Antisemitism v anti-Semitism.

The incorrect spelling of antisemitism is getting to me more and more of late. I feel the need to write about it in order to get people to spell it correctly by learning the meaning of the words and where they originated.

Somewhere, somehow in recent years the spelling has changed from antisemitism to anti-Semitism, though lately it appears to be returning to the original.

credit: Wikipedia

In 1879 German anti-Jewish journalist and political agitator Friedrich Wilhelm Adolph Marr, known as Wilhem Marr, published a pamphlet, Der Sieg des Judenthums über das Germanenthum. Vom nicht confessionellen Standpunkt aus betrachtet (The Victory of the Jewish Spirit over the Germanic Spirit. Observed from a non-religious perspective.) in which the word Semitismus was used interchangeably with the word Judentum to denote both “Jewry”  and “jewishness”.

This use of Semitismus was followed by a coining of antisemitismus which was used to indicate opposition to the Jews as a people and opposition to the Jewish spirit, which Marr interpreted as infiltrating German culture.

His intention was to replace the German word Judenhass (Jew-hatred) with a term that would make Jew-haters sound less vulgar. Marr thought that by replacing Judenhass it would  make hatred of the Jews seem rational and sanctioned by scientific knowledge.

Wilhelm Marr hated Jews with all his heart and apparently also did not think that the German word Judenhass was strong enough.

In his next pamphlet, Der Weg zum Siege des Germanenthums über das Judenthum (The Way to Victory of the Germanic Spirit over the Jewish Spirit, 1880), he presented a development of his ideas further and likely was the first published use of the German word antisemitismus, “antisemitism”.

The pamphlet became very popular, and in the same year he founded the Antisemiten-Liga (League of Antisemites), which was the first German organisation committed specifically to combating the alleged threat to Germany and German culture posed by the Jews and their influence, and advocating their forced removal from the country.

 The similar term antisemitisch  was first used in 1860, by Jewish scholar Moritz Steinschneider.

Out of this came antisemitism and antisemite. By hyphenating it to anti-Semites, gives it a whole other meaning – to be against Semites.

A few spelling examples:

Albanian       antisemitizm

Bosnian        antisemitizam

Croatian        antisemitizam

Czech           antisemitismus

Danish         antisemitisme

Dutch           antisemitisme

Finnish          antisemitismiin

French           antisémitisme

German        antisemitismus

Greek            antisimitismó

Hebrew         אנטישמיות

Italian           antisemitismo

Romanian     antisemitism

Spanish         antisemitismo

The two words make a very good advocacy discussion point.



Check Also

The Enemy Within: Antisemitism on Israeli Campus

Once common only at U.S. and European universities, Israeli higher education institutions have now become …


  1. Leon Poddebsky

    A related problem is that some people, either through lack of knowledge of the history of the coinage, or out of Judenhass, argue that Arabs cannot possibly be antisemites since they themselves are Semites.
    Also, some misguided people seem to think that a Jew cannot be an antisemite. Well, Karl Marx and Bruno Kreisky are but two cases of too many.

    • “Arabs cannot possibly be antisemites since they themselves are Semites.”

      Exactly Leon. That’s why the correct spelling HAS to be used. It’s a great advocacy tool.

      Oh boy!!

      Antisemitic Jews? I can name more than a few.

      • It’s a bizzare and grotesque phenomenon but in places like Australia antisemitism among Jews probably occurs in approximately the same proportion as it does in the general population.

  2. Otto Waldmann

    If we need to engage in the etymological as well as the progression of the notion of antisemitism – my won favourite way – , it must be accepted that the new coinage ( antisemitism ) has already acquired sufficiently clear currency to indicate to any reader the value of hatred of all matters – and people – Jewish. Freedom of choice of literary mannerism allows for either orthography.
    Delving into associated arguments, such as stances on matters – and people – Jewish by Jews has NOTHING to do with preferred words. To wit, branding Marx as an antisemite, based, of course , on his retort to Bruno Bauer, ” Zur Judenfrage” 1843-44 , is a bit more complicated for those less acquainted with the broader Marx and/or Marxism as it is better known – or not !! -. To mine, thrashing Marx as an antisemite is as far as possible from reality as is my respect for his broader philosophical output/significance.
    I urge anyone anxious to contradict me on this one to study completely and within its vast complexion Marx’s retort to Bruno Bauer.
    I will also recommend consulting Marx’s strongly philosemitc (sic) reflections on the fate of the Russian Jewry under Czarism, albeit not without some ulterior motives , when appealing for financial assistance to his Dutch wealthy relatives, yes, that famous – then still – Jewish, Philips mishpuha.