what do jews call non jews

what do jews call non jews

what do jews call non jews

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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.

21 BCE

(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.

what do jews call non jews
what do jews call non jews


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.[2] Through Yiddish,[3] the word has been adopted into English (often pluralised as goys) also to mean gentile, sometimes with a pejorative sense.[4][5][6]

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).[7][8][9][10] 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[11] and the 1530 Tyndale Bible.[12]


Gentile (/ˈɛnˌtl/) is a word that usually means “someone who is not a Jew”.[1]

Other groups that claim Israelite heritage sometimes use the term gentile to describe outsiders, notably Mormons.[2][3] More rarely, the term is generally used as a synonym for heathen or pagan.[3] 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.[4]

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.”[3]

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[5] which, from the 1st century, have often set a binary distinction between “Jew” and “non-Jew.”

The nations

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.

what do jews call non jews
what do jews call non jews

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), also called Mormonism, members regard themselves as Israelites, and “Gentile” is used to denote any person who is not of the house of Israel (i.e., not a member of one of the 12 tribes of Israel) through blood descent or adoption by means of baptism into the LDS. The term is also sometimes used to refer to any person who is not a Mormon.

Terms Used for Gentiles

It appears that some Gentiles prefer the more neutral term non-Jew, but few today are insulted by Gentile, the classical term for them appearing often in Bible translations.  When we use it here, we certainly intend no offence and hope that none is taken; we would not be writing much of this, if we were lacking in respect and affection for Gentiles.

The most commonly used Hebrew or Yiddish word for a non-Jew is goy.  The word “goy” means nation, and refers to the fact that goyim are members of other nations, that is, nations other than the Children of Israel.  There is nothing inherently insulting about the word “goy”.  In fact, the Bible occasionally refers to the Jewish people using the term “goy”.  Most notably, in Exodus 19,6, God says that the Children of Israel will be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, that is, a goy kadosh.  Because Jews have had so many bad experiences with anti-Semitic non-Jews over the centuries, the term “goy” has taken on some negative connotations, but in general the term is no more insulting than the word “Gentile”.


The more insulting terms for non-Jews are shiksa (feminine) and shkutz or sheketz (masculine).  It may be gathered that these words are derived from the Hebrew root Shin-Qof-Tzade, meaning loathsome or abomination.  The word shiksa is most commonly used to refer to a non-Jewish woman who is dating or married to a Jewish man, which should give some indication of how strongly Jews are opposed to the idea of intermarriage.  The term shkutz or sheketz is most commonly used to refer to an anti-Semitic man.  Both terms can be used in a less serious, more joking way, but in general they should be used with caution, if at all; in fact, we personally only use these terms to refer to apostate Jews whose behavior is disgusting.

Strange Bedfellows

According to legend, a precious stone was once lost from the sacred vestments of the high priest, and a contingent of sages set out from the Jerusalem Temple to find a replacement. They traveled all way to the coastal city of Ashkelon, where a non-Jew named Dama ben Netina was known to possess just the type of gem they were seeking. Intent to secure the stone, the leaders offered Dama an exorbitant sum—600,000 dinar, or some say 800,000. Dama demurred. He explained that his elderly father was sleeping, and the key to the jewel box was under his pillow.

The sages would not be put off. They proposed a higher sum, and then an even higher one. Still, Dama refused to disturb his father. The sages departed empty-handed. It was not long, however, until they had reason to return. The following year, a red heifer was born into Dama’s herd. This was a rare and momentous event—only the sacrifice of a red heifer could release Israel from impurity, and sometimes generations passed without such a birth. Dama knew there was no limit to the price his precious new calf could fetch, and yet he told the sages of Jerusalem, “I ask only for the sum that I lost for the sake of my father.”

The Seven Laws of Noah

According to traditional Judaism, G-d gave Noah and his family seven commandments to observe when he saved them from the flood. These commandments, referred to as the Noahic or Noahide commandments, are inferred from Genesis Ch. 9, and are as follows: 1) to establish courts of justice; 2) not to commit blasphemy; 3) not to commit idolatry; 4) not to commit incest and adultery; 5) not to commit bloodshed; 6) not to commit robbery; and 7) not to eat flesh cut from a living animal. These commandments are fairly simple and straightforward, and most of them are recognized by most of the world as sound moral principles. Any non-Jew who follows these laws has a place in the world to come.

what do jews call non jews
what do jews call non jews


The Noahic commandments are binding on all people, because all people are descended from Noah and his family. The 613 mitzvot of the Torah, on the other hand, are only binding on the descendants of those who accepted the commandments at Sinai and upon those who take on the yoke of the commandments voluntarily (by conversion). In addition, the Noahic commandments are applied more leniently to non-Jews than the corresponding commandments are to Jews, because non-Jews do not have the benefit of Oral Torah to guide them in interpreting the laws. For example, worshipping G-d in the form of a man would constitute idolatry for a Jew; however, according to some sources, the Christian worship of Jesus does not constitute idolatry for non-Jews.

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