'Daesh' adopted as new name for ISIS by U.S., France

The U.S. and France are now labelling the brutal extremist group it is fighting in Iraq and Syria as "Daesh." That name is the Arabic acronym and carries a more pejorative tone.

New label meant to rebrand group as militant extremists, not a 'state'

ISIS fighters parade in Raqqa, Syria. The militant group is also known as ISIL, Islamic State, IS and now Daesh. (Associated Press)

What's in a name?

When you are talking about a brutal militant group, a lot is at stake and the label can have a loaded meaning.

That's why we have seen and heard so many variations on the name of the group a U.S.-led coalition that includes Canada is fighting in Iraq and Syria — from ISIS to ISIL to Islamic State, and now, Daesh.

Sources tell CBC News Network's Power and Politics host Evan Solomon that the U.S. is moving away from calling the militant group ISIL, in favour of the more pejorative Arabic acronym Daesh.

Speaking in Brussels yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry adopted the new name.

John Kerry adopts new 'Daesh' name

“In less than three months the international community has come together to form a coalition that is already taking important steps to degrade and defeat ISIL, or Daesh,” he said. “Daesh is still perpetrating terrible crimes.”

The switch in names comes after months of confusion over how to label the group. 

Other governments, including Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, refer to it as ISIL. Still others and many media outlets call it Islamic State, or IS.

CBC News's current language policy is to refer to the group as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).

France was first to embrace the Daesh name in September, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius asked the media and others to do the same.

"This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists," he said in a statement at the time. "The Arabs call it Daesh and I will be calling them the 'Daesh cutthroats.'"

Daesh also sounds similar to the Arabic words daes — which means someone who crushes something underfoot - and also dahes — which is someone who sows discord.

Former U.S. secretary of State Hillary Clinton objected to the label Islamic State as well, and explained why during a visit to Ottawa in October:

"Whether you call them ISIS or ISIL, I refuse to call them the Islamic State, because they are neither Islamic nor a state," she said during a Canada 2020 conference. "Whatever you call them, I think we can agree that the threat is real.”

Will Canada change its label for group?

So will Canada make any changes to how it labels the group? It’s not clear yet.

"Whether it is called Daesh, ISIL or ISIS, Canada and the coalition agree this heinous terrorist group presents a threat to the region, and the entire world," Adam Hodge, spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, told Power and Politics. "That is why Canada has announced a number of measures designed to combat ISIL’s brutality and help victims of this barbaric terrorist group."

Canada is part of a coalition of countries fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, contributing CF-18 fighter jets along with surveillance, refuelling and heavy-lift aircraft. Canada has also sent military advisers to Iraq and provided more than $62 million in humanitarian aid.