In translation, the term jinn can be interpreted as ‘hidden from sight’ or ‘the hidden ones.’ In Arabic, the word jinn defines a collective number and it derives from the root jnn or gnn, which means ‘to hide’ or ‘to be hidden.’ All this implies that jinn are not necessarily spirits, but they are hidden in their status in time, in space, and in darkness.
Etymology of the Word Jinn
The word gannah is also derived from the same root. This refers to another place hidden in space and time – the Garden of Paradise. In English, “genie” is a synonym for “jinn” and it is derived from the Latin “genius” – which used to refer to a sort of protective spirit which each human was thought to have since the moment of birth.
The only resemblance between the two is the pronunciation, as jinn and genius are totally distinct entities. From the Latin “genus” the modern term “genetics” is derived, with a certain resemblance to “jinn” – as these entities are believed to be capable of determining familial features of resemblance. In Arabic, the singular for genie or jinn is “ginni”, while the plural is “ginn.”
The black king of the djinns, Al-Malik al-Aswad, in the late 14th century Book of Wonders. (Public Domain)