Jew (word)

The English term Jew originates in the Biblical Hebrew word Yehudi, meaning "from the Kingdom of Judah", or "Jew". It passed into Greek as Ioudaios and Latin as Iudaeus, which evolved into the Old French giu after the letter "d" was dropped. A variety of related forms are found in early English from about the year 1000, including Iudea, Gyu, Giu, Iuu, Iuw, and Iew, which eventually developed into the modern word.

Etymology

Hasmonean coin of John Hyrcanus (134 to 104 BCE) with the inscription "Hayehudim" (of the Jews).
Obv: Double cornucopia.
Rev: Five lines of ancient Hebrew script; reading "Yehochanan Kohen Gadol, Chever Hayehudim" (Yehochanan the High Priest, Council of the Jews.
Map of the region in the 9th century BCE

Yehudi in the Hebrew Bible

According to the Book of Genesis, Judah (יְהוּדָה, Yehudah) was the name of the fourth son of the patriarch Jacob. During the Exodus, the name was given to the Tribe of Judah, descended from the patriarch Judah. After the conquest and settlement of the land of Canaan, Judah also referred to the territory allocated to the tribe. After the splitting of the united Kingdom of Israel, the name was used for the southern kingdom of Judah. The kingdom now encompassed the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Simeon, along with some of the cities of the Levites. With the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria), the kingdom of Judah became the sole Jewish state and the term y'hudi (יהודי) was applied to all Israelites.

The term Yehudi (יְהוּדִי) occurs 74 times in the Esther 2:5-6, the name "Yehudi" (יְהוּדִי) has a generic aspect, in this case referring to a man from the tribe of Benjamin:

"There was a man a Yehudi (Jewish man) in Shushan the capital, whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair the son of Shimei the son of Kish, a Benjamite; who had been exiled from Jerusalem with the exile that was exiled with Jeconiah, king of Judah, which Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had exiled."

The name appears in the Bible as a verb in Esther 8:17 which states:

"Many of the people of the land became Yehudim (in the generic sense) (מִתְיַהֲדִים, mityahadim) because the fear of the Yehudim fell on them."

In some places in the Talmud the word Israel(ite) refers to somebody who is Jewish but does not necessarily practice Judaism as a religion: "An Israel(ite) even though he has sinned is still an Israel(ite)" (Tractate Sanhedrin 44a). More commonly the Talmud uses the term Bnei Yisrael, i.e. "Children of Israel", ("Israel" being the name of the third patriarch Jacob, father of the sons that would form the twelve tribes of Israel, which he was given and took after wrestling with an angel, see Genesis 32:28-29[1]) to refer to Jews. According to the Talmud then, there is no distinction between "religious Jews" and "secular Jews."

In modern Hebrew, the same word is still used to mean both Jews and Judeans ("of Judea"). In Arabic the terms are yahūdī (sg.), al-yahūd (pl.), and بَنُو اِسرَائِيل banū isrāʼīl. The Aramaic term is Y'hūdāi.

Development in European languages

A page from Elia Levita's Yiddish-Hebrew-Latin-German dictionary (16th century) contains a list of nations, including an entry for Jew: Hebrew: יְהוּדִיYiddish: יוּדGerman: Jud Latin: Iudaeus

The Septuagint (reputedly a product of Hellenistic Jewish scholarship) and other Greek documents translated יְהוּדִי, Yehudi and the Aramaic Y'hūdāi using the Koine Greek term Ioudaios (Greek: Ἰουδαῖος; pl. Ἰουδαῖοι Ioudaioi), which had lost the 'h' sound. The Latin term, following the Greek version, is Iudaeus, and from these sources the term passed to other European languages. The Old French giu, earlier juieu, had elided (dropped) the letter "d" from the Latin Iudaeus. The Middle English word Jew derives from Old English where the word is attested as early as 1000 in various forms, such as Iudeas, Gyu, Giu, Iuu, Iuw, Iew. The Old English name is derived from Old French. The modern French term is "juif".

Most European languages have retained the letter "d" in the word for Jew. Etymological equivalents are in use in other languages, e.g., "Jude" in German, "judeu" in Portuguese, "jøde" in Danish and Norwegian, "judío" in Spanish, "jood" in Dutch, etc. In some languages, derivations of the word "Hebrew" are also in use to describe a Jew, e.g., Ebreo in Italian, Ebri/Ebrani (Persian: عبری/عبرانی‎) in Persian and Еврей, Yevrey in Russian.[2] (See Jewish ethnonyms for a full overview.)

The German word "Jude" is pronounced [ˈjuːdə], the corresponding adjective "jüdisch" [ˈjyːdɪʃ] (Jewish), and is cognate with the Yiddish word for "Jew", "Yid".[3]