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Paris Attacks: What Does 'Daesh' Mean and Why Does ISIS Hate It?

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When French President Francois Hollande addressed the nation Saturday in the aftermath of the Paris massacre, he vowed that France "will be unforgiving with the barbarians from Daesh."

What is "daesh"?

According to Arabic translator Alice Guthrie, "D.A.E.SH is a transliteration of the Arabic acronym formed of the same words that make up I.S.I.S in English: 'Islamic State in Iraq and Syria', or 'al-dowla al-islaamiyya fii-il-i'raaq wa-ash-shaam'."

It is a term that most Arab states and many European governments use to refer to the Islamic State or ISIS. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry often uses the term, too.

It, like most things involved with the terrorist organization, is not without controversy.

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Depending on how it is conjugated in Arabic, the word can mean "to trample down and crush." But it can also mean "a bigot." ISIS has reportedly threatened to cut out the tongues of anyone it hears using the term.

"It's a derogatory term and not someting people should use even if you dislike them," said Evan Kohlmann, a national security analyst at Flashpoint and a contributor to NBC News. "It would be like referring to Germans as 'Huns.'"

Kohlmann said government officials choose the term to avoid using other, more common, names for the group because of the loaded words in those popular references. Using "Islamic" and "State" together offers legitimacy to the group, some believe, and referring to it as ISIS — short for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — brings Syria into play.

That's why Guthrie believes ISIS hates the term more than any conjugation issue.

"They hear it, quite rightly, as a challenge to their legitimacy: a dismissal of their aspirations to define Islamic practice, to be 'a state for all Muslims' and — crucially — as a refusal to acknowledge and address them as such."