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What Is a Djinn?


Painting of a genie or djinn rising from a magical lamp.

A djinn issues from a magical lamp. Djinns are supernatural beings in Arab folklore.

The Palma Collection / Getty Images

A djinn is a spirit from Arabic mythology that can be either good or evil. The djinn are less powerful than angels, but can assume the shapes of humans, animals or whirlwinds.

Belief in djinns has been wide-spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia; the spirits are even mentioned in the Koran. In fact, Satan often is believed to be the most prominent of the djinns.

Belief in djinns may well predate both Christianity and Islam. In Zoroastrian Persia, before the coming of Islam, evil female spirits called jaini were thought to cause disease and misfortune.

The word djinn comes from the Arabic "jinni," or demon. Its root is janna, meaning "to cover or conceal." In English, the word is often translated as "genie."

Pronunciation: "jihn" - the initial "d" is nearly silent
Also Known As: genies
Alternate Spellings: djin, jinn, jinni, djinni, dhinny, jinnee

"According to traditional Islamic belief, the djinn are creatures made of 'smokeless flame,' which have free will."

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