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What is the meaning of the saying Jesus H. Christ?

Jesus H. Christ

Jesus H. Christ is a profane expletive, typically uttered in surprise, disappointment, disgust, exasperation, or astonishment. It is sometimes said in a humorous context. Regardless of its intent, saying “Jesus H. Christ” amounts to taking the Lord’s name in vain. It is an unholy utterance of the Savior’s name, an offense to believers, and a violation of God’s command not to “misuse the name of the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:7, NLT).

Taking the Lord’s name in vain (dishonoring it by treating it irreverently or misusing it in an oath) has been happening ever since Bible times (Leviticus 19:12), but the precise origin of the expression Jesus H. Christ is somewhat of a mystery. It most likely developed from an early Christian monogram or abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ. By the third century AD, the name of the Lord was sometimes shortened in Christian inscriptions, sculptures, and paintings. IH is one of the oldest monograms for the name Jesus. In the Greek language, it is an abbreviation created from the first letters of the name Jesus (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ).

IHC is one of the abbreviated Latin transliterations of this Greek word. The three letters are an Anglicized iota, eta, and sigma, and they correspond to the first, second, and last letters of Jesus’ name in Greek. Today, the abbreviation usually appears as IHS, but in Late Classical Latin, the sigma was represented by a C. Those without a knowledge of Latin mistook the iota in IHC for a J, which they assumed to mean “Jesus”; they likewise interpreted the C to mean “Christ.” That left only the H. Not knowing what it meant, they left it as an initial and spoke of “Jesus H. Christ,” as if that were His full name.

The earliest reported use of Jesus H. Christ appears to have been in the mid-1800s. In his autobiography, dictated in early 1906, Mark Twain tells the story of hearing the swear word in Missouri, where he worked as a printer’s apprentice in the mid-1800s. According to Twain, a co-worker had abbreviated Jesus Christ’s name to “J.C.” in a religious tract printed for the evangelist Alexander Campbell. After a severe reprimanding from Campbell for the disrespectful treatment of Christ’s name, the co-apprentice “enlarged the offending J.C. into Jesus H. Christ” (, accessed 3/27/24). Twain explains that this particular form of swearing, emphasizing the “H.” in between “Jesus” and “Christ,” was already frequently uttered among “the common swearers of the region” during his childhood (Smith, E. S., ed., The Autobiography of Mark Twain, California Press, 2010, p. 458).

In 1885, a New York science and religion journal cited Jesus H. Christ as a humorous expression found in a Texas newspaper story. That same year, it appeared in a satirical verse play called The Creation. In one line of the play, Adam replies to Eve and refers to God’s Son as Jesus H. Christ. The profanity also made its way into an 1892 folk song, “Men at Work,” in which some workers reluctant to rise early in the morning were cursed: “Then it’s ‘Jesus H. Christ, will you lay there all day?’” (, op. cit.).

The meaning of the name Jesus H. Christ is evident. It is a swear word that treats our Lord and Savior’s majestic and holy name with disrespect and dishonor. God’s name reflects His character and presence (Exodus 3:13–15; 34:5–7; Numbers 6:22–27). All His attributes and the sum of His being are contained in His “holy, awe-inspiring name” (Psalm 111:9; see also Psalm 8:1). As believers, we must be careful never to speak the name of Jesus Christ lightly or irreverently.

God elevated Jesus to the highest place of honor in His kingdom “and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:9–10, NLT). His name must be given nothing but the highest esteem and honor. Those who casually, comically, profanely, or in any manner refer to the Lord as Jesus H. Christ are in danger of incurring God’s punishment.

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This page last updated: April 2, 2024