This article explores the meaning of the root k-f-r in the Quran, questioning the practice of translating the noun kā r as “ in del.” It argues for a distinction between the idiomatic phrasal verb kafara bi-, which does mean to reject or dis-believe, and the simple intransitive verb kafara and its deverbal nouns, which are used in the Quran in a large number of different ways.
This polysemy is explored through contextual readings of Quran passages. It is argued that the noun kā r, unlike the verb kafara, is used only with regard to adherents of traditional polythe-ism and is not deployed in an unmodi ed way with regard to Jews and Christians. The possible in uence on the Arabic kafara of Greek and Latin conceptions is also broached.
Key words: kafara, paganus, Kur'an, islam, politeism.