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Hymn vs. Anthem: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 12, 2023
A hymn is a religious song or ode, often praising God, while an anthem is a patriotic or ceremonial song representing a country or group.

Key Differences

Hymns are religious songs, typically associated with Christian worship, and focus on themes of praise, adoration, or prayer directed toward a deity. Anthems, however, are songs of celebration, often patriotic, symbolizing a country, organization, or movement. While hymns express personal or communal faith, anthems evoke a sense of national or group pride and identity.
The structure of hymns usually follows a predictable, often repetitive pattern to facilitate communal singing. Anthems tend to have a more varied and complex structure, designed to stir emotions and inspire. Hymns are often sung in churches or religious gatherings, whereas anthems are performed at national events, sports games, and official ceremonies.
In terms of lyrics, hymns are primarily focused on divine love, moral virtues, and spiritual teachings. Anthems, conversely, often emphasize national pride, history, and identity. Hymns tend to have a more contemplative and serene tone, while anthems are typically more rousing and uplifting.
Hymns have a long history, dating back to ancient times, evolving through various religious traditions. Anthems, on the other hand, often have a more recent origin, with many national anthems being adopted in the modern era. Hymns are universal across various cultures and religions, whereas anthems are specific to nations or specific groups.
The performance of hymns is usually more subdued, reflective, and meant for congregation participation. Anthems are often performed by bands or choirs, intended to be listened to as a form of respect or celebration. Hymns can vary widely in musical style, reflecting different religious traditions, whereas anthems usually adhere to a more standardized, formal style.

Comparison Chart


Religious worship and spiritual reflection
National or group pride and identity

Common Setting

Churches and religious gatherings
National events and ceremonies


Contemplative, serene
Rousing, uplifting

Lyrics Focus

Divine love, moral virtues
National pride, history

Audience Participation

Often sung collectively
Typically listened to with respect

Hymn and Anthem Definitions


A hymn is a religious song or chant with a spiritual message.
The congregation sang a hymn of hope and faith.


An anthem is a ceremonial song representing a country or organization.
The national anthem was played at the beginning of the sports event.


Hymns often follow traditional melodies and structures.
The hymn's simple melody made it easy for everyone to join in.


Anthems are performed at official events and ceremonies.
As the anthem began, everyone stood up in respect.


It's a form of worship music, often praising a deity.
The hymn 'Amazing Grace' is known worldwide for its powerful lyrics.


Anthems often have a rousing, inspiring musical style.
The school's anthem motivated the students during the assembly.


Hymns are used in religious services to express devotion.
During the service, a beautiful hymn filled the church.


It's a patriotic or group song, often evoking pride.
The anthem echoed through the stadium, inspiring the players.


A spiritual anthem, hymns convey moral and theological messages.
The choir's rendition of the ancient hymn was deeply moving.


A musical expression of national identity and unity.
The Olympic athletes sang their country's anthem with pride.


A song of praise or thanksgiving to God or a deity.


A hymn of praise or loyalty.


A song of praise or joy; a paean.


A choral composition having a sacred or moralizing text in English.


To praise, glorify, or worship in or as if in a hymn.


A popular song, especially a rock song felt to sum up the attitudes or feelings associated with a period or social group.


To sing hymns.


(archaic) Antiphon.


A song of praise or worship, especially a religious one.


A choral or vocal composition, often with a religious or political lyric.
The school's anthem sang of its many outstanding qualities, and it was hard to keep a straight face while singing.


(ambitransitive) To sing a hymn.


A hymn of praise or loyalty.
The choir sang a selection of Christmas anthems at the service just before the big day.


(transitive) To praise or extol in hymns.


(informal) A very popular song or track.


An ode or song of praise or adoration; especially, a religious ode, a sacred lyric; a song of praise or thanksgiving intended to be used in religious service; as, the Homeric hymns; Watts' hymns.
Admonishing one another in psalms and hymns.
Where angels first should practice hymns, and stringTheir tuneful harps.


To celebrate with anthems.


To praise in song; to worship or extol by singing hymns; to sing.
To hymn the bright of the Lord.
Their praise is hymned by loftier harps than mine.


Formerly, a hymn sung in alternate parts, in present usage, a selection from the Psalms, or other parts of the Scriptures or the liturgy, set to sacred music.


To sing in praise or adoration.


A song or hymn of praise or devotion; as, a national anthem.


A song of praise (to God or to a saint or to a nation)


To celebrate with anthems.
Sweet birds antheming the morn.


Sing a hymn


A song of devotion or loyalty (as to a nation or school)


Praise by singing a hymn;
They hymned their love of God


A song of praise (to God or to a saint or to a nation)


Where are hymns usually sung?

Hymns are typically sung in churches and religious gatherings.

What is a hymn?

A hymn is a religious song used in worship and spiritual practice.

Can hymns be non-Christian?

Yes, many religions have their own forms of hymns.

How are anthems used in sports?

Anthems are played to represent competing nations at sports events.

Are anthems sung by individuals?

Rarely, they are usually performed by bands or choirs.

Do hymns have a standard structure?

Yes, hymns often follow a traditional, repetitive structure.

Can hymns be modern?

Yes, new hymns are composed, blending traditional and modern styles.

Do hymns vary between cultures?

Yes, hymns reflect the diverse musical styles of different cultures.

What is an anthem?

An anthem is a ceremonial song representing a nation or group.

Are anthems always patriotic?

Mostly, but they can also represent organizations or movements.

What is the origin of most national anthems?

Many originated in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Do anthems have a specific musical style?

They usually have a formal, rousing style but can vary.

What themes do anthems typically cover?

Anthems often focus on national pride, history, and identity.

Are there non-religious hymns?

Some hymns may be spiritual without specific religious references.

Is audience participation common in hymns?

Yes, hymns are often sung collectively in worship services.

What is the significance of an anthem at international events?

It symbolizes national pride and unity on a global stage.

Can hymns be instrumental?

Yes, instrumental versions of hymns are common in worship.

What role do hymns play in religious services?

Hymns facilitate spiritual reflection and communal worship.

Can anthems change over time?

Yes, some countries have changed or updated their anthems.

How do hymns affect the atmosphere of worship?

They create a contemplative and reverent environment.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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