The enemy has a new name.

Many people are starting to reject acronyms like ISIS and ISIL to refer to the Islamic extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

Instead, they are adopting an Arabic term for the group: "Daesh."

"It's a term that our partners in the gulf use," Army Lt. Gen. James Terry, the commander of the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Syria, explained Thursday after using the term repeatedly during a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon.

A growing number of officials both inside and outside the military believe that names like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant wrongly confer religious credibility on the terrorists who are known for public beheadings, rapes and enslavement.

"Our partners, at least the ones that I work with, ask us to use that, because they feel that if you use ISIL, that you legitimize a self-declared caliphate. ... They feel pretty strongly that we should not be doing that," Terry said.

The leaders of the extremist group reportedly hate the term Daesh and consider it pejorative.

Several residents in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city that fell to the extremist group in June, told The Associated Press that the militants threatened to cut out the tongue of anyone who publicly used the term Daesh.

Daesh stems from an acronym of the Arabic version of the group's name — al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq wa al-Sham. Confusion about English translations is partly due to ambiguity over the final word, al-Sham, which can be translated as Levant or Syria.

Moreover, many of the group's opponents like Daesh because it sounds similar to an Arabic word that means to trample down or to crush underfoot.

The popularity of the new term is growing. Secretary of State John Kerry used it frequently Dec. 3 when he spoke at NATO headquarters in Belgium.

It's been gaining momentum since the French dropped ISIS and ISIL back in September.

"This is a terrorist group and not a state," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reportedly said in early September. "I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists. The Arabs call it 'Daesh' and I will be calling them the 'Daesh cutthroats.' "

Andrew Tilghman is the executive editor for Military Times. He is a former Military Times Pentagon reporter and served as a Middle East correspondent for the Stars and Stripes. Before covering the military, he worked as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in Texas, the Albany Times Union in New York and The Associated Press in Milwaukee.

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