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.
updated on April 28, 2022