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jin·ni or jin·nee also djin·ni (jĭnē, jĭ-nē)
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n. pl. jinn also djinn (jĭn)
In the Koran and Muslim tradition, a spirit often capable of assuming human or animal form and exercising supernatural influence over people.

[Arabic jinnī, demonic, demon, from jinn, demons, from janna, to cover, conceal; see gnn in the Appendix of Semitic roots.]

Usage Note: According to the Koran, humans share this world with another race of mortal beings, the jinn, that God created from pure, smokeless fire and endowed with supernatural powers. In Arabic, the noun jinn designates these beings as a group. An adjective jinnī, "belonging to the jinn," can be made from jinn by the addition of the suffix -ī. Jinnī can then itself be used as a noun with the sense "one belonging to the jinn, a jinni." In this way, the usual word for a single male member of the jinn is jinnī, while a single female is called a jinnīya, using the feminine form of jinnī. (This way of making singulars from nouns denoting groups is common in Arabicthe noun 'arab means "the Arabs, the Arab people," and its derivative 'arabī means "Arabic" and "an Arab.") Following Arabic usage, some writers in English use the English noun jinn only as a plural, to designate the group: These jinn are kindly, while those jinn are malevolent. The English noun jinni then fills the role of a singular for this noun: He met a kindly jinni in the desert. However, other writers in English take jinn as a singular noun designating a single member of the jinn race: He met a kindly jinn in the desert. These writers may then use the uninflected plural jinn, as in These jinn are kindly, and some even use a regularly formed English plural jinns, as in Those jinns are harmful.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

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