Recently I watched this video and that's where my question stems from. All native speakers of English in the video use the definite article the when referencing Buddha: The Buddha. But, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama talks about him as Buddha, not The Buddha.

I noticed that sometimes God, or Lord may take the definite article, not always, although there's only one God, but Jesus, Moses and Allah don't. I also know that the proper names don't take the definite article such as Frank, Jim. Susan, etc.

So, when does one employ a definite article with deities and holy people, please let me know your thoughts on this.

  • In some instances, you can use the with 'proper names', including 'holy people', for instance in 'The Jesus written about in that book is not the Jesus I know.' As for 'the Buddha', it's probably just a matter of style, meant to single Siddhartha out among other Buddhas. (See SE: Buddhism for How many Buddhas are there?) Apr 17, 2017 at 21:21
  • I see, you're making a good point in your comment, @Clare. What about the Dalai Lama? Apr 17, 2017 at 21:28
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    You've correctly written the Dalai Lama both in your question and your comment! I imagine we do this because it's a 'position' held by a specific person, as in the Pope. Apr 17, 2017 at 21:32
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    In English we use the with deific roles. Compare "the Christ", i.e. "The Anointed One", The Messiah, the Dalai Lama, The Creator.
    – TimR
    Apr 18, 2017 at 1:25
  • Also, expanding a bit on TRomano's comment, I think it bears mentioning that this is because most native speakers of English are Christians (no guarantees about the accuracy of the map and my statement, but I think it's a relatively accurate hypothesis). And if they are Christian, they would have a (more) personal relationship with Christ, thus calling him, "Christ" in prayers, etc. (Cont'd.) Apr 18, 2017 at 9:18

1 Answer 1


You use "the" when there is a group from which to choose from, but you are talking about a specific one. As per comments, "the Pope" which means the current Pope.

You would not say "the Jesus," meaning Jesus Christ, because there is only one of him - you aren't specifying which one, because there is no ambiguity.

For Buddha: as per Clare's comment, there are many Buddhas, so we use "the." I assume the Dalai Lama doesn't care about them one bit, so he just says Buddha, because as far as he's concerned, Buddha is the only Buddha.

Please note that the comments contain much better information than me on the "the Buddha" bit.

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