The Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin terms that are typically translated as “mercy” (or “compassion” or “kindness”) in English are translated in various ways. Bratcher / Nida classify them in (1) those based on the quality of heart, or other psychological center, (2) those which introduce the concept of weeping or extreme sorrow, (3) those which involve willingness to look upon and recognize the condition of others, or (4) those which involve a variety of intense feelings.

While the English mercy originates from the Latin merces, originally “price paid,” Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, Corsican, Catalan) and other Germanic languages (German, Swedish, DanishBarmherzigkeit, barmhärtighet and barmhjertighed, respectively) tend to follow the Latin misericordia, lit. “misery-heart.”

Here are some other (back-) translations:

See also steadfast love.


The term that is used for monarchs in ancient Egypt and is transliterated as “Pharaoh” in English is translated in Finnish Sign Language with the sign signifying the “fake metal beard (postiche)” that was word by Pharaohs during official functions. (Source: Tarja Sandholm)

“Pharaoh” in Finnish Sign Language (source )

formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

complete verse (Genesis 40:14)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 40:14:

  • Kankanaey: “When your (sing.) life there again then becomes-good, please have-pity (i.e. be so kind as) to remember me and please tell the king concerning me so that if it might be possible, he will release me from this prison.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Newari: “Do remember me, however, when it goes well for you. By giving Pharaoh my request, bring me out of this prison.” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “May you (sing.) still remember me if you (sing.) (are) there now in a good situation. And as a showing of your (sing.) goodness to me, just mention me to the king so-that you (sing.) can-help me to get out from prison.” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “But when you are out of prison and everything goes well for you, please do not forget me.” (Source: Translation for Translators)

Translation commentary on Genesis 40:14

Joseph concludes his explanation of the wine servant’s dream by appealing to him to speak to the king on his behalf.

But remember me, when it is well with you: this may also be rendered, for example, “Please do not forget me when all is going well for you.”

Do me the kindness, I pray you: that is, “Please be kind [Hebrew chesed].” To make mention of me to Pharaoh: that is, “speak to the king about my case.”

Get me out of this house: house is the literal Hebrew, used in the general sense of any kind of building. There are other languages that also use “house” in this same general sense. However, the reference is to the prison, and the term should be translated by the term for jail or prison.

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, William D. and Fry, Euan McG. A Handbook on Genesis. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1997. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

imperatives (kudasai / Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of an imperative construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, the honorific form kudasai (ください) reflects that the action is called for as a favor for the sake of the beneficiary. This polite kudasai imperative form is often translated as “please” in English. While English employs pure imperatives in most imperative constructions (“Do this!”), Japanese chooses the polite kudasai (“Do this, please.”).

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )