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Giaour or Gawur (Turkish: gâvur; Turkish pronunciation: [ɟaˈʋur], //, from Persian: گور gaur, Albanian: Kaur), meaning "infidel", is an offensive term, a slur, historically used in the Ottoman Empire for Christians, such as Orthodox Christians in the Balkans (non-Muslims). The terms kafir, gawur or (u)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 (surf), Albanians (arnavut), and Vlachs (eflak), among others.
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.
European cultural references
- Giaour is the name given to the evil monster of a man in the tale Vathek, written by William Thomas Beckford in French in 1782 and translated into English soon after. The spelling Giaour appears in the French, as well as in the English translation.
- Lord Byron published his poem "The Giaour: A Fragment of a Turkish Tale" in 1813, whose themes revolve around the ideas of love, death, and afterlife in Western Europe and Ottoman Turkey.
- "Le Giaour", a 1832 painting by Ary Scheffer, oil on canvas, Musée de la Vie romantique, Hôtel Scheffer-Renan, Paris
- 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,
- 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.