These terms get used a lot in referring to gentiles. What are the precise differences, if any, between these different categories? Just for clarity, Akum is an abbreviation of the phrase 'Eved Kochavim v'Mazalot'. Please give specific sources for any definitions mentioned.

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    Any definition you find needs to be applied carefully to older works, as they words have notoriously been censored over and over again in all sorts of directions by non-Jews. Furthermore, it's quite reasonable that different authors would end up using the terms differently or even inconsistently.
    – Double AA
    Nov 4, 2016 at 21:17
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    possible dupe judaism.stackexchange.com/q/47762/759
    – Double AA
    Nov 4, 2016 at 21:18
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Nov 7, 2016 at 1:06

1 Answer 1


The definition of a ger toshav is discussed in Avodah Zarah 64b. The Gemara provides several definitions of what the term refers to; in common parlance it refers to a non-Jew who accepts upon himself to uphold the Seven Noahide Commandments - not to eat a limb from a live animal, not to "bless" Hashem, not to steal, to have a proper court system, not to murder, not to commit idolatry, and not to commit adultery.

As @DoubleAA noted, Akum is an abbreviation for Oved/Avodas Kochavim U'Mazalos and refers to idolaters.

A Ben Noach literally means "son of Noach" and refers to all non-Jews. Though technically it refers to Jews as well, as everyone is descended from Noach, the term is used colloquially to refer just to non-Jews.

A Nochri is the only term on the list that refers to all non-Jews and only non-Jews. The term literally means "Gentile."

You left off Goy from your list. Literally translated as nation, colloquially this one also refers to any and all non-Jews.

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    Nochri literally means "foreigner."
    – Double AA
    Nov 5, 2016 at 22:56
  • In regard to Akum, how do you understand the meaning of the those words, 'servant of stars and constellations'? How do you understand Chullin 13b and the idea that outside of the land of Israel there are no gentiles who are referred to as Akum? What is the difference between a Ger Toshav and a Ben Noach? Are there gentiles who are not Bnai Noach? Although I didn't ask about it, are the Jewish people ever referred to as 'Goy'? Nov 6, 2016 at 1:34
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    @YaacovDeane According to him Akum doesn't mean "servant of stars..."; it's "he who worships stars..." (also according to the Otzar Roshei Tevot as I documented above).
    – Double AA
    Nov 6, 2016 at 1:51
  • @DoubleAA When the Torah uses this expression, what does it mean? People who worship little points of light in the sky? What is the nature of their transgression? Please compare Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:3-9, 3:1-9 and Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 1:1, 2:1. Why, according to Chullin 13b, outside of the land of Israel, there are no Akum? Also, consider the Beit Yosef, Tur, Choshen Mishpat, Hilchot Matanah 'Machilah 249:2 and the Prisha there. Beit Yosef references the discussion on tractate Avodah Zarah 20a. Nov 6, 2016 at 13:46
  • You've asked a bunch of good questions, and it'll take me a bit to go through all of them to give you a good answer. The one I can answer off the bat is that, indeed, the Jews are called a goy - Shemos 19 states ואתם תהיו לי ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש.
    – DonielF
    Nov 7, 2016 at 0:04

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