Born again


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Born again'?

Christians who affirm their renewed and strengthened commitment to their religion are called ‘born again’. To be born again is to be ‘born of the spirit’; the first birth being the physical birth of the flesh.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Born again'?

From the Bible, John 3.3 (King James Version):

Jesus answered and said … Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

The term began to be used in the 1960s to give a specific name to those who renewed their faith. The earliest printed reference I can find to ‘born again’ in this sense is from the Reno Evening Gazette, October 1914:

“It [Christian Science] gives man the opportunity of being born again.”

The first that specifically mentions ‘born again Christians’ is the Decatur Evening Herald (Illinois), December 1928:

“I knew I had the new desires that a born-again Christian acquires.”

By the 1980s the term was well enough established in the language for it to begin appearing in modified forms in jokes (always a good measure of linguistic acceptance). In 1981, at the start of the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament, and after Bjorn Borg had won five consecutive titles there, The Times published an article assessing his chances with the headline ‘Bjorn Again?’. Since then an Abba tribute band has also adopted ‘Bjorn Again’ as their name.

See other phrases that were coined in the USA.

Trend of born again in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.