Hosanna is based on a Greek word of the New Testament that was derived from a combination of two Hebrew words of the Old Testament, pronounced yaw-shah, meaning to save or deliver, and naw, meaning pray. Originally intended as "Save/deliver us, I/we pray," hosanna is now more often used as a exclamation of praise.
The term was used widely in the Hebrew Scriptures, including this example from the Psalms which describe both Jesus Christ and His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem that was still centuries in the future:
"I thank Thee that Thou hast answered me and hast become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is The Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which The Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
"Save us, we beseech Thee [i.e. "hosanna"], O Lord! O Lord, we beseech Thee, give us success! Blessed be He who enters in the name of The Lord! We bless you from the house of The Lord. The Lord is God, and He has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar!" (Psalm 118:21-27 RSV)
The New Testament
Hosanna is best known from the Triumphal Entry, where its change from its original meaning was becoming apparent.
"And when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to The Mount Of Olives [shown in the photograph], then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and he will send them immediately."
"This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying, "Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass."
"The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and He sat thereon. Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of The Lord! Hosanna in the highest!"
"And when He entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, "Who is this?"
"And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee."
"And Jesus entered the Temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the Temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you make it a den of robbers."
"And the blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the Temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant; and they said to Him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise'?" (Matthew 21:1-16 RSV)
Fact Finder: Why did Jesus Christ call the Temple in Jerusalem "My Father's House" (e.g. John 2:16)?
See "My Father's House"