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As Semites are called (historical) peoples, a Semitic language speaking, saying.

The German historian August Ludwig von Schlözer coined the term in 1781 with reference to the genesis table - see Semitism . The Bible traces the descent of Abraham to Shem , the son of Noah . Based on this, in biblical times all peoples of the Middle East who regarded themselves as descendants of Abraham were called "sons of Shem". The Semites include the Amhars , Tigrinya , Arabs , Hyksos , Maltese , Mineans , Sabaeans , Amorites , Ammonites , Akkadians / Babylonians / Assyrians / Arameans , Hebrews , Canaanites , Moabites , Nabataeans , Phoenicians and Samaritans .

The Semites in the linguistic sense are not completely identical with the descendants of Sem in the Bible. The Canaanites spoke a Semitic language, but the biblical progenitor Canaan is described as the son of Noah's son Ham .

Semitic languages ​​are spoken in particular by Arabs, Israelis , Arameans , Maltese and several language groups in Ethiopia and Eritrea . The collective term “Semites” as a designation of a family of peoples is now regarded as imprecise and outdated, especially due to its use in racist contexts.


In ancient times, peoples who spoke Semitic languages ​​probably first inhabited the Arabian Peninsula . Migration of peoples brought them to Mesopotamia , Syria and Canaan , Egypt , Eritrea , Ethiopia and, with the Phoenician colonization, to the coasts of the western Mediterranean . It is believed that they originally came from northeast Africa , which is also home to the other branches of the Afro-Asian language family known in older linguistics as the Hamitic languages .

Semites as a racist term

In various pseudoscientific racial theories , the Jews were referred to as "Semites" because the Hebrews were a Semitic people. In order to underpin the hostility towards Jews "scientifically" (and no longer only religiously), the Semites were declared to be an "inferior race" that was not capable of an independent culture. This also gave rise to the term anti-Semitism (enemies of the Jews called themselves anti-Semites ). Anti-Semites like Eugen Dühring went so far as to describe the Jews as the worst kind of Semites, who are hated even by the other Semites (Arabs). At the same time, the anti-Semites assumed that the Jews were not pure Semites, but, according to Theodor Fritsch, a mixed race consisting mainly of the "Semitic (oriental, Arab) race" and the "Near Eastern (armenoid, assyroid) race", with 90% of the Jews should rather be assigned to the latter group. Towards the end of the Nazi regime, the self-designation "anti-Semites" - also with regard to Arab allies - was abolished. B. replaced by "anti-Jews". In the 19th century, Dühring wanted anti-Semitism to be understood as “anti-Hebraism”.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Semit  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Eugen Dühring: The Jewish question as a question of the racial character (1901), first chapter
  2. Theodor Fritsch: Handbuch der Judenfrage (1944), p. 12 ff. He in turn refers to Hans FK Günther , Rassenkunde des Jewish Volk (1930)