Soul or psyche (Greek: "psych", of "psychein", "to breathe") are the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking, etc.
Depending on the philosophical system, a soul can either be mortal or immortal. In Judeo-Christianity, only human beings have immortal souls (although immortality is disputed within Judaism and may have been influenced by Plato, and in Eastern Orthodox Christianity the soul is said to be immortal by grace, but not nature). For example, the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas attributed "soul" (anima) to all organisms but argued that only human souls are immortal. Other religions (most notably Hinduism and Jainism) hold that all biological organisms have souls, as did Aristotle, while some teach that even non-biological entities (such as rivers and mountains) possess souls. The latter belief is called animism.
Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, understood that the soul ( psch) must have a logical faculty, the exercise of which was the most divine of human actions. At his defense trial, Socrates even summarized his teaching as nothing other than an exhortation for his fellow Athenians to excel in matters of the psyche since all bodily goods are dependent on such excellence (Apology 30ab).
Anima mundi is the concept of a "world soul" connecting all living organisms on planet Earth.
The Modern English word "soul", derived from Old English swol, swel, was first attested in the 8th-century poem Beowulf v. 2820 and in the Vespasian Psalter 77.50. It is cognate with other German and Baltic terms for the same idea, including Gothic saiwala, Old High German sula, sla, Old Saxon sola, Old Low Franconian sla, sla, Old Norse sla and Lithuanian siela. Further etymology of the Germanic word is uncertain. The original concept is meant to be 'coming from or belonging to the sea/lake', because of the German belief in souls being born out of and returning to sacred lakes, Old Saxon sola (soul) compared to Old Saxon so (sea).
The Koine Greek word psych, "life, spirit, consciousness", is derived from a verb meaning "to cool, to blow", and hence refers to the breath, as opposed to ("soma"), meaning "body". Psych occurs juxtaposed to , as seen in Matthew 10:28:
Vulgate: et nolite timere eos qui occidunt corpus animam autem non possunt occidere sed potius eum timete qui potest et animam et corpus perdere in gehennam.
Authorized King James Version (KJV) "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
In the Septuagint (LXX), translates Hebrew nephesh, meaning "life, vital breath", and specifically refers to a mortal, physical life, but is in English variously translated as "soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion"; an example can be found in Genesis 1:21:
, - ; -
Vulgate Creavitque Deus cete grandia, et omnem animam viventem atque motabilem.
KJV "And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth."
Paul of Tarsus used and specifically to distinguish between the Jewish notions of nephesh and ruah (spirit) (also in LXX, e.g. Genesis 1:2 = = spiritus Dei = "the Spirit of God").