Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

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?

share|improve this question
Goyim is indeed the plural form. – Double AA Jun 13 '14 at 18:45
It means nations – sam Jun 13 '14 at 18:48
I believe the Torah refers to Jews as goyim in several places including goyim kodesh, a holy nation. – JJLL Jun 13 '14 at 23:49
@JJLL Probably either goy kadosh or goyim kedoshim – Double AA Jun 14 '14 at 0:03
up vote 9 down vote accepted

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.

share|improve this answer
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 '14 at 20:56
@Danno Like when one might say they were Jewed on a deal. Likewise, Gentile might be a negative term in some circles, but if the majority use it benignly then this answer does fine. – fredsbend May 11 '15 at 15:49
Do you have a source for the second paragraph? – WAF Sep 17 '15 at 14:26
@WAF i can't locate a source or proof, so i removed it. – LN6595 Oct 4 '15 at 17:00

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

share|improve this answer
Did you add anything over user6595's answer? – Y ez Jun 15 '14 at 4:14

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.