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[sem-ahyt or, esp. British, see-mahyt] /ˈsɛm aɪt or, esp. British, ˈsi maɪt/
a member of any of various ancient and modern peoples originating in southwestern Asia, including the Akkadians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs.
a Jew.
a member of any of the peoples descended from Shem, the eldest son of Noah.
1870-75; < Neo-Latin sēmīta < Late Latin Sēm (< Greek Sḗm < Hebrew Shēm Shem) + -īta -ite1
Related forms
non-Semite, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for Semite


a member of the group of Caucasoid peoples who speak a Semitic language, including the Jews and Arabs as well as the ancient Babylonians, Assyrians, and Phoenicians
another word for a Jew
Word Origin
C19: from New Latin sēmīta descendant of Shem, via Greek Sēm, from Hebrew Shem
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for Semite
1847, "Jew, Arab, Assyrian, Aramæan," from Mod.L. Semita, from L.L. Sem "Shem," one of the three sons of Noah (Gen. x:21-30), regarded as the ancestor of the Semites (in the days when anthropology was still bound by the Bible), from Heb. Shem. Semitic (1813 of languages, 1826 of persons) is probably from Ger. semitisch (first used by Ger. historian August Schlözer, 1781), denoting the language group that includes Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Assyrian, etc. In recent use often with the specific sense "Jewish," but not historically so limited.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Semite in Culture
Semite [(sem-eyet)]

Someone who belongs to the Semitic peoples. The Semites are supposedly descended from the biblical Shem, the eldest son of Noah.

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