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The word Gentile has several meanings. In the most common modern use it refers to a non-Jew. The word is derived from the Latin term gens (meaning "clan" or a "group of families") and it is often employed in the plural. In late Latin gentilis meant "pagan", and the term gentile has sometimes been used in the past as a synonym for "heathen" or "pagan"; this usage is archaic.

Christian translators of the Bible use this word in the meaning of non-Israelite, to collectively designate the peoples and nations distinct from the Israelite people; the word is used that way over 130 times in the King James Version of the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments.

From the 17th century on this term was most commonly used to refer to non-Jews. However the meaning and usage of the term in the modern times is not well-defined and cannot be a synonym to "non-Jew", except for restricted contexts. For example, to refer to Chinese as "gentile" would be unusual. In addition the word is often perceived as derogatory. Therefore in recent decades this use of the term has fallen out of favour.

It is also sometimes used to describe persons of Christian faith, in an opposition to the adherents of Judaism.

Latter-day Saints Church usage

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("LDS Church"; see also Mormon), who regard themselves as regathered formerly-lost Israelites, have also used the word "Gentile" to refer to non-members. As such, this word is not appropriately applied to Jews, although LDS members often colloquially referred to Jews as "Gentiles" because they were not members of the LDS Church. As with the more general usage, the word "Gentile" has become uncommon (perhaps being regarded as antiquated and unnecessarily pejorative), and the more neutral term "non-Mormon" is now more frequently used. Even this term is increasingly considered disrespectful, prompting many LDS to abandon "non-Mormon" altogether and simply use the term "neighbor", thus departing completely from labels of religious distinction out of an attempt to instead emphasize neighborly love. See also Mormonism and Judaism.

See also



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