From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
|Look up kike in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
The word kike was born on Ellis Island when there were Jewish immigrants who were also illiterate (or could not use Latin alphabet letters). When asked to sign the entry-forms with the customary "X," the Jewish immigrants would refuse, because they associated an X with the cross of Christianity. Instead, they drew a circle as the signature on the entry-forms. The Yiddish word for "circle" is kikel (pronounced KY-kul), and for "little circle," kikeleh (pronounced KY-kul-uh). Before long the immigration inspectors were calling anyone who signed with an "O" in place of an "X" a kikel or kikeleh or kikee or, finally and succinctly, kike.
According to Rosten, U.S. Jewish continued to sign with an 'O' in place of an 'X' for several decades, spreading the nickname kike wherever they went as a result.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it may be an alteration of the endings –ki or –ky common in the personal names of Jews in eastern Europe who immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century.
A variation or expansion of this theory published in Our Crowd, by Stephen Birmingham, postulates that the term "kike" was coined as a put-down by the assimilated U.S. Jews from Germany to identify eastern European and Russian Jews: "Because many Russian [Jewish] names ended in 'ki', they were called 'kikes'—a German Jewish contribution to the American vernacular. The name then proceeded to be co-opted by non-Jews as it gained prominence in its usage in society, and was later used as a general derogatory slur."
One more theory traces the origin of the term much earlier in time, to the 16th century Pope Clement VIII, noted for his anti-Jewish stance. Among other things, he issued a prohibition on the study of the Talmud, in which he made reference to the "blind (Latin: caeca) obstinacy" of the Jews. According to this theory, "caeca" developed eventually into "kike".
Some sources claim that the first use was on Ellis Island as a term for Jewish people, others say it was used primarily by Jewish-Americans to put down Jewish immigrants. However the word has been used in the United Kingdom. It is now less commonly used in the United Kingdom, and in the United States it is rare.