A Spanish dictionary defines Jew as 'greedy or money lending'

Jewish groups have demanded the removal of outdated definitions of the terms judiada and judio


Spain's national language authority is under pressure to remove controversial antisemitic terms from its dictionary. 

A coalition of 20 Jewish groups from Spanish-speaking countries have urged the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) to remove antisemitic terms of Judio (Jew) and Judiada.

The fifth definition of Judio that appears in the RAE's official Dictionary of the Spanish Language was flagged as a pejorative term "in relation to a person being greedy or money lending."

The first definition of Judiada is "a dirty trick or an action that is detrimental to someone". The dictionary notes the word was originally used “with antisemitic intent”.

The letter, backed by Spain's Federation of Jewish Communities and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, argues such definitions stem from outdated antisemitic attitudes of the 14th century in Spain.

These attitudes led to the expulsion of Spain’s entire Jewish population in 1492 under Ferdinand and Isabella, who were Catholic monarchs. 

The letter argues: “The definitions of the word Judío and Judiada in no way reflect the true meaning of these terms.”

It adds the descriptions of the terms are “the product of a mediaeval and renaissance terminology of rejection, envy and hatred directed at Jews who, because of their work, had the highest incomes - which was one of the factors that led to their expulsion from Spain by the Catholic monarchs."

The request “appeals to the sensitivity of the RAE to promote a respectful and inclusive language”.

In a statement, lawyer Boja Luján Lago, who represents the 20 communities in countries including Argentina, Panama, Spain, Bolivia, Uruguay and Chile said: “We understand that the dictionary definitions reflect the use of language and do not in themselves promote hateful behaviour, but they should be corrected as they are totally anachronistic to the social and cultural reality of the 21st century.

“Dictionaries have the task of reflecting the use and evolution of language, and their content is based on linguistic and academic criteria.

“In a context in which Spanish and Ibero-American society is increasingly sensitive to diverse identities and that the lack of respect to defining groups is mostly rejected by our society, we believe that these meanings should be updated to correctly reflect the use of the language in our days.”

The RAE confirmed the institution had received the letter and said it would be looking at the groups’ requests.

The Spanish Government have previously attempted to atone for what it termed the “historical wrong” of the Spanish Inquisition by offering citizenship to the descendants of those who were forced from their homeland.

The scheme, which ended in October 2019, resulted in 132,226 people of Sephardic descent applying for Spanish citizenship.

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