Definition of Semite in US English:



  • A member of any of the peoples who speak or spoke a Semitic language, including in particular the Jews and Arabs.

    • ‘The third column is the representation of the ages as decimal-counting Semites would have written them using the early rounded stylus.’
    • ‘The people of Palestine are pure Arabs and original Semites.’
    • ‘For many centuries, Jewish and Arab Semites lived cheek by jowl in relative harmony.’
    • ‘And those of us who originally came from the region of the Holy Land, we're all Semites together.’
    • ‘Paradoxically, they accuse Arabs who are Semites themselves, of anti-Semitism.’
    • ‘Of special interest to Bible students is one panel in the second row in which a bearded Semite bows before the king while his servants present gifts.’
    • ‘The Semites were the first to inhabit the region in 3500 B.C.’
    • ‘Tradition associated her with Cyprus, where Greeks and Semites lived side by side from an early date, and the name Aphrodite is probably a Greek corruption of the Phoenician form of lshtar, Astarte (the Biblical Ashtaroth).’
    • ‘In this case, one should work out what ‘heart’ meant to ancient Semites, not what it means in Hollywood pop-psychology.’
    • ‘In his Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, W. Robertson Smith proposed that totemism was the basic form of sacrifice, in which the clan shed the blood of its totem animal, then consumed it in a communal meal.’
    • ‘Christianity had seemed to me the first creed to proclaim love in this upper world, from which the desert and the Semite (from Moses to Zeno) had shut it out: and Christianity was a hybrid, except in its first root not essentially Semite.’
    • ‘After the Bronze Age, Amorites, Western Semites, Hyksos and Hittites successively invaded the area.’
    • ‘Ham represents Canaan and Shem (anticipating Israel) represents the Semites.’
    • ‘Political unification did not come until about 2370 BC with the conquest by the Semites of Akkad.’
    • ‘He was a Middle Easterner, you know, and he was a Semite.’
    • ‘Within the gaunt pinnacles, in colours that represent ores and igneous rock, Ancient Egyptians, Semites and Nabataeans have left evidence of passage.’
    • ‘They say that Arabs are Semites, and therefore should come into the purview of those scholars who look at anti-Semitism.’


From modern Latin Semita, via late Latin from Greek Sēm ‘Shem’, son of Noah in the Bible, from whom these peoples were traditionally supposed to be descended.