Answers to Quora Questions by Yair Davidiy (29 August 2017, 7 Elul, 5777)
What are the meanings and origins of the words goy, goyim, and Gentile?
"Goi" in Hebrew means "People".
"Goyim" means "peoples." It is the plural form for "goi".
Gentile is derived from the Latin "Gentils" meaning "of a family, of a nation," from the root "gens" meaning "people." It could be considered a Latin equivalent of the Hebrew "goy."
These names could be applied to Israelites or to non-Israelites.
Here is an example of "goi" applied to Israelites:
1 I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me;
I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me.
I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’
To a nation ["goi"] which did not call on My name.
I could not find an example of "goyim" applied to Israelites. The term is however applied to the descendants of Jacob (i.e. of Israel) together with his twin brother Esau.
Genesis 25 (NASB):
23 The LORD said to her,
‘Two nations [“goyim”] are in your womb;
And two peoples will be separated from your body;
And one people shall be stronger than the other;
And the older shall serve the younger.”
Here is an example of "goi" as applied to a non-Israelite people,
10 As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation [Hebrew: "goi"] or kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he made the kingdom or nation [ha-"goi'] swear that they could not find you.
Here is an example of "goyim" applied to non-Israelites:
16 The LORD is King forever and ever;
Nations ["goyim"] have perished from His land.
Already in Biblical Times we find the term "goyim" being applied ALMOST exclusively to non-Israelites.
Later in colloquial Hebrew and in Yiddish the appellation was used for non-Jews.
So too, the English word "Gentile" though originally connoting "people" came to be used as referring to someone who is not-Jewish.