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I have never heard this word before, but the Wikipedia article insists:

The word is also used to pejoratively describe those not of Jewish descent. It is commonly used to refer to Christians and Muslims, but is regularly used by Jews to refer to any and all peoples of faiths other than Judaism.

[...]

In English, the use of the word goy can be controversial. It is assigned pejoratively to non-Jews. To avoid any perceived offensive connotations, writers may use the English terms "gentile" or "non-Jew".

Looking at where the word comes from, it seems to be a benign word, equivalent with Gentile.

In common use, would Jews use this word among themselves? Is it regularly used negatively? Would they use the word among non-Jews?


I just noticed "goyim" in the tags, which is a word I have seem. My understanding is that would be the plural form of "goy". Is this right?

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Goyim is indeed the plural form. –  Double AA Jun 13 at 18:45
    
It means nations –  sam Jun 13 at 18:48
    
I believe the Torah refers to Jews as goyim in several places including goyim kodesh, a holy nation. –  JJLL Jun 13 at 23:49
    
@JJLL Probably either goy kadosh or goyim kedoshim –  Double AA Jun 14 at 0:03

2 Answers 2

Goy (גוֹי) is not a pejorative term. It simply means nation or member of a nation - The Jews are referred to as a Goy/Goyim on various occasions throughout the Torah. "גוי וקהל גוים" and "גוי אחד בארץ", to name just two places. In Hebrew, Goy is never used as a pejorative term. In Yiddish, it may occasionally be used pejoratively.

To clarify, the term "gentile" originated as a pejorative term towards Jews - it comes from the same root as gentry, genteel, or gentleman. The implication was that Jews could not be part of the higher class. Nowadays, however, gentile has shed its negative connotations, so it would make a safe English term for someone who is not Jewish.

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Part of the issue is one of intent. I can say someone is a "Jew" and it is not an insult. But if I choose the right tone/inflection, the word can indeed be insulting. The same holds true for any label. –  Danno Jun 13 at 20:56

the words goy means nation. so the word itself is not inherently pejorative in nature. however, in context it can be used in that manner. The same goes for the word Jew. Inherently there isn't anything wrong with it. It simple is a descriptive for someone belonging to the Jewish people. in context depending on how it is used it can become an insult

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Did you add anything over user6595's answer? –  YeZ Jun 15 at 4:14

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