As with many Fremen terms and words, Shai-Hulud is more than a mere descriptive term for a physical entity. Specifically, it often alludes to the Fremen belief that the sandworm is a physical embodiment of the One God that created and governs the universe. Thus to the Fremen Shai-Hulud is a sacred term that is usually spoken with a tone of awe, fear or respect.
Linguistically, Shai-Hulud has many literal translations, all of which speak of the size, age, and power of the sandworm. Among the noted translations are:
- "Old Man of the Desert"
- "Old Father Eternity"
- "Grandfather of the Desert"
In Arabic, the name can be split into "Shai" ("thing") and "Hulud" ("eternal" or "eternity").