Hebrews (Hebrew: עברים or עבריים, Tiberian Hebrew: ʿIḇrîm, Hebrew: ʿIḇriyyîm; Modern Hebrew Hebrew: ʿIvrim, Hebrew: ʿIvriyyim; ISO 259-3 Hebrew: ʕibrim, Hebrew: ʕibriyim) is an ethnonym used in the Hebrew Bible. It is mostly taken as synonymous with the Israelites, especially in the pre-monarchic period when they were still nomadic, but in some instances it may also be used in a wider sense, referring to the groups known as Habiru or Shasu on the eve of the Bronze Age collapse. .
By the Roman era, Greek Hebraios could refer to the Jews in general, but more specifically to the Jews living in Judea. In Early Christianity, the Greek term refers to Jewish Christians, as opposed to the gentile Christians (Acts 6:1).
In Genesis 10:21 Shem, the elder brother of Ham and Japheth, first born son of Noah, is referred to as the father of the sons of Eber (עבר), which may have a similar meaning.
Some authors believe Hebrew/Ibri denotes the descendants of the biblical patriarch Eber (Hebrew עבר), son of Shelah, a great grandson of Noah and an ancestor of Abraham, hence the occasional anglicization Eberites.
The term has not been found in biblical or extra-biblical sources for any tribe or nation other than Abraham and his descendants.
Some argue that the name “Hebrew” is related to the name of the seminomadic Habiru people, who are recorded in Egyptian inscriptions of the 13th and 12th centuries BCE as having settled in Egypt.  This is rebutted by others who propose that the Hebrews are mentioned in these Egyptian texts as Shasu.
In the Bible there are numerous references to Hebrews, but the exact scope of the references is the subject of some debate. For example, Abram is referred to once as the Hebrew (i.e. Ivri). (Genesis 14:13) The term Hebrew occurs both as a name given to the Children of Israel by other peoples, and one used to refer to themselves. For example, Joseph says he came from the "land of the Hebrews" in Genesis 40:15, but that may be using terminology which is familiar to an Egyptian. YHWH the God of Israel, also uses the description "God of the Hebrews" when instructing Moses on how to address Pharaoh in Exodus 3:18, but that may be a reference to the terminology of the Egyptians for the Israelites. The term is also used in Exodus 1:16-19 first by the Egyptian Pharaoh addressing two Hebrews, and then by the Hebrews in reply; but in 2:11 and 2:13 the term is used in the same passages that refer to the Children of Israel. The term is also used in a general sense in Exodus 21:2, Deuteronomy 15:12 and Jeremiah 34:9 to refer directly to the Children of Israel. Jonah calls himself a Hebrew in Jonah 1:9.
Israelites are defined as the descendants of Jacob, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham. Eber, an ancestor of Jacob (six generations removed), is a distant ancestor of many people, including the Israelites, Ishmaelites, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Midianites and perhaps even Amalekites. Among historical scholars, there is some disagreement about the relationship between the Hebrews and Israelites.
In some modern languages, including Armenian, Greek, Italian, Romanian, and many Slavic languages, the name Hebrews survives as the standard ethnonym for Jews, but in many other languages in which there exist both terms, it is considered derogatory to call modern Jews "Hebrews". Among certain left-wing or liberal circles of Judaic cultural lineage, the word "Hebrew" is used as an alternatively secular description of the Jewish people (e.g., Bernard Avishai's The Hebrew Republic or left-wing wishes for a "Hebrew-Arab" joint cultural republican state).
Beginning in the late 19th century, the term "Hebrew" became popular among secular Zionists; in this context the word alluded to the transformation of the Jews into a strong, independent, self-confident secular national group ("the New Jew") sought by classical Zionism. This use died out after the establishment of the state of Israel, when "Hebrew" was replaced with "Jew" or "Israeli". At the fringes of Zionist thought, the Canaanites, who were radically opposed to Judaism, drew a sharp distinction between "Jews" and "Hebrew".
The Hebrew language is a member of the larger group of Canaanite languages within Northwest Semitic.The language has been known as "Hebrew" in English since the 11th century, from Old French Ebreu, in turn from Latin Hebraeus and Greek Hebraios, ultimately a loan from late Old Aramaic ʿEbhrai, the native term in Roman Judea for the Jews.
Since the Hebrew Bible makes a point of marking the Canaanites as peoples set apart from the Israelites, the extent of the distinction between the culture of the Canaanites and the Israelites is a matter of debate.It has been argued that the Israelites were themselves Canaanites, and that "historical Israel", as distinct from "literary" or "Biblical Israel" was a subset of Canaanite culture. It is also known that Israelites and later the subdivision of Israelites known as the Judeans spoke Hebrew as their main language and it is still used in Jewish holy scriptures, study, speech and prayer.