Come the 18th and 19th centuries, as the Age of Enlightenment spread through Europe, the continent's nations began to liberalize their treatment of Jews, and the walls around ghettos began to come down. It isn't that Jews hadn't lived in isolation in Europe's cities before.
In that year an area for Jewish settlement was set aside, shut off from the rest of the city, and provided with Christian watchmen.
But whatever the root language, the word's original meaning was clear: "the quarter in a city, chiefly in Italy, to which the Jews were restricted," as the OED puts it.
(For a more complete list of proposed etymologies and a detailed explanation of why they are unlikely, see Anatoly Liberman's "Why Don’t We Know the Origin of the Word Ghetto?"). In Poland and Lithuania, Jews were numerous enough to constitute a majority of the population in many cities and towns in which they occupied entire quarters. Of the many theories for the word's emergence, none are satisfactory. Soon after invading Poland in 1939, the Nazis began establishing ghettos in Polish cities, in which they forced the Jews to live. Now let's see how the ghettoes of Europe morphed into phrases like "ghetto blaster". This article was most recently revised and updated by, The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe - Ghetto, Ghetto - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). A lively and informative new podcast for kids that the whole family will enjoy! The word ghetto comes from the Jewish area of Venice, the Venetian Ghetto in Cannaregio, traced to a special use of Venetian ghèto, meaning 'foundry', as there was one near the site of that city's ghetto in 1516.
Ghettos continued in some Islamic countries, such as Yemen, until the large-scale emigration to Israel in 1948. Haaretz.com, the online edition of Haaretz Newspaper in Israel, and analysis from Israel and the Middle East, © Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. All Rights Reserved, Get email notification for articles from Elon Gilad.
Customarily, the ghettos were enclosed with walls and gates and kept locked at night and during church festivals such as Holy Week, when anti-Semitic outbursts were particularly likely because of the alleged guilt of the Jews in the Crucifixion of Christ. The ghettos of Frankfurt am Main and the Prague Judenstadt (German: “Jew town”) were renowned. Corrections? Since lateral expansion of the ghetto was, as a rule, impossible, houses tended to be of unusual height, with consequent congestion, fire hazards, and unsanitary conditions. More recently, the term ghetto has come to apply to any urban area exclusively settled by a minority group.
Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 and the Sudetenland (now in the Czech Republic) in September 1938.
Paradoxically, at the same time that Germany tried to rid itself of its Jews via forced emigration, its territorial expansions kept bringing more Jews under its control. But this etymology has a phonetic problem - getto is pronounced with a soft g (like in the English word "gin"), while ghetto is pronounced with a hard g (like the English word goat).
Paradoxically, at the same time that Germany tried to rid itself of its Jews via forced emigration, its territorial expansions kept bringing... A family marching at the head of a column of Jews on their way to be deported during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943.
One of the earliest forced segregations of Jews was in Muslim Morocco when, in 1280, they were transferred to segregated quarters called millahs. There are other even less plausible theories, so we’ll leave it at that.
The ghettos revived by the Nazis during World War II were merely overcrowded holding places that served as preliminaries to extermination. A soft g is unlikely to turn into a hard one.
Among these restrictions were the requirement of Jews to identify themselves by wearing a yellow badge, restrictions on the ownership of property, restrictions in commerce, and tighter regulations on banking.
By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Sheets hanging in the Venice ghetto, which was established in 1516 as a closed dwelling area for Jews. A 7-branched menorah stands out from the wall of a building in the Venetian ghetto.
The word found its way into a variety of phrases such as “ghetto blaster” (1982), a portable cassette player, and “ghetto fabulous” (1996) a flashy and glitzy style associated with hip-hop culture. This change in papal policy implemented a series of restrictions on Jewish life that dramatically reshaped their place in society. Word of the Day / Azazel: What the Hell Does It Mean? The term \"ghetto\" originated from the name of the Jewish quarter in Venice, Italy. However, the most visible of these restrictions was the r… Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. The various theories trace it to: Yiddish get "deed of separation;" a special use of Venetian getto "foundry" (there was one near the site of that city's ghetto in 1516); a clipped form of Egitto "Egypt," from Latin Aegyptus (presumably in memory of the exile); or Italian borghetto "small section of a town" (diminutive of borgo, which is of Germanic origin; see borough). It…, …and Marranos, formed the first ghetto (the word itself is Venetian, first used in 1516). The first of these new ghettos was created in the Polish town Piotrków Trybunalski on October 8, 1939, a mere 38 days after the invasion of Poland began.
But where the name came from is obscure. 1610s, "part of a city in which Jews are compelled to live," especially in Italy, from Italian ghetto "part of a city to which Jews are restricted," of unknown origin.
More would follow, at first in Poland and later in other cities in Nazi occupied Europe. They had, by choice.
The popularization of this word in this general sense is attributed to Israel Zangwill, a Jewish British author, and his book “Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People” (1892). Elvis Presley’s comeback hit “In the Ghetto” (1969) about the life of African Americans in southside Chicago is emblematic of the new use of the word. The goal of modern legislation has been to dissipate ghettos, but enforcement of civil rights laws (e.g., the Civil Rights Act) passed from the 1960s onward has been hampered by some of the same social prejudices that brought the first ghettos into being.
Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. But it is hard to see how a word meaning divorce papers would gain wide currency as the name a "walled-off area of town where Jews live.". But the Venetian Ghetto was something new: It was obligatory, walled in, and the gateways were guarded by armed men who enforced a curfew. Another explanation, probably the most cited one, is that the word comes from the Italian word getto (“foundry”). The practice of confining Jews into walled quarters, locked at night, became the common social practice of early modern states, at least in the central and eastern parts of the continent.
Forced segregation of Jews spread throughout Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries. Credit: John W. Schulze, Flickr Creative Commons, Why God Didn't Use Adam's Penis Bone to Make Eve, Tu Bishvat Doesn’t Come From the Bible but From Nebraska. The nature of their religious observance requires Jews to live near a synagogue, a Jewish butcher, and Jewish ritual baths, among other specialized services. First recorded in a papal bull issued by Pope Pius IV in 1562, "ghetto" was subsequently used throughout Christendom.
Holocaust: German expansion and the formation of ghettos.
By 1899, the term had been extended to crowded urban quarters of other minority groups. As an adjective by 1903 (modern slang usage from 1999). In the United States, immigrant groups and African Americans were compelled to live in ghettos because of legal and illegal discrimination and economic and social pressures. But where the name came from is obscure. The etymology of Italian ghetto was formerly the subject of much speculation, but today there is little doubt that the word comes from the Italian dialect form ghèto, meaning “foundry.” A foundry for … Why Don’t We Know the Origin of the Word Ghetto. The Mysterious Origin of the Word 'Ghetto' Five hundred years after the first Ghetto was established, what it was is clear enough: a walled-off area of late medieval towns where the Jews were concentrated. The Warsaw ghetto was the foremost example. Warsaw Ghetto Market in the Warsaw Ghetto, 1941.
These Nazi ghettos were small and inadequate to house the large numbers of Jews that were forced into them, resulting in squalid conditions.
However, the English word ghetto would live on, and take on a somewhat different nuance.
And an adjective was born, meaning "makeshift" or "jury-rigged" - or a person could be said to “be ghetto,” that is, act in low–class way. In some Muslim countries, rigid ghetto systems were enforced with restrictions on the sizes of houses and doors.
In that year an area for Jewish settlement was set aside, shut off from the rest of the city, and provided with Christian watchmen. Ghetto, formerly a street, or quarter, of a city set apart as a legally enforced residence area for Jews. Yet starting in the 1970s, use of the word ghetto began to decline in print, replaced by other less evocative terms such as “inner city.” Meanwhile, though, it began to gain currency in slang, with rappers singing about the ghetto as a source of pride. Some scholars think it derives from get, the Hebrew word for "divorce papers." Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. From there, the practice of isolating the Jews in ghettoes would spread to other Italian cities, then throughout Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.
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