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Goy vs. Gentile: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Updated on May 28, 2024
Goy is a Hebrew term referring to a non-Jew, often used in Jewish contexts. Gentile, derived from Latin, also refers to a non-Jew, commonly used in Christian contexts.

Key Differences

Goy is a term from Hebrew that means "nation" or "people" and is often used to refer to non-Jews. In Jewish religious texts, "Goy" originally referred to any nation, including the Jewish people, but over time it has come to specifically denote non-Jews. Gentile, on the other hand, is derived from the Latin word "gentilis," meaning "of a clan or tribe." In Christian contexts, Gentile is used to describe anyone who is not Jewish. It serves a similar purpose to "Goy" but is more commonly used in Western, especially Christian, discourse.
While Goy can carry a neutral or sometimes pejorative connotation depending on the context, Gentile is generally neutral but can also vary based on usage and tone. Both terms serve to differentiate between Jews and non-Jews but originate from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
In Jewish communities, Goy is often used in religious and cultural discussions. Gentile is more frequently encountered in Christian contexts, especially in discussions of Biblical texts where the term distinguishes between Jews and the broader non-Jewish population.

Comparison Chart




Non-Jew (originally any nation)

Usage Context

Jewish contexts
Christian contexts


Neutral to pejorative
Generally neutral

Cultural Background

Christian and broader Western

Goy and Gentile Definitions


Member of a non-Jewish nation.
The Torah sometimes refers to surrounding nations as Goyim.


Used to differentiate non-Jews.
Early Christians were often Gentiles converting from paganism.


Common term in Jewish texts.
The Talmud contains many references to Goyim.


Neutral term in most contexts.
She is a Gentile but very knowledgeable about Jewish customs.


Sometimes pejorative, depending on context.
In certain contexts, calling someone a Goy can be derogatory.


A person who is not Jewish.


Hebrew word for "nation."
The ancient Israelites were also called a Goy.


(Archaic) A pagan or heathen.


Non-Jewish person.
He is considered a Goy in the Jewish community.


Mormon Church A non-Mormon.


A person who is not Jewish.


Often Gentile Of or relating to a gentile.


A non-Jew, a gentile.


Of or relating to a gens, tribe, or people.


In this sense `Gentile' denotes a Christian as contrasted with a Jew; `goy' is a derogatory word for Christians used by Jews




Heathen, pagan.


(Mormonism) Non-Mormon


Relating to a clan, tribe, or nation; clannish, tribal, national.


Of or pertaining to a gens or several gentes.


(grammar) Of a part of speech such as an adjective, noun or verb: relating to a particular city, nation or country.


A non-Jewish person.


(Mormonism) A non-Mormon person.


(grammar) A noun derived from a proper noun which denotes something belonging to or coming from a particular city, nation, or country.


One neither a Jew nor a Christian; a worshiper of false gods; a heathen.


A person who is not Jewish; - used in this sense by Jews.


Belonging to the nations at large, as distinguished from the Jews; ethnic; of pagan or heathen people.


Denoting a race or country; as, a gentile noun or adjective.


A person who does not acknowledge your God


A person who is not a member of one's own religion; used in this sense by Mormons and Hindus


In this sense `Gentile' denotes a Christian as contrasted with a Jew; `goy' is a derogatory word for Christians used by Jews


Belonging to or characteristic of non-Jewish peoples


Non-Jewish person.
In the New Testament, Paul preached to the Gentiles.


Common term in Christian texts.
The Bible often mentions Jews and Gentiles separately.


Derived from Latin "gentilis."
The word Gentile has its roots in Latin terminology.


What does Goy mean?

Goy is a Hebrew term for a non-Jewish person.

Is Goy a neutral term?

Goy can be neutral or pejorative, depending on the context.

Where does the term Gentile come from?

Gentile originates from the Latin word "gentilis."

Is Gentile a pejorative term?

Gentile is generally a neutral term.

Can Goy refer to Jews?

Originally, Goy could refer to any nation, including Jews, but now it specifically means non-Jews.

Does Gentile have a similar broad meaning?

Gentile specifically refers to non-Jews.

Who uses the term Goy?

The term Goy is used primarily in Jewish contexts.

Are Goy and Gentile interchangeable?

They are similar but used in different cultural and religious contexts.

What is the origin of Goy?

Goy is a Hebrew word meaning "nation."

What is the cultural significance of Gentile?

Gentile is significant in Christian texts to describe non-Jewish people.

Can Gentile have a positive meaning?

Gentile is typically neutral, depending on usage.

Do both terms refer to non-Jews?

Yes, both Goy and Gentile refer to non-Jews.

Who uses the term Gentile?

The term Gentile is used primarily in Christian contexts.

Can Goy have a positive meaning?

In modern usage, Goy is usually neutral to pejorative, depending on context.

Is Gentile commonly used in modern English?

Yes, Gentile is used in modern English, particularly in religious contexts.

How is Gentile used in the Bible?

Gentile is used to distinguish non-Jews in the Bible, especially in the New Testament.

Are there historical contexts for Goy?

Historically, Goy referred to any nation, but now it specifically means non-Jews.

Are there historical contexts for Gentile?

Historically, Gentile comes from Latin, referring to non-Romans or non-Jews.

Is Goy commonly used in modern Hebrew?

Yes, Goy is still commonly used in modern Hebrew.

How is Goy used in religious texts?

Goy is often used in Jewish religious texts to refer to non-Jews.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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