Earliest English use of Jew

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Origins of ‘Jewry’

What the new dictionary says:

The earliest word for “Jewish” listed in the Historical Thesaurus is the Old English “judeisc”, followed in around 1250 by “circumcis”. The word “Jew” entered the English language in 1275, followed 25 years later by “jewhead” – a decade after Edward 1 had expelled Jews from England in 1290. Jews may have been absent, but “Jewry” was coined as a collective noun in 1330, and “men of the circumcision” in 1382. Even though Jews were not formally allowed back to England until 1655, the word “Judaism” entered the language in 1494, closely followed by “jewship” in 1535, “jewishness” in 1549 and “jewism” in 1579.

In the 17th century, people spoke of “synagogists” and “sabbatisers” followed by the 18th century “smouse” and “smouch”. Not until 1816 did one hear the pejorative word “sheeny”, and “heeb” was not coined until 1932. “Liberal” Judaism was spoken of in 1823, with “reformed” not emerging until 1844 and “Orthodox” in use in 1853. The word “unjewish”, however, entered the language in 1822. English has described many things over the years as being in some way pertaining to Jews, including the language Jew Tongo, plants such as Jew bush, Jew plum, Jew’s apple, Jew’s mallow, Jew’s frankincense and Jew’s eye. There are also minerals – Jew’s lime, Jew’s slime, Jew’s pitch and Jew’s stone.

From the Jewish Chronicle August 20th 2009.

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Our aim is to raise the profile of the history of Jews in Oxford from earliest records through to the modern day.

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