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  1. a subfamily of Afroasiatic languages that includes Akkadian, Arabic, Aramaic, Ethiopic, Hebrew, and Phoenician.
  1. of or relating to the Semites or their languages, especially of or pertaining to the Jews.

Origin of Semitic

< New Latin sēmīticus, equivalent to sēmīt(a) Semite + -icus -ic
Related formshalf-Se·mit·ic, adjectivenon-Se·mit·ic, adjectivepre-Se·mit·ic, adjective, nounpseu·do-Se·mit·ic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for semitic


less commonly Shemitic

  1. a branch or subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages that includes Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Amharic, and such ancient languages as Akkadian and Phoenician
  1. denoting, relating to, or belonging to this group of languages
  2. denoting, belonging to, or characteristic of any of the peoples speaking a Semitic language, esp the Jews or the Arabs
  3. another word for Jewish
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for semitic



1797, denoting the language group that includes Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Assyrian, etc.; 1826 as "of or pertaining to Semites," from Medieval Latin Semiticus (source of Spanish semitico, French semitique, German semitisch), from Semita (see Semite). As a noun, as the name of a linguistic family, from 1813. In non-linguistic use, perhaps directly from German semitisch. In recent use often with the specific sense "Jewish," but not historically so limited.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

semitic in Culture



A descriptive term for several peoples of the Middle East and their descendants, including Jews (see also Jews) and Arabs (see Arab-Israeli conflict). Today the term is mainly applied to Jews. (See anti-Semitism.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.