words for "Jew" - etymology

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by isaacg, Aug 25, 2006.

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  1. isaacg New Member

    I would like to ask you: what is the etymology of the word жид in Russian?
  2. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    жид (m), жидовка (f). I think it's Yiddish (Jid [yid] - Jew). In modern Russian it is abusive but in many Slavic languages it is a normal word for "Jew", including Ukrainian. Your profile says you're native of Polish. The origin is the same as that of Polish "Żyd". The proper word for Jew is "еврей" [yevr'ey] cf "Hebrew", there is also "иудей" [iud'ey] (archaic for Jew, cf. German "Jude" or Yiddish "Jid") has the same origin as "жид" but is not normally used.
  3. isaacg New Member

    Anatoli, thank you very much for explication. I wonder if the word жид came from Polish to Russian. Maybe you have the answer? In Polish you can say "Żyd" for a nation or "żyd" ( with minuscule ) for the religious community member. There is also the word "Izraelita" used for religious identification of a person.
  4. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    That's what I always thought. This wouldn't be too surprising given that probably most Jews came to the Russian Empire via Poland (and Lithuania). Once again, I'll emphasize that while in Polish this is a normal designation, in Russian the word is ONLY used as a derogatory term and is highly offensive. I consider this to also be the case in Ukrainian.
  5. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    As far as I know, Жид used to be a normal word in Russian (it is not rude in other Slavic languages) until Catherine the Great decreed еврей as "the" proper word.

  6. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    A lot has happened in the last 250 years to change the connotation in Russian.:warning:

    I also think the revised thread title is somewhat misleading.
    Еврей = Jew
    Жид = kike
    I believe "kike" is the appropriate derogatory term in English. I am emphasizing all this exactly for the reason that in other slavic languages the word does not have any negative connotation. Someone from another slavic country might be tempted to use this word Жид in Russian, since it sounds like the same word one would use, say, in Polish. This would be a huge mistake!
  7. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Agree with Papillon.

    Not sure if Catherine the Great had to do with it. The sound of word "жид" in Russian is similar to "жадный" (greedy, stingy), which is a second meaning of the word. When "жид" is used towards Jews it has among other things this negative meaning. Note that "жадный" doesn't mean the same thing as Polish "żadny" - "not one", "no one" (compare to Ukrainian "жодний", same meaning as Polish "żadny").

    Also, I forgot that Polish capitalises nationalities. Correcting my first post.
  8. Defy_Convention Member

    English - United States
    This is an interesting phenomenon. In English we have the word "nigger" (extremely derogatory term for those of African descent :warn: ) and the word "niggardly" (stingy). Although the etymologies are unrelated, the latter term is avoided because it sounds so similar to the former.
  9. übermönch

    übermönch Senior Member

    Warum wohne ich bloß in so einem KAFF?
    World - 1.German, 2.Russian, 3.English
    Жид is really highly offensive. It is similar in German, Jud is an offensive slur, while Jude is acceptable. Even today "wie der Jud" (like the yid) is still used to mean greedy.

    The russian wikipedia has a long description of the term.

    It says
    - the word was already present in old Slavic;
    - By the 18th century it was already an insulting term and in the translation of the bible, Jewish saints were called "Yudeans", while all other jews were referred to as Jids.
    - While Catherine II. was visiting the town Shkolov in 1787, Yoshua Tseytlin asked her to stop using the word. She banned the word from all official documents using "еврей" (evrey) for the nationality and "иудей" (iudey) for the members of the religion instead.
    - During Stalin's "war against antisemitism" in 1920s-1930s the use of the word and related terms lead to enjailment.
    - In White Russia and Western Ukraine the word does not have a negative taint.
  10. Maja

    Maja Senior Member

    Binghamton, NY
    Serbian, Serbia
    In Serbia we say "Jevreji".
    I think that Croats used to use term "židovi". But it is rather offensive to use it in Serbia. And I don't know if it is the same in today's Croatia.
    Off-topic, but I have to ask why do African Americans get offended when someone of a different race calls them like that, but it is OK to use such an address amongst themselves?
  11. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    The off-topic part moved to the EO forum. :)

  12. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    The Wikipedia article and its Ukrainian version


    say that this word "жид" is also abusive in Ukraine "єврей" is the correct and normal form (Russian influence) since 18-19th century (in Western Ukraine since the middle of 20th century), although "жид" was very often used colloquially, was never used officially (it was a surprise for me, I thought it was OK to use it in Ukrainian). I bet Ukrainian linguists would argue this point, especially depending from which part of Ukraine!

    Interesting that
    (anti-semitism was never official in the USSR). I wonder if that was the case in Belarus where it is still one of the normal forms?

    Jana and übermönch
    On Catherine the Great's ban: she banned the word because it was already considered abusive, she didn't cause it to become abusive.
  13. janek Member

    Warsaw, Poland
    Polish, Poland

    If you refer to Jews as a nationality, then it should be capitalized, yes. But żyd written without capitalization refers to a follower of Jewish religion/denomination, just like chrześcijanin refers to a Christian.
  14. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    I've just stumbled upon this thread, and thought I'll throw in my two cents. :)

    The word in question can also be offensive in Polish, if you say to someone ty Żydzie - you Jew; it means, similarly to German, that they find you very greedy.

    We have żądny desirous, avid, anyway, жадный and żadny look like another pair of false cognates.

  15. Maroseika Moderator

    I'd like to remind of the thread title - etymology.
    According to the etymologists (Vasmer and others) жид derivates from:
    Italian giudeo < Latin judaeus < Greek Ioudaios < Aramaic jehudhai < Hebrew y'hudi "Jew," from Y'hudah "Judah," (celebrated) name of the 4th sone of Jacob and the tribe he has generated.
    In Slavic languages the word has penetrated thru Balcan-Roman languages; in Russian it came from Bulgarian not later than in 11 century in the form жидовин, жидин.
    According to some versions, originally or during the initial period the word was applicated mostly to the Khazars, practicing Judaism and being the only representatives of this religion in the neighbourhood with Russians of that epoch and cebturies after, up to the 1st (1772) and 2nd (1793) sections of Poland, when a lot of Jews, inhabiting East Belorussia and Lithuania first became the citizens of Russian Empire.
    The story about Catherine II, mentioned before, is widespread, but I'm not sure it's something more than a legend or a historical anecdote.
    Anyway Pushkin, Gogol', Dal', Dostoyevskiy and their contemporaries in the 19th cent. used this word without any nuance of humiliation.
  16. isaacg New Member

    Let's say that it's has an offensive meaning for the person that uses this word in negative sense
    which is just ridiculous. Nevertheless it stays an official and neutral word to design a person with Jewish identity.
  17. scriptum

    scriptum Senior Member

    Israel / Hebrew, Russian
    I am speechless.
  18. Maroseika Moderator

  19. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Like many examples of racial slur in almost(?) each language. It's, nonetheless, a fact that such usage of this word exists, and is derogatory for both "parties" in many cases as people do know what it implies and make out the indended message and in the teeth of being aware of what you wrote they show some reaction to it which is surely not a positive one.
    I didn't debunk its primordial signification, I added up one more, which seems to be quite close to its Russian counterpart. I wouldn't want to skate too much off topic and clutter the thread so if you continue this discussion perhaps you may want to start a new one. :)

  20. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    No. In fact, "židov" is pretty much the only word for a Jew in modern Croatian ("jevrej" would likely be understood, but it sounds very Serbian), and by itself carries no derogatory meaning whatsoever . Jews in Croatia use it themselves. Curiously, unlike most European languages, Croatian doesn't even have any anti-Semitic slurs that I can think of.
  21. dima_david Member

    New Mexico
  22. scriptum

    scriptum Senior Member

    Israel / Hebrew, Russian
    Gogol authored probably the most notorious anti-Semitic text ever written in Russian – the description of a pogrom in "Taras Bulba”. Of the four writers mentioned by Maroseika only Pushkin could not be called a virulent anti-Semite. He simply shared the prejudices common to his countrymen; and that’s why in his writings one can easily observe the difference between the neutral “yevrey”, the pejorative “zhid” and the high-register “Izrail”.

    Над колыбелию пустой
    Еврейка плачет молодая.
    Сидит в другом углу, главой
    Поникнув, молодой еврей

    Я и принял его за жида, и неразлучные понятия жида и шпиона произвели во мне обыкновенное действие; я поворотился им спиною

    Перед сатрапом горделивым
    Израил выю не склонил…
  23. Maroseika Moderator

    I'm far not sure in the authenticity of this notorious book, allegedly printed in 10 copies, the last of which was last seen 100 years ago, documents, on the grounds of which it was written have burnt out 160 years ago and so, so on.
    But if you look thru this book attentively you will notice that it has nothing to do with the anti-semitism, it's just an investigation, in which еврей is mostly referred to the poeple itself, and жид - mostly to the people as a bearer of the religion. I guess Dostoyevskiy has explained better than me ever might his position in respect to the Jews, but what is more important (since what we are discussing here are not ideas but words), is that again еврей in his diary is a represenatative of the people, and жид - of the religion.
    I would like to remind a scene from "The young lions" of Irwin Shaw, when an American soldier asks Noy Akkerman what does mean "H" on his identity card.
    - Hebrew, - he answers.
    - What??
    - Well, Jew.
    - Ah, clear.
  24. Maroseika Moderator

    And again I'd like to remind you that we are talking about words, and not about ideas.
    Еврей is used in "Taras Bulba" only twice - once by the Jew Yankel', and once in address of a young woman. In all other cases - only жид.
    This definetely means that the latter was common term, while the former - rather exotic one.
    As for Gogol' himself, I flatly disagree with your appraisal in his regard, he was too complicated person for such superficial conclusions; and as regards the book, we should take into account that it was stylized according to the described epoch.
  25. Maja

    Maja Senior Member

    Binghamton, NY
    Serbian, Serbia
    He, he he! And "židov" sounds very Croatian in Serbia. :)
    I am not 100% positive that it is really offensive (as I previously said, although most likely is), however I don't think that anyone would ever use it here. Maybe skinheads?
  26. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    Since when are "complicated" and "antisemitic" mutually exclusive? Gogol was not alone in such profound "complicatedness", as it pertains to antisemitism, among the ranks of Russian writers, both before him and after.

    In fact, this complicates our assessment of what was and what wasn't a neutral term, since the writing was often colored by the prejudice of the time...
  27. scriptum

    scriptum Senior Member

    Israel / Hebrew, Russian
    You are surely right. Unfortunately, words and ideas have a habit of going together.
    You are right again. But then Gogol's use of the discussed word is probably irrelevant to our subject matter (the meaning of "жид" in the 19 century).
    And, speaking of the 19 century, here is an interesting quote from Dostoyevsky:
    Уж не потому ли обвиняют меня в "ненависти", что я называю иногда еврея "жидом?" Но, во-первых, я не думал, чтоб это было так обидно, а во-вторых, слово "жид", сколько помню, я упоминал всегда для обозначения известной идеи: "жид, жидовщина, жидовское царство"...
  28. Maroseika Moderator

    Не думаю, что Достоевский настолько примитивен, чтобы делать выводы о его позиции на основании вырванной из контекста фразы.
  29. Maroseika Moderator

    One should differ truthful description made by an observant writer - no matter how better it is - from the prejudice of the person, looking for the enemy or a scapegoat.
    I would dare say Singer's "Der Knecht" is more antisemitic that Gogol' and Dostoyevskiy taken together.
    However in fact none of them is.
    All three are nothing more than the honest artists.
  30. scriptum

    scriptum Senior Member

    Israel / Hebrew, Russian
    As far as I remember, I did not make any conclusions about Dostoyevsky's ideology. We are discussing the meaning of the word "zhid" in the 19 century.

    Here is another quote from the same writer:
    Евреи все кричат, что есть же и между ними хорошие люди. О, Боже!Да разве в этом дело? Да и вовсе мы не о хороших или дурных людях теперь говорим (...) Разве покойный парижский Джемс Ротшильд был дурным человеком? Мы говорим о целом и об идее его, мы говорим о жидовстве и об идее жидовства, охватывающей весь мир взамен "неудавшегося" христианства".

    And, of course, any quote is by definition вырвана из контекста.
  31. cyanista

    cyanista законодательница мод

    I am with scriptum here. I'm not an expert in 19th century Russian, but the abovementioned quotes by Dostoevski and Gogol make it quite clear that жид and жидовщина were equally disparaging then as they are now.
  32. Maroseika Moderator

    Well, I don't think we may move any further before we define this notion - anti-Semitism, though it's too far away from the title theme.
    I suspect that some of my opponents may imply any critisism in regard of the Jews and their role in the history as anti-Semitism.
    Of course, I cannot prove my point of view without detailed investigation of Russian literature of that period, but my strong impression is that жид was quite a common neutral term, while еврей - the word of the higher style. I have already mentioned statistics from "Taras Bul'ba", proving this my impression.
    Exactly like when contemporary Russian says "кавказец", he usually doesn't want to offend anybdoy (though in fact he does).
    And of course, if anybody really wanted to offend a Jew, he could and did use actually rude words, derived from жид, - like in the case of any other people: when Dostoyevskyi used полячишка instead of поляк, when Puschkin used французик instead of француз, we know what they wanted to express.
  33. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    [Emphasis mine]
    One could. And one did indeed. But that's if you're really going after someone. On the other hand, for a regular everyday run-of-the-mill offense of a Jew... Why get creative when using the simple жид would suffice?

    Just because there may have been other offensive terms that Dostoyevskyi and Gogol' could have employed in their writing, is in no way indicative of the neutrality of жид itself.

    Yes, at some point in the past жид may have been a simple neutral word. How far in the past? I am not sure. My point is that I wouldn't turn to the writings of Gogol' or Dostoyevskiy, great as they may be, to make that particular assessment.
  34. Maroseika Moderator

    I believe, from the very beginning of Jews being in the Russian Empire (18 cent.) жид was quite neutral as loaned directly from Polish, where it really has been neutral, as we know.
    Еврей was the literal word from the Bible, loaned directly from Greek and therefore not in the wide use and not more offensive than кривич instead of русский in Latvian.
  35. scriptum

    scriptum Senior Member

    Israel / Hebrew, Russian
    Please excuse my unbearable pedantry: the word has been used in Russian since times immemorial; it is no less biblical than "еврей"; it was not loaned from Polish, but it seems to have become pejorative after Poland's division at the end of 18 century.
  36. Maroseika Moderator

    Sure, you are right, it was loaned from Bulgarian before 11th cent. according to Vasmer, whom I've cited in the beginning of this thread.
    And I agree with you that it was not offensive before Poland section and very long time after, becuase such changes in the language could not extend fast at the 19 cent.
    However what I meant was that before appearance and diffusing Jews in Russia from Poland they were rather rare people in the state, therefore no grounds for the offensive nicknames, - just an exotic people.
    This acient term should have alived at the end of the 18 cent., turning into the name of the real people.
  37. OldAvatar Senior Member

    Possible. Romanian also has "jidan (zhydan):warn:", as an offensive word towards jews. The non-offensive term is "evreu-evrei" (masc. sg. pl.), exactly like in some Slavic languages.
  38. Krolewna New Member

    Northwest Olympic Peninsula
    US, English, Polish
    I was taught that Polish "Żyd" comes from Italian or French "guide", pronounced "Żiid" meaning a guide. Jews were considered knowledgeable of the countryside through their wanderings. Perhaps the word was first used in Polish and then transferred to Russian, together with the migration of Jews from Portugal, Spain, France, etc. to Poland and Russia.
  39. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    In both Italian /'gwide/ and French /gid/ the g there is hard, as in go.
  40. Leporello Member

    Boston, Mass.
    USA, English
    Mere folk etymology, I'm afraid. Jazyk is quite right about the pronunciation of "guide" in French, which makes the account even less likely. Besides, "Yid" is the Yiddish word for "Jew", cognate with the German "Jude," and deriving ultimately from the Hebrew "Yehudi" (meaning a member of the tribe or the kingdom of Judah). It stands to reason that "Żyd" and its equivalents in the other Slavic languages come from the word by which the Jews in the northern Slavic countries referred to themselves, "Yid."
  41. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)

    Thanks to everybody who contributed to this thread. It was truly interesting.

    However, the original question was about the etymology of the Russian word Жид. And that question has been answered, a.o. by Maroseika in post #15. Jazyk and Leporello also made clear that the apparantly popular idea of (Polish) Żyd" < French "guide" is an instance of folk etymology.

    In between we had a really interesting debate on various words for jews in various Slavic languages and as used by various authors.
    No matter how interesting, that debate was off-topic.

    To round up: question answered, thread closed :).


    Moderator EHL
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