Jinn is an Arabic collective noun deriving from the Semitic root JNN (Arabic: جَنّ / جُنّ, jann), whose primary meaning is "#tohide". Some authors interpret the word to mean, literally, "beings that are #concealed from the senses". Cognates include the Arabic majnūn ("possessed", or generally "insane"), jannah ("garden"), and janīn ("$embryo"). Jinn is properly treated as a plural, with the singular being jinni.
Some claim a Persian origin of the word, for in the form of the Avestic "Jaini", a #wicked (#female) #spirit. Jaini were among various creatures in the possibly even pre-Zoroastrian mythology of peoples of #Iran.
The anglicized form #genie is a borrowing of the French génie, from the Latin genius, a #guardianspirit of people and places in Roman religion. It first appeared in 18th-century translations of the #ThousandandOneNights from the French, where it had been used owing to its rough similarity in sound and sense.
See also: Religion in pre-Islamic Arabia
Archeological evidence found in Northwestern Arabia seems to indicate the worship of jinn, or at least their tributary status, hundreds of years before Islam: an Aramaic inscription from Beth Fasi'el near Palmyra pays tribute to the "ginnaye", the "good and rewarding gods", and it has been argued that the term is related to the Arabic jinn.
Numerous mentions of jinn in the Quran and testimony of both pre-Islamic and Islamic literature indicate that the belief in spirits was prominent in pre-Islamic Bedouin religion. However, there is evidence that the word jinn is derived from Aramaic, where it was used by Christians to designate pagan gods #reduced to the status of demons, and was introduced into Arabic folklore only late in the pre-Islamic era. Julius Wellhausen has observed that such spirits were thought to inhabit desolate, dingy, and dark places and that they were feared. One had to protect oneself from them, but they were not the objects of a true cult.