1847, "a Jew, Arab, Assyrian, or Aramaean" (an apparently isolated use from 1797 refers to the Semitic language group), back-formation from Semitic or else from French Sémite (1845), from Modern Latin Semita, from Late Latin Sem, Greek Sēm "Shem," one of the three sons of Noah (Genesis x.21-30), regarded as the ancestor of the Semites in Bible-based anthropology, from Hebrew Shem. In this modern sense it is said to have been introduced by German historian August Schlözer in 1781.
The credit, if such it be, of having originated the name "Semitic" (from Noah's son Sem or Shem) for the Hebrew group, is to be given either to Schlözer or to Eichhorn, — to which of the two is doubtful. The first known use of the term is in Schlözer's article on the Chaldæans, in Eichhorn's Repertorium, 8, 161 (1781), and he seems to claim the honor of its invention ; but a similar claim is made by Eichhorn himself, without mention of Schlözer, in his Allgemeine Bibliothek, 6, 772 (1794). [Philip Schaff, ed., "Religious Encyclopedia," 1889]
1848, "characteristic attributes of Semitic languages;" 1851, "characteristic attributes of Semitic people," especially "the ways, life, practices, etc., of Jewish people;" see Semite + -ism. By 1870 in the specialized sense of "Jewish influence in a society." However a Semitist (1885) was "one versed in Semitic languages."
also antisemitism, 1881, from German Antisemitismus, first used by Wilhelm Marr (1819-1904) German radical, nationalist and race-agitator, who founded the Antisemiten-Liga in 1879; see anti- + Semite.
Not etymologically restricted to anti-Jewish theories, actions, or policies, but almost always used in this sense. Those who object to the inaccuracy of the term might try Hermann Adler's Judaeophobia (1881). Anti-Semitic (also antisemitic) and anti-Semite (also antisemite) also are from 1881, like anti-Semitism they appear first in English in an article in The Athenaeum of Sept. 31, in reference to German literature. Jew-hatred is attested from 1881. As an adjective, anti-Jewish is from 1817.
1797, denoting the major language group that includes Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Assyrian, etc., distinguished by triliteral verbal roots and vowel inflection; 1826 as "of or pertaining to Semites," from Medieval Latin Semiticus (source of Spanish semitico, French semitique, German semitisch), from Semita (see Semite).
As a noun, as the name of a linguistic family, from 1813. In non-linguistic use, it is perhaps directly from German semitisch. In recent use often with the specific sense "Jewish," but not historically so delimited.
1881, see anti-Semitism.
One who seeks by political or other means to lessen the commercial, political, or social influence of the Jews. The name is given especially to those who have participated in the agitation against the Jews in Germany, Russia, and Austria which began about 1878. [Century Dictionary, 1900]