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From French houri, from Persian حوری(huri), from Arabic حُورِيَّة(ḥūriyya), plural: حُور(ḥūr), adjective: حُورِيّ(ḥūriyy)



houri (plural houris)

  1. (Islam) A nymph in the form of a beautiful virgin supposed to dwell in Paradise for the enjoyment of the faithful.
    • 2002 January 12, Ibn Warraq, “Virgins? What virgins?”, in The Guardian[1]:
      We cannot go into the technical details of his methodology but it allows Luxenberg, to the probable horror of all Muslim males dreaming of sexual bliss in the Muslim hereafter, to conjure away the wide-eyed houris promised to the faithful in suras XLIV.54; LII.20, LV.72, and LVI.22. Luxenberg's new analysis, leaning on the Hymns of Ephrem the Syrian, yields "white raisins" of "crystal clarity" rather than doe-eyed, and ever willing virgins - the houris.
    • 2009, Nerina Rustomji, The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture, Columbia University Press (→ISBN), page 114
      The repetition of material about the houri suggests that the popularization of that figure occurred as early as the ninth century and continued well into the twelfth century. By then, the houri had become a kind of metonymy for the Garden, as well as an accepted object. A new role of the houri as the superlative being of the Garden emerged through the use of traditions, and most of all the structure of the text. Al-Qadi's text provides an excellent example of the importance of the houri.
    • 2013, “What If…?”, in Still Smiling, performed by Teho Teardo, Blixa Bargeld:
      What if in paradise there are no houris waiting? / What if but all you get are grapes, succulent grapes? / What if it's all just a mistake in the translation?
    • 2017, Matthew S. Gordon, Kathryn A. Hain, Concubines and Courtesans: Women and Slavery in Islamic History, Oxford University Press (→ISBN), page 274
      Although the beauty of houris is described in terms of cosmic pureness and sumptuary materials, the qiyan are understood through attributes and affects. Yet, the houris have one constitutive attribute. They are fair and they have big eyes. Is the houri based on any particular model of beauty or a kind of female slave? Ibn Butlan, in his Risalafi shira'al-raqiq wa-taqlib al-abid, offers a rubric for female slaves; however, the descriptions of houris do not align with other descriptions of slaves.
  2. (by extension) Any voluptuous, beautiful woman.
    • 1850, Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre:
      I would not exchange this one little English girl for the Grand Turk’s whole seraglio, gazelle eyes, houri- forms and all!


Further readingEdit




  1. Third-person singular indicative past form of houria.
  2. Indicative present connegative form of houria.
  3. Second-person singular imperative present form of houria.
  4. Second-person singular imperative present connegative form of houria.