In the Hebrew Bible it is used only in verses such as "help" or "save, I pray" (Psalms 118:25). In that context, the word Hosanna seems to be a "special kind of respect" given to the one who saves, saved, will save or is saving now. If so Hosanna means 'a special honor to the one who saves'. The old interpretation "Save, now!", based on Psalm 118:25, does not fully explain the occurrence of the word in the Gospels as a shout of jubilation, and this has given rise to complex discussions.
In a liturgical context, it refers to a cry expressing an appeal for divine help.
In Jewish liturgy, the word is applied specifically to the Hoshana Service, a cycle of prayers from which a selection is sung each morning during Sukkot, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. The complete cycle is sung on the seventh day of the festival, which is called Hoshana Rabbah ( , "Great Hosanna"). In Judaism, it is always used in its original Hebrew form, Hoshana.
"Hosanna" was the shout of praise or adoration made in recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD!" It is used in the same way in Christian praise.
It is applied in numerous verses of the New Testament, including "Hosanna; blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord" (Mark 11.9); "hosanna in the highest" (Mark 11.10); and "hosanna to the Son of David" (Matt 21:9).
The "Hosanna Anthem", based on the phrase Hosanna, is a traditional Moravian Church anthem written by Bishop Christian Gregor of Herrnhut sung on Palm Sunday and the first Sunday of Advent. It is antiphonal, i.e. a call-and-response song; traditionally, it is sung between the children and adult congregation, though it is not unheard of for it to be done in other ways, such as between choir and congregation, or played between trombone choirs.
Many songs for church use bear the title "Hosanna", including songs written by New Zealand singer Brooke Fraser Ligertwood (released on the 2007 Hillsong United albums All of the Above and live on Saviour King and covered by the Canadian group Starfield on their album I Will Go); another song by Paul Baloche on his 2006 album A Greater Song; another by gospel artist Kirk Franklin, and another by Andrew Peterson on his 2008 album Resurrection Letters II. Sidney Mohede's "Hosanna (Be Lifted High)" was included on Israel Houghton's 2011 Grammy Award-winning album Love God, Love People.
In the Philippines, particularly in Tagalog-speaking provinces, the term Osanahan refers to the procession of the priest from a prayer station (termed kuból or Galilea in some provinces) after the blessing of palms; to the parish church for the liturgy of the Mass of the Sunday of the Lord's Passion. This procession is accompanied by the faithful, with children dressed as angels singing Filipino or Latin antiphons set into lowland Filipino music, with either a rondalla or a brass band as musical accompaniment.
In the 1969 Broadway musical 1776 the word is used repeatedly as part of the chorus of the song "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men."
"Hosanna" is the name of one of the songs featured in the 1971 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. The song covers the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, as in the above Biblical passages. Jesus is briefly harassed by the high priest Caiaphas but the people celebrate him as the Messiah. There is also a reprise of the chorus when Jesus is sent to King Herod.
A. R. Rahman composed the song "Hosanna" for the 2010 Tamil movie Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa. Here the word is used as an exclamation of joy when a man sees his beloved. The Christian Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) objected to this song and asked film-makers Fox Star Studios to remove it from the final cut of the Hindi remake of the film, Ekk Deewana Tha. Paul McCartney's album New, released in 2013, features a song titled Hosanna. Contextually, he uses the phrase as a cry for help in light of the world's current state of affairs.