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The word is a derivation of Cush (כּוּשׁ Kūš), referring to the ancient Kingdom of Kush which was centered on the Upper Nile and Nubia (modern-day Sudan). Mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, Cushites are considered descendants of Noah's grandson, Cush the son of Ham. In biblical and historical usage, the term "Cushites" (Hamites) refers to individuals of East African origin (Horn of Africa and Sudan).
In early Modern Hebrew usage, the term Cushi was used as an unmarked referent to a dark-skinned or red-haired person, without derogatory implications. For example, it is the nickname, or term of endearment, of the renowned Israeli commando of Yemenite extraction, Shimon "Kushi" Rimon (b. 1939). When William Shakespeare's Othello was first translated to Hebrew in 1874, the hero of the play was named Ithiel the Cushite (איתיאל הכושי).