late 14c. as an order of angels, from Late Latin cherub, from Greek kheroub, from Hebrew kerubh (plural kerubhim) "winged angel," which according to Klein is perhaps related to Akkadian karubu "to bless," karibu "one who blesses," an epithet of the bull-colossus. Old English had cerubin, from the Greek plural. But there are other theories:
The cherubim, a common feature of ancient Near Eastern mythology, are not to be confused with the round-cheeked darlings of Renaissance iconography. The root of the terms either means "hybrid" or, by an inversion of consonants, "mount," "steed," and they are winged beasts, probably of awesome aspect, on which the sky god of the old Canaanite myths and of the poetry of Psalms goes riding through the air. [Robert Alter, "The Five Books of Moses," 2004, commentary on Genesis iii.24]
The meaning "beautiful child" is from 1705. The plural in this sense is cherubs.
updated on December 04, 2022