Jews - Name and Etymology

Name and Etymology

The English word Jew continues Middle English Gyw, Iewe, a loan from Old French giu, earlier juieu, ultimately from Latin Iudaeum. The Latin Iudaeus simply means Judaean, "from the land of Judaea". The Latin term itself, like the corresponding Greek Ἰουδαῖος, is a loan from Aramaic Y'hūdāi, corresponding to Hebrew: יְהוּדִי, Yehudi (sg.); יְהוּדִים, Yehudim (pl.), in origin the term for a member of the tribe of Judah or the people of the kingdom of Judah. The name of both the tribe and kingdom derive from Judah, the fourth son of Jacob.

The Hebrew word for Jew, יְהוּדִי Yhudi, is pronounced, with the stress on the final syllable, in Israeli Hebrew, in its basic form.

The Ladino name is ג׳ודיו, Djudio (sg.); ג׳ודיוס, Djudios (pl.); Yiddish: ייִד Yid (sg.); ייִדן, Yidn (pl.).

The etymological equivalent is in use in other languages, e.g., "Yahoud"/"Yahoudi" (Arabic: يهود/يهودي‎) in Arabic language, "Jude" in German, "judeu" in Portuguese, "juif" in French, "jøde" in Danish and Norwegian, "judío" in Spanish, "jood" in Dutch, etc., but derivations of the word "Hebrew" are also in use to describe a Jew, e.g., in Italian (Ebreo), in Persian ("Ebri/Ebrani" (Persian: عبری/عبرانی‎)) and Russian (Еврей, Yevrey). The German word "Jude" is pronounced, the corresponding adjective "jüdisch" (Jewish) is the origin of the word "Yiddish". (See Jewish ethnonyms for a full overview.)

According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2000):

It is widely recognized that the attributive use of the noun Jew, in phrases such as Jew lawyer or Jew ethics, is both vulgar and highly offensive. In such contexts Jewish is the only acceptable possibility. Some people, however, have become so wary of this construction that they have extended the stigma to any use of Jew as a noun, a practice that carries risks of its own. In a sentence such as There are now several Jews on the council, which is unobjectionable, the substitution of a circumlocution like Jewish people or persons of Jewish background may in itself cause offense for seeming to imply that Jew has a negative connotation when used as a noun.

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