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The Hebrew word ruach is translated "spirit" in English that comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning "breath", but also "soul, courage, vigour".

In the Vulgate (an early 5th century version of the Bible in Latin which is largely the result of the labours of Jerome), the Latin word spiritus translates Greek pneuma (Hebrew ruach), as opposed to anima, translating Greek psuche. The word was loaned into Middle English via Old French espirit in the 13th century.

The distinction between soul and spirit became current in Judeo-Christian terminology (e.g. Hebrew ruach versus nephesh, Greek pneuma versus psuche, Latin spiritus versus anima).

Nephesh is the Hebrew word commonly translated as soul in English ("And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul [nephesh]" Genesis 2:7).