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'Daesh' And What It Means: Why ISIS Prefers Being Called Certain Terms To Others

Since invading and taking over large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, the extremist group responsible has been referred to by leaders, journalists and pundits as ISIS, ISIL or IS. However, in the wake of the horrific Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, some commentators are using a term more commonly used in Arab countries to describe the group: Daesh.

French Prime Minister Francois Hollande used the term during a speech early on Nov. 14 following the attacks, in which he promised that France would be "unforgiving to the barbarians in Daesh," according to NBC News. The hacker collective Anonymous also sent out a tweet on Nov. 15 saying that the group is "at war with Daesh," threatening cyberattacks against the extremists.

So what does Daesh mean?  According to Alice Guthrie at the Free Word Centre blog, the term Daesh is a very literal translation of the Arabic words that form ISIS in English: "al-dowla al-islaamiyya fii-il-i’raaq wa-ash-shaam."

The reason ISIS hates Daesh so much, Guthrie explains, is because it is a mere abbreviation of the group's name, which the militants see as a challenge to their legitimacy. The militants view themselves as great and heroic figures, and as such, wish to be addressed by the full version of the group's name rather than a dismissive abbreviation like Daesh.

National security expert Even Kohlmann corroborated this view, saying it is held by U.S. government officials who started referring to the group as Daesh because other terms like Islamic State and ISIS offer legitimacy to the group as an actual state, according to NBC News.

Ultimately, using the term Daesh to refer to the terror group instead of these other terms represents "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," Guthrie reports.

ISIS has threatened to cut out the tongues of anyone that the group hears using the term, according to NBC News and

Sources:, NBC News, Free Word Centre Blog / Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons,

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