A first look through Genesis, well actually all of Torah (first 5 books of the Holy Bible) often astounds the reader with a collection of names, such as: Hamites, Japhethites, Caananites, Jebusites, Hittites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Sinites, Arvadites, Hamathites, Zemarites, Perrizites, etc.
They all end with the suffix ‘ites’. What does this suffix mean?
The first two names I listed above (Hamites, and Japhethites) come from Noah’s sons. Japheth was oldest, followed by Shem, and then Ham – his youngest. It’s also pretty easy to see Caanan in there – the son of Ham. How is this suffix related to these people? Well it turns out – that’s what ‘ites’ is all about.
Lately, I’ve been studying Ancient Hebrew over at http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/.
The origin of so many words is fascinating. And the more you understand the root words of Hebrew, and the origin of the Aleph-Bet the more amazing the Bible becomes. The hint for the meaning of ‘ites’ (properly pronounced ‘eet’) comes from this page on the Hebrews.
A good translation is “people of “, along the lines of descendants, or people groups. The root name is a primary node in terms of the branch of a tree, and identifies your clan-relationship – your people.
As for the people of Shem – they are shemyt – semites.