherub began to be favoured as the singular form, and from the 17th century cherubim as the plural form (influenced by Hebrew כְּרוּבִים(k'ruvím)).[2]

The English word is cognate with French chérubin, Italian cherubino, Old Spanish cherubin (modern Spanish querubín), Galician querubín, Portuguese querubim.[2]



cherub (plural cherubs or cherubim or cherubims)

  1. (biblical) A winged creature attending God, described by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (c. 5th–6th century) as the second highest order of angels, ranked above thrones and below seraphim; similar to a lamassu in the pre-exilic texts of the Hebrew Bible, more humanoid in later texts.
  2. An artistic depiction of such a being, typically in the form of a winged child or a child's head with wings but no body.
    Synonyms: amoretto, cupid, putto
    • 1611, Robert Abbot, “Of Images”, in The Second Part of the Defence of the Reformed Catholicke. [], London: Impensis Thomæ Adams, OCLC 863615948, page 1164:
      For ſome colour of ſetting vp their idols in Churches to bee worſhiped, they full ſimply alledge the Cherubins that were ſet vp in the temple which Solomon built, which M. [William] Bishop ſaith were the images of Angels, and that they did repreſent the Angels wee will not deny, but of what ſhape they were, no man ſaith Joſephus, can cõiecture or affirme any thing.
    • 1831 October 31, [Mary Shelley], chapter I, in Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus (Standard Novels; IX), 3rd edition, London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, [], OCLC 858441409, page 22:
      When my father returned from Milan, he found playing with me in the hall of our villa a child fairer than pictured cherub – a creature who seemed to shed radiance from her looks and whose form and motions were lighter than the chamois of the hills.
    • 1995, Catherine Gonzalez, Cherub in Stone (Chaparral Book for Young Readers), Fort Worth, Tex.: Texas Christian University Press, →ISBN, page 9:
      Finally I must have drifted off, because I dreamt we were in a terrible frightening place – there was a giant, standing on a hill, looking down at us. But then a cherub came to rescue me – it must have been that cherub in stone that Papa promised to carve for me. I remember feeling safe then, and after that I slept soundly all night.
    • 2010, Pseudonymous Bosch [pseudonym; Raphael Simon], “The Royal Kennels”, in This Isn’t What It Looks Like (The Secret Series; 4), New York, N.Y.: Little, Brown and Company, →ISBN; republished London: Usborne, 2014, →ISBN:
      The kennels occupied a long brick building designed to resemble the palace in miniature. Inside, the walls were painted with murals of dogs frolicking in the woods and giving chase to a frightened fox while chubby canine cherubim smiled down at them.
  3. (figuratively) A person, especially a child, seen as being particularly angelic or innocent.
    Synonyms: angel, innocent

Alternative forms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ From the collection of the Jewish Museum in New York City, New York, USA.
  2. ^ From the collection of the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht, the Netherlands.


  1. ^ cherubin, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 19 August 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 cherub, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1889; “cherub, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

Further reading[edit]




More recent than cherubijn. Borrowed from Latin cherub, from Ancient Greek χερούβ (kheroúb), ultimately from Biblical Hebrew כְּרוּב(k'rúv).


  • IPA(key): /ˈxeː.rʏp/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: che‧rub


cherub m (plural cherubs, diminutive cherubje n)

  1. cherub
    1. (biblical, historical) lamassu-like angel
    2. (biblical, religion) six-winged humanoid angel
    3. (art) putto




From Ancient Greek χερούβ (kheroúb), ultimately from Hebrew כְּרוּב(kerúv).



cherub m (irregular, genitive cherub)

  1. (indeclinable, Christianity) cherub
    • 405, Jerome and others, Vulgate, Exodus 25:18 & 405, Jerome and others, Vulgate, Exodus 25:19
      duos quoque cherubin aureos et productiles facies ex utraque parte oraculi
      cherub unus sit in latere uno et alter in altero
    • (Can we date this quote?) Nova Vulgata, Exodus 25:18&19
      Duos quoque cherubim aureos et productiles facies ex utraque parte propitiatorii,
      cherub unus sit in latere uno et alter in altero
      And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.
      And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end
    • 405, Jerome and others, Vulgate, Ezechiel 9:3
      et gloria Domini Israhel adsumpta est de cherub quae erat super eum ad limen domus et vocavit virum qui indutus erat lineis et atramentarium scriptoris habebat in lumbis suis
    • Nova Vulgata, Ezechiel 9:3
      Et gloria Dei Israel elevata est de cherub, super quem erat, ad limen domus; et vocavit virum, qui indutus erat lineis et atramentarium scriptoris habebat in lumbis suis.


Mostly indeclinable (with a distinct plural).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative cherub cherubim
Genitive cherub cherubim
Dative cherub cherubim
Accusative cherub cherubim
Ablative cherub cherubim
Vocative cherub cherubim


Many of the following are technically from the plural cherubin reinterpreted as a singular.


  • cherub in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • cherub in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré Latin-Français, Hachette