Genie (from Arabic جني jinnie) is a magical fiery spirit in Asian-Mid Eastern folklore, and is mentioned in the Quran. The genie was incorporated into European folk tales with slightly modified characteristics.

Etymology and definitionsRectify


Genie is the usual English translation of the Arabic term jinni, but it is not directly an Anglicized form of the Arabic word, as is commonly thought. The English word comes from French génie, which meant a spirit of any kind, which in turn came from Latin Genius (mythology), which meant a sort of tutelary or guardian spirit thought to be assigned to each person at birth. The Latin word predates the Arabic word jinni in this context, and may have been introduced in the Arabian civilization through the Nabataeans. The root however, and its concept of being "hidden" or "concealed" still comes from the Semitic root "JNN" and from which the Arabic Jann (garden or paradise) is derived.

Arabic lexicons, such as William Lane's lexicon provide the rendered meaning of Jinn not only for spirits, but also for anything concealed through time, status and even physical darkness. A classical Arabic use of the term Jinn is as follows:

وَلا جِنَّ بِالْبَغْضَآءِ وَالنَّظَرِ الشَّزْرِ

And there is no concealment with vehement hatred as well as the averting look.


The first recorded use of the word Genie in English was in 1655 as geny, with the Latin meaning. The French translators of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights later used the word génie as a translation of jinni because it was similar to the Arabic word both in sound and in meaning; this meaning was also picked up in English and has since become dominant. The plural, according to Sir Richard Francis Burton, is Jann.

Jinn in pre-Islamic eraRectify

Amongst archaeologists dealing with ancient Middle Eastern cultures, any spirit lesser than God is often referred to as a “Djinn”, especially when describing stone reliefs or other forms of art. This practice draws on the original meaning of the term genie for simply a Spirit of any sort.

Epigraphic Evidence

Inscriptions found in Northwestern Arabia seem to indicate worship of Djinn, or at least their tributory status. For instance, an inscription from Beth Fasi'el near Palmyra pays tribute to the "Ginnaye", the "good and rewarding gods" providing a sharp resemblance to the Latin Genius (mythology) and Juno (mythology): The Guardian Spirits.


Types of Djinn include the Ghul (“night shade”, which can change shape), the sila (which cannot change shape), the Ifrit , and “Marid” . From information in The Arabian Nights, Marid seem to be the strongest form of Djinn, followed by Ifrit, and then the rest of the Djinn.

In the mid-east it is believed that the Djinn were spirits of smoke-less fire, although sometimes they associated them with succubi (Demons in the forms of beautiful women). The feminine form of Djinn is “jinniyah” or “jinneyeh”.

Jinn in IslamRectify

The Djinn are said to be creatures with Free will, made from 'smokeless fire' by God, in the same way humans were made of Earth. According to the Qur'an, Djinn have free choice, and Iblis used this freedom in front of God by refusing to bow to Adam when God told Iblis to do so. By refusing to obey God’s order he was thrown out of the Paradise and called “Shaitan” (See Shaitan and Satan). In the Qur'an, Djinn are frequently mentioned and Sura 72 of the Qur'an named Al-Jinn is entirely about them. Another Sura (Al-Naas) mentions the Djinn in the last verse. In fact, it is mentioned in the Qur'an that Muhammad was sent as a prophet to both “humanity and the Djinn”.

The Djinn are believed to have communities much like human societies: they eat, marry, die, etc. They are believed to live in tribes that have boundaries, to follow religions as humans do, and follow the same ranks in armies as humans do. Because they are massless and can be fit into any space, some believe Djinns can settle into any location, from a vast area (like a Universe), to a tiny hole, (like a lamp). It is believed that they are invisible to humans, but that they can see humans. Some believe that they occasionally, accidentally or deliberately, come into view or into contact with humans. Djinn are believed to live much longer than humans: some of whom are said to be still alive having seen Muhammad (who lived during the 7th century). It is also thought that Djinn can take on the form of humans and animals but they can not take on the form of prophets and 12 Imams of Shi'ite Islam.

Genie as a ThiefRectify

In Muslim beliefs, the genie can also act as a supernatural thief. [1] By some traditions, the prophet Mohammed warned against thieving jinn.

Jinn in post-Islamic Arabic fictionRectify

Evil Ifrit in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights are called “the seed of Iblis”.

The Spirit of the Lamp in the story of Aladdin, a familiar djinn to the Western world (see next section), was such a jinni, bound to an oil lamp. Ways of summoning jinn were told in The Thousand and One Nights: by writing the name of God in Hebrew characters on a knife (whether the Hebrew name for God, Yahweh, or the Arabic Allah is used is not specified), and drawing a diagram, with strange symbols and incantations around it.

The jinn’s power of possession was also addressed in the fictional Nights. It is said that by taking seven hairs out of the tail of a cat that was all black except for a white spot on the end of its tail, and then burning the hairs in a small closed room with the Possessed, filling their nose with the scent, this would release them from the spell of the jinn inside them.

Classes of JinnRectify

In the West, Jinn are conventionally classified as follows: (from high to low)

Marid: The marid are the fewest in number among the jinn, and the strongest. It is said that a marid was the first jinn, and his brothers began the other tribes. Marid are solitary beings, and often live near the coast. They are masters of the weather, and sailors are careful not to anger these jinn. They can be seen to travel across water as a waterspout and have been known to wreck ships with the wind and waves they can cause. A marid may appear as a wise old man or a porpoise, or a horse, leading travelers to wise courses.

Ifrit: These highly intelligent jinn are among the most numerous. They have a quite evil temper. Their main homes are in abandoned or desolate places. Iblis is their great leader. They may appear as a soldier, or a great dog. The afreet often move across land as a great tornado of dust, or on magical camels made of sand and evil magic. They may also strike as giant serpents or scorpions spitting fire.

Shaitan (Sheitan): These are the longest lived of all the jinn. Their home is in the mountains where even the rock and water are hot. They are masters of deception, and can disappear in a cloud of smoke, traveling on clouds of hot air from place to place. They are well known for their pride, and are known to have human worshipers and slaves. The Sheitan are also the most adept at manipulating the pride of man to turn him away from his fate. These evil jinn often appear as beautiful women, but will of course retain some part of an animal's form on their body. They often appear as smoke or a jackal, and will use disease as a weapon in many instances. They are often seen as or riding black camels.

Ghoul (Ghillan, Ghul): The name means "to seize". The Ghillan are the most depraved of the jinn. The Ghillan stalk the trackless wastes of the desert and prey upon the living and the dead. They may only eat what they have killed or what dead creature has not had the name of a protective deity spoken over it. They are very intelligent, but can behave as animals when in a crazed lust for food. They are very superstitious and consider their hospitality to be inviolable. If offered salt, they will not attack the individual who offered the salt, or his household. The Ghillan often appear as pilgrims and join caravans, then fall upon their hosts if they are not treated with due hospitality. They will also openly attack individuals or small groups. Many Ghillan seek out grave sites, and will devour the newly dead or retrieve them for evil wizards or other diabolical masters. They can change into vultures, and follow their mundane cousins to battle fields and dying travelers. Their alternative forms always have asses' hooves The only way to kill Ghillan is to strike them with a single blow, since striking them twice will invest within them new life.

Jann (Djann): The most individualistic of the jinn. They consider an oasis as perhaps the most beautiful place that exists. Caravans suffered or prospered at their hands, for it is said they could hide an oasis from those who had previously mistreated them or shown disrespect. Jann can take the form of a camel, generally white, and travel slowly between oasis under their control. They occasionally will disappear in a cyclone of sand. Jann will only rarely be found in cities, though many are said to have palaces at their favorite oasis. They often appear as a whirlwind of sand, or as a soldier in order to conceal themselves.

In addition to these classes, there is also:

Qareen: according to Islamic literature, these are evil spirits, analogous to a personal demon, intent on tricking people into acts of sin.

Genies in Western cultureRectify

The Western interpretation of the genie is based on the Aladdin tale in the Western version of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, which told of a genie that lived in an Oil lamp and would grant the wishes of the owner of the lamp, as well as the genie in the tale of The Fisherman and the Jinni. Oddly, lore from these tales seem to get twisted and mixed into each other. Many western stories about genies tend to follow the same vein as the famous short story The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs, with the overriding theme of “be careful what you wish for”; in these stories, wishes can have disastrous, horrific and sometimes fatal consequences. Often, the genie causes harm to the loved ones or innocent people surrounding the wisher, making others pay for its master’s greed or ignorance. While this may be because of the genie's evilness, in other cases the genie may simply misunderstand the wishes. This also forms the basis of numerous Three wishes jokes.

Exploiting loopholes or twisting interpretations of wishes is a classic trait amongst genies in Western fiction. For example, in “The Man in the Bottle” episode of The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series), a poor shopkeeper who finds a genie and wishes to become a leader of a great nation is transformed into Adolf Hitler at the very end of World War II. Often, these stories end with the genie’s master wishing to have never found the genie, all his previous wishes never to have happened, or a similar wish to cancel all the fouled wishes that have come before.

Awareness about the origins of the genie, and the use of the original spelling jinn has become more common. Usually, the term djinn is used by authors who wish to convey a more serious interpretation of the legendary entity, rather than the comical genies the Western public has become used to, such as Robin Williams' character in Aladdin.

Examples of Genies in fiction and popular CultureRectify


  • Jinn is one of Ruth Plumly Thompson's most popular original Oz characters. His most notable appearances are in Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, The Purple Prince of Oz and The Silver Princess in Oz.
  • Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe conjectures that the White Witch Jadis was not human (as was her claim), but was in fact half giantess and half Jinn, a descendant of Lilith, Adam’s “first wife”.
  • Christopher Moore (author)’s book Practical Demonkeeping describes the pre-human origin of the Djinn and God’s favor for humans.
  • The “Djinn in charge of All Deserts” gives the lazy camel his hump in the story "How the Camel Got His Hump" from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.
  • Djinn feature prominently in Tim Powers' supernatural spy novel Declare.
  • Several references to djinn occur in the final short story, entitled “Ramadan”, of Neil Gaiman’s sixth The Sandman (DC Comics/Vertigo) collection, Fables and Reflections. In Gaiman’s novel, American Gods, an ifrit drives a taxicab in New York.
  • In the Bartimaeus Trilogy books by Jonathan Stroud, a djinni is a section of five major spirits, also including afrits (a form of Ifrit) as a creature of fire, marids, foliots, and imps. The trilogy focuses on a five-thousand year-old djinni named Bartimaeus and his unwilling alliance with a teenage boy.
  • In Rachel Caine’s series of books named Weather Warden, the Djinn appear frequently. The Wardens who control fire, weather and earth capture the Djinn in bottles. The two most powerful Djinn in the world are used in these series of books.
  • Dragon Rider (novel), a novel by Cornelia Funke features a djinn named Asif. She stated he was colored dark blue. She also stated he had a thousand eyes, he was so large his shadow could darken an entire ravine, his pointed ears were larger than the wings of a dragon, he had a fat belly, and blue hairs thicker than saplings grow inside his nostrils. He is an example of a serious interpretation of a djinn. He lives in a gray car, materializes from blue smoke, has a thousand eyes, and is omnipotent.If you ask him a question, he will show you it in one of his thousand eyes. A human must ask, it must be seven words, and if Asif has the same question but before him, the questioner must serve him for their entire life. Funke did not state if you could escape him and no character did get to be a slave, but Asif did say to the dragon Firedrake that he made his skin itch so much that a thousand servants had to scratch it for him. The servants were not shown, but mentioned.
  • In the popular book series Children of the Lamp, John and Phillipa Gaunt discover that they are members of the djinn tribe Marid.
  • In the young adult’s book Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, the sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, there is a genie in a bottle and a pair of Djinn.
  • In Jinn a book by Matthew B.J. Delaney, the creature which is being hunted is a Jinn. Has been called "Saving Private Ryan meets Alien in Delaney's tense and involving first novel, a hybrid that transcends its several genres."
  • Julian referenced himself, as well as Jenny's Grandfather, as Djinn (Julian is a play off of that name) in the Forbidden Game trilogy by L.J. Smith.
  • In the Necromancer Wars literary series, an evil djinn is captured by a wiccan coven and imprisoned in a bottle.
  • There are several passing references to djinna in Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.
  • “The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye” is a short story by noted British writer A.S. Byatt published in a short anthology of the same name.
  • In the supernatural drama The Jinniyah by Maria Aragon, an Englishman during the reign of Henry the Eighth opens a gift decanter and gains unwanted immortality when he releases the female Jinn or Jinniyah inside.


  • In the Anime and Manga series Dragon Ball Z, the character Mr. Popo is a djinn that protects Earth and the final and most powerful villain faced by the heroes was a stylistically-Arabic demon called Majin Buu. “Majin” is the Japanese word for “Magical Being” or “Genie.” Befitting the genie that he is, Majin Buu is a spirit formed from smoke and clouds that utilizes horrific transmutation sorcery which transforms living beings into candy to sate his monstrous appetite, as well as possessing incredible power that quite literally rivalled that of the most powerful gods in the Dragon Ball (manga) universe.
  • In the Vertigo comic Fables (Vertigo), a Djinn is released. In this comic, they are considered armong the most powerful creatures in existence.
  • In the comic Jesi The Genie, a former milk goddess is cursed with becoming a genie, and then released during the time of the Arabian Nights by a young man. Jesi also appears in the webcomic Gaijin Hi.
  • ClanDestine, a comic book series by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer and published by Marvel Comics, is about a family of British superheroes in the Marvel Universe, children of a human and a female djinn.
  • Comic fiction author Tom Holt titled one of his novels Djinn Rummy, combining the word Djinn with the popular card game Gin Rummy. The novel is in fact about a number of djinns in the human world, many of which who have corporate sponsoring. Djinns appear frequently in a number of Tom Holt’s books, though it is normally taken for granted that the reader knows some of the fictional background of these characters. (I.e. the books are somewhat chronological).
  • The DC Comic’s characters Johnny Thunder and Jakeem Thunder are masters of the djinn from the 5th dimension named Thunderbolt. Genies in the DCU are summoned by their masters by saying their name backwards. Thunderbolt's true name is Yz, which when said backwards sounds like "say you". Disgraced superhero Triumph (comics) was later manipulated by the evil djinn named Lkz, which when said backwards sounds like "so cool". After a conflict involving both the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America the two genies were merged together changing the Thunderbolt's summoning word to "so cool". The 5th dimension is also home to Superman's enemy, Mister Mxyzptlk. In the pages of JSA it was revealed that Imps, like Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, are seen as something akin to children. Thunderbolt's son, Shocko and Shocko's wife Peachy Pet are also djinn.
  • In the Anime and Manga series Magic Knight Rayearth the princesses from Chizeta, Tarta and Tatra have two djinn how guardians.
  • in the Anime and Manga Aladdin and the Magic Lamp (Aladdin to Mahou no Lamp)from Toei Animation alladin have two djinn the Ring Servant and the Djinni of the lamp
  • In the Lebanon-published book Malaak (2007, first of a series), an angel with the appearance of a young girl fights evil jinns, which only she can see as they really are, who are involved in maintaining an ever-going civil war in an alternate reality Lebanon

Movies and televisionRectify

  • The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) features Baronni, a child Genie, who is freed and joins Sinbad's crew.
  • The original The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series) features two episodes with genies in them: "The Man in the Bottle" and "I Dream of Genie (The Twilight Zone)".
  • The sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, which began in 1965 and ran for five seasons, featured Barbara Eden as a 2,000 year-old beautiful blonde Persian genie completely infatuated with the American astronaut master that had found her bottle and set her free in modern America.
  • The horror film Wishmaster (film) features a hateful and evil Djinn as its villain. The film has spawned three sequels.
  • In the 1996 film Kazaam, Shaquille O'Neal played a rapping genie who lived in a boombox.
  • In the animated series Martin Mystery (animated series), episodes called “Curse of the Djini” and “Return of the Djini” featured an evil djinn trapped in a skull that could read peoples' mind’s and make them say their wishes. If the djinn died then the wishes would be undone.
  • In the episode "The Wish" of the UPN horror/comedy series Special Unit 2, Special Unit 2 encountered an evil genie-like link who needed to grant 3,000 wishes in order to gain free will. Unlike traditional djinn, this genie did not have supernatural powers other than the ability to transform between gas and solid states. As a result, the genie had to carry out wishes physically. So for example if someone wished for a million dollars the genie had to break into a bank and steal a million dollars for them. If someone wished for a relationship with a beautiful model the genie would have to kidnap the model. These wishes almost always ended in disaster for the genie's masters. After 3,000 wishes had been granted the genie would no longer have to live in bottles or grant wishes.
  • The 1964 comedy The Brass Bottle features a genie (Burl Ives) who causes more problems than he solves for his master (Tony Randall) and his fiance, Barbara Eden (who herself would enter the bottle the very next year in I Dream of Jeannie.)
  • The 2005 Japanese Tokusatsu TV series Mahou Sentai Magiranger introduced a genie character in the middle of the series named Smoky, the Magical Cat. He resided in a lamp, which also acted as a gun to assist his master (Hikaru/MagiShine) in battle. His American counterpart is that of Jenji in Power Rangers Mystic Force.
  • An episode of the TV series Charmed called "I Dream of Phoebe" has the Charmed Ones confronting a trickster Genie that is trying to gain its freedom by granting three wishes.
  • An episode of the CW paranormal drama Supernatural (TV Series) called “What Is And What Should Never Be” has Sam hunting a Djinn (which has Dean) which did not actually grant wishes. Instead, it would cause the victim to enter a dream state where their greatest wish was granted while the Djinn fed off their life.
  • In a Season 7 episode of The X-Files called "Je Souhaite", Mulder and Scully find a man and his dim-bulbed, wheelchair-bound brother who chooses three wishes which backfire increasingly. The cause of which is an indifferent genie whose willingness to grant wishes belies a deeper motive.
  • Desiree (Danny Phantom) from the animated series Danny Phantom is a genie-like ghost who grants any wishes she hears.
  • In the film Long Time Dead the characters do a ouija board, which brings out a vengeful spirit named Djinn.
  • In Fairly Oddparents there's a genie named Norm voiced by Norm Macdonald (comedian).
  • In the 1940 movie The Thief of Bagdad (1940 film), Abu the thief frees a genie from a bottle who promptly tries to kill him, but after Sabu tricks the genie back into the bottle, the genie gives him three wishes. Abu asks first for sausages, second to be taken to king Ahmad, and third, in a fit of anger in an argument, for Ahmad to go to Baghdad, after which the genie abandons Sabu. Fortunately, Abu destroys the All-Seeing Eye, which has freed good spirits that will help him defeat the evil Grand Vizier Jaffar.
  • In the 1945 film A Thousand And One Nights, Evelyn Keyes plays a voluptuous redheaded genie named Babs who is the Slave of the Lamp of Nador. She falls head-over-heels for her new master, Aladdin, and reluctantly helps him win the heart of a busty blonde princess.

Video gamesRectify

  • The Game Genie Cheat cartridge series was so named for its ability to change aspects of games at will.
  • In the videogames Golden Sun and Golden Sun, players encounter Djinn as small benevolent creatures who use their powers to aid the protagonists in battle.
  • The strategy game series, Heroes of Might and Magic, features Genies as playable characters and units. A Genie named Solmyr is also a major protagonist in the series.
  • In the 1980s video game Archon, the Djinn is the champion of the light side, opposite the Dragon who is champion of the dark side.
  • In the video game Primal (video game), the world of Volca is inhabited by evil creatures called Djinns, led by King Iblis and Queen Malikel. Those Djinn live dormant in a volcano, awakening only when the volcano is about to erupt.
  • In the video game Sonic and the Secret Rings, there are two djinn: Shahra the Ring Genie, a Genie of the Ring, who assists Sonic through the game and Erazor Djinn, the game’s main villain who is a Genie of the Lamp.
  • In the video game series Final Fantasy, one of the summoned creatures is named Ifrit and offers fire elemental magic. Also, in Final Fantasy you must defeat a Djinn who has turned an entire town into ghosts.
  • The Pokémon Jirachi is said to grant any wish once it is written on a tag and attached to its three star points on its head.
  • Genies are a major plot element in King's Quest VI as part of the Green Isles folklore.
  • Iblis, while not being the main villain of the story, is featured as a summoned entity by the game's antagonist in second of the Quest for Glory games. The protagonist (Hero) also has the opportunity to summon a lesser djinn who grants him three wishes near the game's end.
  • In the Game Boy game Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land the games main villain uses a Genie to attempt to defeat Wario during the final boss battle.
  • In The Sims 2: FreeTime your Sims that have been created by yourself will get a Genie lamp by a Gypsy, it will only grant 3 wishes per sim, after you have finished your wishes, you cannot have more.


  • In the Dungeons & Dragons series of roleplaying games, genies are powerful elemental spirits from the Inner Planes, each of the four classical elements having its own subspecies of genie: Djinn for air, Dao for earth, Efreet for fire, Marids for water, and a fifth type known as the Jann, who draw their existence from all four elements. A six type, the Qorrash, has been added later and is linked to the pseudo-element of cold [2].
  • In the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering there are more than two dozen djinn-related cards, mostly larger-than-usual creatures with a drawback, and a dozen ifrit/efreet cards.
  • In Malaysia, all issues of the Economist dated December 19 2006 had the pages containing the article “Born of Fire” ripped out. The government's explanation was that “Muslims cannot believe in Jinns as this goes against Islam”. [3]

See alsoRectify

  • Ghost
  • Magic carpet
  • Aladdin
  • Dantalion
  • Exorcism in Islam
  • Ifrit
  • Marid
  • Mr. Popo


  • Wight
  • Sprite (creature)
  • Tutelary deity


  • al-Ashqar, Dr. Umar Sulaiman (1998). The World of the Jinn and Devils. Boulder, CO: Al-Basheer Company for Publications and Translations.
  • Barnhart, Robert K. The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. 1995.
  • “Genie”. The Oxford English Dictionary. Second edition, 1989.

External linksRectify