Spelling of antisemitism vs. anti-Semitism

ADL has adopted the spelling of “antisemitism” instead of “anti-Semitism.” After reviewing the history and consulting with other leading experts, we’ve determined that this is the best way to refer to hatred toward Jews.

The word “Semitic” was first used by a German historian in 1781 to bind together languages of Middle Eastern origin that have some linguistic similarities. The speakers of those languages, however, do not otherwise have shared heritage or history. There is no such thing as a Semitic peoplehood. Additionally, one could speak a Semitic language and still have anti-Semitic views.

And in 1879, German journalist Wilhelm Marr coined “Antisemitismus” to mean hatred of the Jewish “race,” adding racial and pseudo-scientific overtones to the animus behind the word. But hatred toward Jews, both today and in the past, goes beyond any false perception of a Jewish race; it is wrapped up in complicated historical, political, religious, and social dynamics.

While removing a hyphen by itself won’t defeat antisemitism, we believe this slight alteration will help to clarify understanding of this age-old hatred.