Most of the dictionaries define that rebirth is a second or new birth. I have observed that this word is used for a soul that takes birth as the same species. For instance, looking at a kid who dances, walks, talks exactly like the great terpsichorean might be called the rebirth of MJ or MJ reborn.

My question is does the term 'rebirth' restricts to taking birth again as the same species? Or rebirth of the soul could be anything? The last birth, the soul took birth as a human and now could be an insect? Or we refer rebirth only if that soul is again human?

We judge rebirth of a person by looking whether his/er characteristics match with that of the dead person but here, if I use the word 'rebirth' it's merely the next birth of that soul and it has nothing no resemblance, similarity or 'character-matching' with the previous birth.

  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about religious way of using the term.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 8:48
  • I tried to delete but it did not allow. I thought about it and think it's depends on what religion we follow.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 8:49
  • I think that this is an interesting question from a secular linguistic perspective. Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 15:33
  • My sense of the use of “rebirth” is that it would generally be specific to situations where some fundamental aspect of the underlying form is maintained. In contexts where this may or may not be the case, I would prefer “reincarnation” (which, if I think about it, implies placement in a new body). There is a lot of gray area here, especially when either term is used metaphorically. Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 15:49

3 Answers 3


I think that depends entirely on what your religious expert of leader of your choice has to say about it. At least when it comes to idea of rebirth of souls. In general English, rebirth more often then not is not meant literally at all, since the Judeo-Christian tradition does not believe in any kind of rebirth, except maybe at the end of days (and there is still debate on whether animals are included in that, if they have souls or not, etcetera. But in that instance, the rebirth would very likely be into a similar body as the one that was left behind).

In general, rebirth is, as you own link also says, often used in a figurative way. When related to a human, the person does not physically die first, but he finds new energy. More often, there are no humans directly involved in the rebirth at all, when we talk about the rebirth of a style, a custom or even a civilisation. Sure, in all those cases, whatever is "reborn" is usually reborn in a similar form!

  • Yeah. I thought on that. The question is more based on religion than the language. Thanks for the answer anyway.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 8:50

The link you included says that in

(Hinduism) repeated rebirth in new forms.

Besides a figurative way, basically the world is familiar with the concept of reincarnation trough Hinduism and Buddhism, mostly, as two biggest religions containing this concept as one of the fundamental attributes. Dictionaries most unlikely should go so deep to cite or explain what kind of forms there could be.

On the other hand, if an author who writes, say, a fantastic book was needed to describe a situation, when a man is reborn as an animal (or other way round), (s)he would normally put rebirth for this. So nowadays the word rebirth is normally used to describe a situation with new life forms.


In English, the term "rebirth" can be used in any situation where "birth" is a valid term, but one wishes to draw attention to the idea that that thing existed before. One may talk of the "rebirth" of a political movement, indicating that the movement existed before (and probably fell apart), but it has experienced a sudden revival of interest. In one sense, it's the same movement, but the new interest feels like a "birth" of a new movement in its own right.

Because the term is so open, religions may use it in a great variety of forms. For example, in Buddhism, it is well recognized that reincarnation is not always into a human form, but it is still considered a reincarnation or a rebirth. Generally speaking, every religion has its own lexicon of terms that it uses, and they provide a more exacting definition of the word for their uses than a dictionary might provide.

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