AskDefine | Define goy

Dictionary Definition

goy n : in this sense `Gentile' denotes a Christian as contrasted with a Jew; `goy' is a derogatory word for Christians used by Jews [syn: Gentile, non-Jew] [also: goyim (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



גוי ‘people, nation’.
Chinese : a Chinese surname


IPA: /gɔɪ/


goy (plural goys or goyim)
  1. a non Jew; a Gentile
    • 1988: I don’t think that marriage is working, but I’m not going to be stupid about it and say she shouldn’t have married a goy. — Anthony Burgess, Any Old Iron
Goy (Chinese Pinyin ní (ni2), nì (ni4))
  1. a Chinese Surname

Extensive Definition

Goy (Hebrew: גוי, regular plural goyim גויים in Western languages) is a transliterated Hebrew word which translates as "nation" or "people". Historically and up to modern times it is a synonym for Gentile or non-Jew.


In the Torah/Hebrew Bible, goy and its variants appear over 550 times in reference to Israelites and to Gentile nations. The first recorded usage of goy occurs in Genesis 10:5 and applies innocuously to non-Israelite nations. The first mention in relation to the Israelites comes in Genesis 12:2, when God promises Abraham that his descendants will form a goy gadol ("great nation"). While the earlier books of the Hebrew Bible often use goy to describe the Israelites, the later ones tend to apply the term to other nations.
Some Bible translations leave the word Goyim untranslated and treat it as the proper name of a country in Genesis 14:1. Bible commentaries suggest that the term may refer to Gutium. The "King of Goyim" was Tidal.

In Rabbinic Judaism

One of the more poetic descriptions of the chosen people in the Old Testament, and popular among Jewish scholarship, as the highest description of themselves: when God proclaims in the holy writ, 'Goy Ehad B'Aretz', or 'a unique nation upon the earth!'.
The Rabbinic literature conceives of the nations (goyim) of the world as numbering seventy, each with a discrete language. On the verse, “He [God] set the borders of peoples according to the number of the Children of Israel,” Rashi explains: “Because of the number of the Children of Israel who were destined to come forth from the children of Shem, and to the number of the seventy souls of the Children of Israel who went down to Egypt, He set the ‘borders of peoples’ [to be characterized by] seventy languages.”
The Ohr Hachayim maintains that this is the symbolism behind the Menorah: “The seven candles of the Menorah [in the Holy Temple] correspond to the world's nations, which number seventy. Each [candle] alludes to ten [nations]. This alludes to the fact that they all shine opposite the western [candle], which corresponds to the Jewish people.”

Modern usage

As noted, in the above-quoted Rabbinical literature the meaning of the word "goy" shifted the Biblical meaning of "a people" which could be applied to the Hebrews/Jews as to others into meaning "a people other than the Jews". In later generations, a further shift left the word as meaning an individual person who belongs to such a non-Jewish people.
In modern Hebrew and Yiddish the word goy is the standard term for a gentile.
In English the use of the word goy can be controversial. Like other common (and otherwise innocent) terms, it may be assigned pejoratively to non-Jews. To avoid any perceived offensive connotations, writers may use the English terms "Gentile" or "non-Jew".
In Yiddish it is the only proper term for Gentile, and many bilingual English and Yiddish speakers do use it in a nice manner. The term shabbos goy refers to a non-Jew who performs duties that Jewish law forbids a Jew from performing on the Sabbath; typically, lighting a fire to warm a house.
In Israel, secularists rarely use the term, preferring to either refer to foreign countries and nations by their specific names or use such terms as "Ha-Olam Ha-Lo Yehudi" (העולם הלא-יהודי), "The Non-Jewish World".


External links

goy in German: Goi (Nichtjude)
goy in Spanish: Goy
goy in Esperanto: Gojo
goy in French: Goy
goy in Italian: Gentili
goy in Hebrew: גוי
goy in Hungarian: Gój
goy in Dutch: Goj
goy in Norwegian: Goy
goy in Polish: Goj
goy in Portuguese: Goy
goy in Russian: Гой
goy in Slovenian: Goy
goy in Swedish: Goj
goy in Ukrainian: Гой
goy in Yiddish: גוי
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