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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Zhydovka (zhyd) and zhidovka (zhid) are terms for Jewish woman and Jewish man, respectively, in several Slavic languages.[1][2][3] In some of those languages they are considered pejorative.


In modern Russian (жидовка / жид), it has been an anti-Semitic pejorative, similar to the word yid, since the mid-19th century.[1][4] Under the influence of Russian, the terms have also become pejorative in modern Ukrainian (жидівка / жид, zhydivka / zhyd) and were banned by the Soviet authorities in the 1930s.[5][6][7]

Ukrainian language

Nikita Khrushchev commented on the term in his memoirs:[8]

I remember that once we invited Ukrainians, Jews, and a meeting at the Lvov opera house. It struck me as very strange to hear the Jewish speakers at the meeting refer to themselves as 'yids'.… "We yids hereby declare ourselves in favor of such-and-such." Out in the lobby after the meeting, I stopped some of these men and demanded "How dare you use the word 'yid'? Don't you know it's a very offensive term, an insult to the Jewish nation?" "Here in the Western Ukraine it's just the opposite," they explained. "We call ourselves yids.... Apparently what they said was true. If you go back to Ukrainian'll see that 'yid' isn't used derisively or insultingly."

21st-century controversies

In December 2012, Ukrainian politician Ihor Miroshnychenko of the Svoboda party wrote on Facebook that Hollywood actress Mila Kunis, who is Jewish, is "not a Ukrainian but a zhydivka."[2] Ukrainian Jews protested the use of term.[5] Svoboda officials and Ukrainian philologist Oleksandr Ponomariv argued that in the Ukrainian language, the word does not always have the anti-Semitic connotations that it does in the Russian language, though Ponomariv warned that the term would be considered offensive by Jewish people.[9][10][nb 1]

The Ukrainian Ministry of Justice declared that Miroshnichenko's use of the word was legal because it is an archaic term for Jew and not necessarily a slur.[9] In a letter of protest directed to then-Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov, the term Zhydovka was described by Rabbi Marvin Hier of the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center as an "insidious slur invoked by the Nazis and their collaborators as they rounded up the Jews to murder them at Babi Yar and in the death camps."[2]

Iryna Farion defends the usage of the term zhyd in Ukrainian, claiming that the pejorative meaning to the previously neutral word was the result of Russification during the Soviet times, when the Russian word yevrei for 'Jews' was forced into the Ukrainian language.[12]


In Polish the words żydówka / żyd have been described as neutral and non-pejorative, however there exist numerous derivatives, some of which can be pejorative, such as żydzisko.[13][14][15][16] According to some other scholars, the word żyd and its derivatives can still be pejorative in some contexts, depending on who uses it and with what intention, and some people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, may be uneasy using it.[16][17][18]

Other Slavic languages

In most other Slavic languages, such as Czech/Slovak (židovka / žid)), Slovene, Serbian/Croatian—as well as Magyar which is heavily influenced by Slavic languages—these terms, similar to the usage in Polish, are not pejorative, as they simply mean 'Jew'.[citation needed]

"Punning" in English

The phrase "caked in shit" has been used by Irish-American Brian McCook as an intentional reference to both this word and the English pejorative of the same nature in mainstream entertainment media.[19]


  1. ^ Before the 1930s, the traditional Ukrainian word for Jew жид (zhyd) had no negative connotations, but because it coincided with the Russian slur for Jews жид (zhid), the Ukrainian word zhyd was banned by the Soviet authorities in the 1930s.[11]


  1. ^ a b Klier, John D. 1982. "Zhid: Biography of a Russian Epithet." The Slavonic and East European Review 60(1):1-15. JSTOR 4208429.
  2. ^ a b c "Mila Kunis Targeted By Anti-Semitic Ukrainian". TMZ. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  3. ^ LaZebnik, Edith (1979). Such a Life. G. K. Hall. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-8161-6662-6. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  4. ^ Gelblum-Bross, Roma (1992). To Samarkand and Back. Roma Bross Reg'd. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-9695913-0-6. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Ukrainian government: Anti-Semitic pejorative used against Mila Kunis is legal". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 20 December 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  6. ^ Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule by Karel C. Berkhoff, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008, ISBN 0674027183 (page 60)
  7. ^ Яременко В. і Сліпушко О.. Новий тлумачний словник української мови. — К. : Аконіт, 2000. — Т. 2 (Ж—О). — С. 26. — ISBN 966-7173-02-X.
  8. ^ Khrushchev, Nikita. 1971. Khrushchev Remembers. New York: Bantam Books. p. 145.
  9. ^ a b Winer, Stuart. 19 December 2012. "Ukraine okays ‘zhyd’ slur for Jews." The Times of Israel.
  10. ^, Oleksandr Ponomariv [Олександр Пономарів], 28 November 2012, Reason to believe the word "жид" is not anti-Semitic (Підстав вважати слово "жид" антисемітським немає).
  11. ^ of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule by Karel C. Berkhoff, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008, ISBN 0674027183 (page 60)
  12. ^ Ірина Фаріон, СЛОВА ЯК СВІДКИ ПРАВДИ Лінгвістична експертиза етнонімів “жид” і “москаль” у контексті мітингової промови
  13. ^ Robert Looby (27 March 2015). Censorship, Translation and English Language Fiction in People's Poland. Hotei Publishing. p. 140. ISBN 978-90-04-29306-9.
  14. ^ Antony Polonsky (2004). Jews in Łódź, 1820-1939. Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. p. 208. ISBN 978-1-904113-15-7.
  15. ^ Peter Florian Dembowski (2005). Christians in the Warsaw Ghetto: An Epitaph for the Unremembered. University of Notre Dame Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-268-02572-4. In the singular , the word Żyd [ Zhid ) is not pejorative in Polish , despite the contrary belief widely held in America
  16. ^ a b Danusha Veronica Goska (2002). Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype and Its Application in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture. Indiana University. p. 26. "Żydek", according to linguist Maria Kaminska, was used in both a "pejorative and non-pejorative way".
  17. ^ Axel Bangert (5 July 2017). Holocaust Intersections: Genocide and Visual Culture at the New Millennium. Taylor & Francis. p. 173. ISBN 978-1-351-56355-0.
  18. ^ Jewish Language Review. Association for the Study of Jewish Languages. 1988. p. 416.
  19. ^
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