Saracens (/ˈsærəsən/) were primarily Arab Muslims, but also Turks, Persians or other Muslims as referred to by Christian writers in Europe during the Middle Ages. The term's meaning evolved during its history. In the early centuries of the Christian Era, Greek and Latin writings used the term to refer to the people who lived in desert areas in and near the Roman province of Arabia Petraea, and in Arabia Deserta.[1][2][3] In Europe during the Early Middle Ages, the term came to be associated with tribes of Arabia.[4] The oldest known source mentioning Saracens in relation to Islam dates to the 7th century. It was found in Doctrina Jacobi, a commentary that discussed the Muslim conquest of the Levant.[5]

Late 15th century German woodcut depicting Saracens

By the 12th century, Saracen had become synonymous with Muslim in Medieval Latin literature. Such expansion in the meaning of the term had begun centuries earlier among the Byzantine Greeks, as evidenced in documents from the 8th century.[1][6][7] In the Western languages before the 16th century, Saracen was commonly used to refer to Muslim Arabs, and the words Muslim and Islam were generally not used (with a few isolated exceptions).[8] The term became gradually obsolete following the Age of Discovery.