Jew, Hebrew Yĕhūdhī or Yehudi, any person whose religion is Judaism. In the broader sense of the term, a Jew is any person belonging to the worldwide group that constitutes, through descent or conversion, a continuation of the ancient Jewish people, who were themselves descendants of the Hebrews of the Bible (Old Testament). In ancient times, a Yĕhūdhī was originally a member of Judah—i.e., either of the tribe of Judah (one of the 12 tribes that took possession of the Promised Land) or of the subsequent Kingdom of Judah (in contrast to the rival Kingdom of Israel to the north).
The Jewish people as a whole, initially called Hebrews (ʿIvrim), were known as Israelites (Yisreʾelim) from the time of their entrance into the Holy Land to the end of the Babylonian Exile (538 BCE). Thereafter, the term Yĕhūdhī (Latin: Judaeus; French: Juif; German: Jude; and English: Jew) was used to signify all adherents of Judaism, because the survivors of the Exile (former inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah) were the only Israelites who had retained their distinctive identity.
(The 10 tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel had been dispersed after the Assyrian conquest of 721 BCE and were gradually assimilated by other peoples.) The term Jew is thus derived through the Latin Judaeus and the Greek Ioudaios from the Hebrew Yĕhūdhī. The latter term is an adjective occurring only in the later parts of the Hebrew Bible and signifying a descendant of Yehudhah (Judah), the fourth son of Jacob, whose tribe, together with that of his half brother Benjamin, constituted the Kingdom of Judah.
In modern Hebrew and Yiddish goy (/ɡɔɪ/, Hebrew: גוי, regular plural goyim /ˈɡɔɪ.ɪm/, גוים or גויים) is a term for a gentile, a non-Jew. Through Yiddish, the word has been adopted into English (often pluralised as goys) also to mean gentile, sometimes with a pejorative sense.
The Biblical Hebrew word goy has been commonly translated into English as nation, meaning a group of persons of the same ethnic family who speak the same language (rather than the modern meaning of a political unit). Nation has been used as the principal translation for goy in the Hebrew Bible, from the earliest English language bibles such as the 1611 King James Version and the 1530 Tyndale Bible.
Gentile (/ˈdʒɛnˌtaɪl/) is a word that usually means “someone who is not a Jew”.
Other groups that claim Israelite heritage sometimes use the term gentile to describe outsiders, notably Mormons. More rarely, the term is generally used as a synonym for heathen or pagan. In some translations of the Quran, gentile is used to translate an Arabic word that refers to non-Jews and/or people not versed in or not able to read scripture.
The English word gentile derives from the Latin word gentilis, meaning “of or belonging to the same people or nation” (from Latin gēns ‘clan, tribe, people, family’). Archaic and specialist uses of the word gentile in English (particularly in linguists) still carry this meaning of “relating to a people or nation.”
The development of the word to (principally) mean “non-Jew” in English is entwined with the history of Bible translations from Hebrew and Greek into Latin and English. Its meaning has also been shaped by Rabbinical Jewish thought and Christian theology which, from the 1st century, have often set a binary distinction between “Jew” and “non-Jew.”
The Latin versions of the Bible translated goyim as gentes (singular gens) or gentiles (an adjectival form of gens). In modern usage, “Gentile” applies to a single individual, although occasionally (as in English translations of the Bible) “the Gentiles” means “the nations.” In postbiblical Hebrew, goy came to mean an individual non-Jew rather than a nation. Because most non-Jews in the Western world were Christians, Gentile came to be equated with Christian. Strictly speaking, however, any non-Jew is a Gentile.