"High place", or "high places", (Hebrew במה bamah and plural במות bamot or bamoth) in a biblical context always means "place(s) of worship". This rendering has etymological justification, as appears from the poetical use of the plural in such expressions as to ride, or stalk, or stand on the "high places" of the earth, the sea, the clouds, and from the corresponding usage in Assyrian; but it has been surmised[by whom?] that a semantic shift occurred because the places of worship were originally upon hilltops, or because the bamah was an artificial platform or mound, perhaps imitating the natural eminence which was the oldest holy place, but neither view is historically demonstrable.
The development of the religious significance of the word took place probably not in Israel but among the Canaanites, from whom the Israelites, in taking possession of the holy places of the land, also adopted the name. Many towns and villages in ancient Israel had their own places of sacrifice, commonly called bamot. It has been suggested that the plural of the word referred to places of sacred prostitution and of pagan worship.