Moses and his Ethiopian wife Sephora (Mozes en zijn Ethiopische vrouw Sippora). Jacob Jordaens, c. 1650

The word Cushi or Kushi (Hebrew: כּוּשִׁי kuši) is generally used in the Hebrew Bible to refer to a dark-skinned person of African descent, equivalent to Greek Αἰθίοψ "Aithíops".[citation needed]

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).[1]

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.[2] For example, it is the nickname, or term of endearment, of the renowned Israeli commando of Yemenite extraction, Shimon "Kushi" Rimon (b. 1939).[3][4][5] When William Shakespeare's Othello was first translated to Hebrew in 1874, the hero of the play was named Ithiel the Cushite (איתיאל הכושי).[6]

In 2012, Kiryat Arba's Chief Rabbi Dov Lior referred to US President Barack Obama as a "kushi" of the West.[7]

In contemporary usage, the term is regarded as an ethnic slur, akin to American usage of nigger.[1][8]


  1. ^ a b Goulbourne, Harry (2001). "Who is a Cushi?". Race and Ethnicity: Solidarities and communities. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-22501-9.
  2. ^ "חדשות - דעות - רוביק רוזנטל nrg - ...הזירה הלשונית: אל תקרא".
  3. ^ "Blaze destroys Arava landmark".
  4. ^ "News in Brief". 3 May 2002 – via Haaretz.
  5. ^ "אחרי שאמרו לו שהכל נגמר, כושי רימון ניצח את הסרטן וחזר לחיים".
  6. ^ אשכנזי, יאיר (15 March 2015). "איך נהפך אותלו של שייקספיר לאיתיאל הכושי?" – via Haaretz.
  7. ^ Jerusalem Post Staff. "Rabbi Lior compares Obama to villain Haman". Jerusalem Post.
  8. ^ "Negro… please".

See also