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Théodore Gericault: The Giaour (1820, lithograph; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
Eugène Delacroix: The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan (1826, oil on canvas; Art Institute of Chicago), inspired by Lord Byron's The Giaour

Giaour or Gawur (/ˈaʊər/; Turkish: gâvur, Turkish pronunciation: [ɟaˈʋur]; from Persian: گورgâvor an obsolete variant of modern گبر gaur; Romanian: ghiaur; Albanian: Kaur; Greek: γκιαούρης, translit. giaoúris) meaning "infidel", is an extremely offensive term, a slur, historically used in the Ottoman Empire for non-Muslims or more particularly Christians in the Balkans.[1][2] The terms kafir, gawur or rum (the latter meaning "Greek") were commonly used in defters (tax registries) for Orthodox Christians, usually without ethnic distinction. Christian ethnic groups in the Balkan territory of the Ottoman Empire included Greeks (rum), Bulgarians (bulgar), Serbs (surp), Albanians (arnavut), and Vlachs (eflak), among others.[2]

The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica described the term as follows:

Giaour (a Turkish adaptation of the Persian gdwr or gbr, an infidel), a word used by the Turks to describe all who are not Muslims, with especial reference to Christians. The word, first employed as a term of contempt and reproach, has become so general that in most cases no insult is intended in its use; similarly, in parts of China, the term foreign devil has become void of offence. A strict analogy to giaour is found in the Arabic kafir, or unbeliever, which is so commonly in use as to have become the proper name of peoples and countries.

During the era of the Ottoman Tanzimat reforms (1839-1876), the use of the term gavur (infidel) by Muslims for non-Muslims in a derogatory manner was prohibited to prevent problems occurring in social relationships.[3]

European cultural references[edit]

Giaours smoking the tchibouque with the pacha of the Dardanelles, book illustration from 1839.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Speros Vryonis (1993). The Turkish State and History: Clio Meets the Grey Wolf. Institute for Balkan Studies. ISBN 978-0-89241-532-8. The Turkish term "giaour" a term of contempt, was applied to these Balkan Christians,
  2. ^ a b Entangled Histories of the Balkans: Volume One: National Ideologies and Language Policies. BRILL. 13 June 2013. p. 44. ISBN 978-90-04-25076-5. In the Ottoman defters, Orthodox Christians are as a rule recorded as kâfir or gâvur (infidels) or (u)rum.
  3. ^ Gawrych, George (2006). The Crescent and the Eagle: Ottoman rule, Islam and the Albanians, 1874–1913. London: IB Tauris. p. 16. ISBN 9781845112875.