Why are we called "the Jews"? Did Hashem pick out this name for us? What does the word "Jew" mean?


7 Answers 7


It's from "yehudah", because most of the Jews nowadays are from the shevet of yehudah.

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    We are not arguing saying the same thing focused on different points. Apr 15, 2010 at 0:06

The name Jew actually comes from Judea, which is a place. The place of course is named after Yehuda. But importantly, in the age of Hellenization, the concept "ioudaios" (Jew) shifted from being an ethnic-geographic marker to a religious-cultural one. Thus, Judaism itself was Hellenized to become a religion where people or groups could join. (see Shaye Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness)


Jew come from the Name Yehuda in most languages it is something similar to Yehuda, it represents anyone who denies Avodah Zara.


The earliest reference to the term Jew (יהודי in Hebrew is found in Esther 2:5 where it has Mordechai

האִ֣ישׁ יְהוּדִ֔י הָיָ֖ה בְּשׁוּשַׁ֣ן הַבִּירָ֑ה וּשְׁמ֣וֹ מָרְדֳּכַ֗י בֶּ֣ן יָאִ֧יר בֶּן־שִׁמְעִ֛י בֶּן־קִ֖ישׁ אִ֥ישׁ יְמִינִֽי:

5 There was a Judean man in Shushan the capital, whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair the son of Shimei the son of Kish, a Benjamite,

Rashi explains:

a Judean man: because he was exiled with the exile of Judah; all those who were exiled with the kings of Judah were called יְהוּדִים [Judeans, Jews] among the nations, even if they were from another tribe.

Thus we see that all members of our religion, from that time on were called by the term that is currently translated as Jews because of the exile from the Kingdom of Judah.


We are called Jews from the time we returned from exile in Babylon. Since then, the Tribal system is over, and just one People exist: The People of Israel (the new Israel) the Jewish People. This People, although made up by the main stem of Judah, it constitutes of a few tousands from the other Tribes, and two thirds of the Levites, plus the properly converts from the Gentiles.

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    Please read existing answers before submitting your own. Your point about most Jews nowadays being from the Tribe of Judah was already made by wayon. (Also, a couple of other points: we were "one People" before the Babylonian exile too - our nationhood goes back to the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. Nor are we now a "new Israel"; on the contrary, we're a pale shadow of what we should be - a nation comprised of 12 tribes, each of which uses its unique talents in the unified service of G-d.)
    – Alex
    Nov 23, 2010 at 19:38
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    I have read all the answers and they do not depict a satisfactory response to the issue. We were not one nation before the Babylonian exile. We were composed of two kingdoms. The one of the North, called Israel or Ephraim, also known by the name of Tent of Joseph, according to Psalm 78:67, and Judah, the kingdom of the South. (Psalm 78:69) We became one nation or one people, the Jewish People, only after we returned from Babylon. At the time of the giving of the Torah, yes, we were one nation of Israel, but don't forget the split at the time of Rehoboam, son of Solomon into two Houses.
    – Ben Masada
    Nov 25, 2010 at 0:41

In the Hebrew Bible, the Jews are called B’nei Yisrael, Israelites. After the reign of Solomon, the unified twelve tribes split in two, the northern kingdom was called Israel, and the southern kingdom was called Judea, since this southern kingdom was mostly comprised of people from the tribe of Judah. These people were called Judeans. The name Judeans is shorted for Jews. In 722 BCE, the people of Israel were defeated by the Assyrians and were sent into exile, becoming the famous “Lost Ten Tribes,” Judea itself became exiled by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. But in 536 BCE, the exiles reestablished their country rebuilt its temple and thrived until the Roman destruction. And again, after 2000 years of exile, they reestablished the modern State of Israel.

In short, Jews are called Jews because it is short for the name Judeans.


The targum yonasan ben uziel says part of yehudas blessing from yakov was that jews would be called after him!

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    Can you include a direct quote of the TY or at least an exact verse citation
    – Double AA
    Dec 18, 2019 at 0:22

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