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Semitic is an adjective that describes things originating from the Asian Middle East. Most commonly, it is used to refer to speakers of Semitic languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, or Amharic.

Although the term literally means, the descendants of Shem the people who are described as descendants of Shem in the bible are not necessarily the same as those who would be considered Semitic linguistically. There is no historical evidence to support the existence of this biblical character, although modern research has found genetic links between Arabs and ethnic Jews, indicating that they decend from a common population [1] (http://foundationstone.com.au/HtmlSupport/WebPage/semiticGenetics).

According to the Hebrew Bible, the Israelites are descended from Shem (one of the sons of Noah) through Abraham. Today's Jews are mostly descended from the Israelites of Judah, and thus are sometimes popularly identified as Israelites themselves. Note that over time people joined the Jews, and married with the descendants of the Israelites. The number of converts is not trivial, but not so large as to swamp out the origin. See the article on Israelites for more detail.

The area of Semitic languages is actually much larger than the area most people associate with the term "Semitic". While the term itself covers a geographical area from the Sinai to Iraq, and from Syria to Yemen, Semitic languages stretch all the way along the southern Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, into Mali and along the coast of the Red Sea all the way to Somalia in Africa. Semitic languages are also spoken in Malta and on some islands in the Indian Ocean. Additionally, millions of Muslims speak Classical (Qur’ānic) Arabic as a second language, and many Jews all over the world speak Hebrew as a second language.

It should also be noted that Coptic, Berber, Somali, and related languages are members of other subgroups in the Afro-Asiatic language family, not of the Semitic subgroup.

Anti-semitism is a term used to describe anti-Jewish statements or beliefs, not beliefs directed against Semitic things in general.

See also: sons of Noah

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