(redirected from gift of tongues)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Idioms, Wikipedia.
Related to gift of tongues: speaking in tongues


(glŏs'əlā`lēə) [Gr.,=speaking in tongues], ecstatic utterances usually of unintelligible sounds made by individuals in a state of religious excitement. Religious revivals are often accompanied by manifestations of glossolalia, and various Pentecostal (see PentecostalismPentecostalism,
worldwide 20th–21st-century Christian movement that emphasizes the experience of Spirit baptism, generally evidenced by speaking in tongues (glossolalia).
..... Click the link for more information.
) movements cite for authority the Acts of the Apostles, which records that on the day of Pentecost the Apostles "were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability." There are other New Testament references to the phenomenon. The Corinthian believers overvalued the gift; Paul in 1 Corinthians encouraged the orderly use of the gift and "interpretation" of the utterance so that all might be edified. In Acts, however, the use of the gift produces speech in other human languages as a kind of reversal of the confusion of tongues produced at the Tower of BabelBabel
[Heb.,=confused], in the Bible, place where Noah's descendants (who spoke one language) tried to build a tower reaching up to heaven to make a name for themselves. For this presumption the speech of the builders was confused, thus ending the project.
..... Click the link for more information.


See J. P. Kildahl, The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues (1972); G. T. Montague, The Spirit and His Gifts (1974).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

From the Greek glossa, “tongue,” and lalia, “chatter,” glossolalia is the term used for “speaking in tongues.” Sometimes at religious gatherings or in séances, someone will go into a trance and start speaking in an unknown language. Many times witnesses to such an event will make extravagant claims, such as that the person was “Speaking in ancient Egyptian” or that they were “speaking Greek.” It is not known exactly what ancient Egyptians sounded like, and unless there was someone present who could actually verify that language, there can be no evidence for such utterances. Far more frequently the speech is utter gibberish. In fact, one definition of glossolalia is “speaking in pseudo-tongues”. Professor Charles Richet (1850–1935) preferred the term Xenoglossis, which covered both speaking and writing in unknown languages, whether real or pseudo.

Nandor Fodor reports that in the pamphlet Drei Tage in Gros Almerode written by a theological student of Leipzig, J. Busching, there is information on ten cases of xenoglossis at a religious revival at Almerode, Hesse, in 1907. He said, “The phenomena began with a hissing or peculiar gnashing sound. These sounds were caused by the subject, not wishing to disturb the order of service by interrupting a prayer already commenced, exerting himself to repress the inward impulse acting on his organs of speech. But all that had to come came, and the momentarily repressed glossolalies only burst forth with increased vigor.”

The Spiritualist medium Laura Edmonds, daughter of Judge John Worth Edmonds (1816–1874), claimed the gift of tongues. Although normally she could speak only English and a smattering of French, while entranced by Spirit she spoke a large number of different languages with great fluency, including Spanish, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, and Hungarian. Indian dialects were also identified. These phenomena and many others were all very meticulously recorded by her father. She was possibly the first Spiritualist medium to exhibit glossolalia. According to Emma Hardinge Britten, medium Jenny Keyes sang in Italian and Spanish, languages with which she was not familiar.


Britten, Emma Hardinge: Modern American Spiritualism. (1870) New York: University Books, 1970
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
Shepard, Leslie A: Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. New York: Avon Books, 1978
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) The phenomenon in which the speaker pronounces meaningless words and word combinations preserving only a few characteristics of speech (tempo and rhythm, syllable structure, and comparative frequency of various sounds); encountered in patients with certain mental illnesses.

(2) An element of religious cultism found in several primitive religions—for example, shamanism and a few Christian sects. Often, particularly in religious sects, the speaker is subjectively convinced that he is speaking some actually existing language. Zaum’ (poetic language using words regardless of their meaning) and certain forms of emotionally burdened speech are related to glossolalia. Thus, K. I. Chukovskii described a case of glossolalia in a mother’s addressing her child.


Konovalov, D. G. Religioznyi ekstaz v russkom misticheskom sektantstve. Sergiev Posad, 1908.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Gibberishlike speech; unintelligible jargon.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
I read chapters 12 and 13, where Paul speaks of the gift of tongues. "I should be pleased for you all to use the tongues of ecstasy," Paul says.
Why would Paul want us to seek and receive the gift of tongues today?
Ward, however, at first concurred and then renounced the doctrine; he wondered how the gift of tongues, considered as less important than prophecy by Paul, could have a special status above the others, and that without the gift of interpretation.
Abrams, "A New Outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Mukti; Accompanied by the Gift of Tongues," Faith Work in India, 10 July 1907.
Ellis, a newspaper reporter for the Chicago Daily News, who visited in July 1907: "Have Gift of Tongues. Girl Widows in Christian Church in India Develop Wonderful Phenomena," (Chicago) Daily News, 14 Jan.
Whether or not it was fair to blame Simpson for the expectations of the Kansans, there was a flurry of interest in the gift of tongues in the Alliance.
Six years later, however, Simpson reminded his readers of the excesses among the followers of Edward living and cautioned Alliance members about a "strained and extravagant attempt to unduly exaggerate the gift of tongues." "Some have even proposed," he wrote, "that we should send our missionaries to the foreign field under a sort of moral obligation to claim this gift, and to despise the ordinary methods of acquiring a language." [25]
Walter Black began by quoting scriptural precedents for the "gift of tongues, the visions seen by [New Testament believers] and all the gifts promised through the Holy Ghost." He also gave Bible proof to show that the promise applied to the current time.
For others, the gift of tongues provided a divinely given fluency.
By the time Parham and his students at Bethel Bible School in Topeka prayed in January 1901 for the end-times outpouring of the Holy Spirit (encouraged by Joel 2:28--29), the possible restoration of the gift of tongues had stirred interest among radical evangelicals for over two decades.
The roots of much of the contemporary interest in "signs and wonders" can be traced to the expectancy of radical evangelicals a century ago that "these signs will accompany those who believe." Desperate concern to evangelize the world prompted some of them to hope that the Holy Spirit would restore the gift of tongues according to the promise of Mark 16:17.
Grattan (Fanny) Guinness, "Faith-Healing and Missions," Regions Beyond, January 1891, p.31; see also Simpson, "The Gift of Tongues," Christian Alliance and Missionary Weekly, February 12, 1892, pp.