Evangelical has several distinct meanings:
- In its original sense, it means belonging or related to the Gospel (Greek: euangelion - good news) of the New Testament.
- In the United States, it usually refers to adherents of Evangelicalism.
- In Europe, especially in the German speaking countries, Evangelical (evangelisch) is a general designation for churches adhering to beliefs of the Reformation, e.g. Evangelical Lutheran Church, Evangelical Reformed Church, or Evangelical Methodist Church, in contrast to Catholic or Orthodox churches. In this sense, it comprises everything from a liberal state church to a conservative free church in the Baptist or Pietist tradition.
- However, in German there are now two words used which are commonly translated "Evangelical": "evangelisch" meaning Protestant, and more narrowly the Lutheran and Reformed churches, and "evangelikal", pertaining to Evangelicalism. In Austria, the United Lutheran and Reformed Church (Evangelische Kirche in Oesterreich) claims a monopoly on the former term and has in the past sued independent churches using the designation "evangelisch".