This Glossary is intended as an educational tool
for parents, children, teachers, students, and researchers. It is an offering
of information, of history, and of possibilities. The definitions are
specific to the current usage of the terms in the United States.
aboriginal | African
| African American | African
Afroasian | Amerasian | American
Amerindian* | ancestry
| Anglo | Asian | Asian
bicultural | biracial
| Black | blood quantum
mélange | Mestizo/Mestiza*
| Métis | minority*
mixed race | monoracial
| mulatto* | multicultural
multiracial | Native
American | one-drop rule | Oriental*
Pacific Islander | passing
| person of color | race |
reclaim | transcultural | transnational
White | White privilege
* An asterisk designates controversial or offensive terms;
please see individual definitions for details.
First, original, indigenous, or native resident of
A person with ancestors from the continent of Africa,
an area of the world that includes more than 60 countries or territories.
A resident or citizen of the United States with African
The indigenous peoples of Africa and their descendents,
wherever they currently live.
A person with both African and Asian ancestry.
A resident or citizen of the United States with mixed
Asian ancestry. This term includes people who identify as Afroasian,
Eurasian, or hapa.
A person with Native American ancestry. Controversial
because the label “Indian” is believed to originate with
Columbus’ mistaken belief he had landed in the South East Asian
islands known to Europeans as the Indies; although this tem is used
by some Native Americans.
A person with Native American ancestry. Abbreviated
from “American Indigenous” or “American Indian”.
Controversial—see American Indian.
Biological family descent, heritage, or lineage.
(1) An abbreviation of Anglo American; a derivative
(2) In the Southwestern United States, signifies a
non-Hispanic European American.
(1) A person with ancestors from Asia, an area of the
world that includes more than 50 countries or regions.
(2) In the United States, the term usually refers to
a person with ancestors from Eastern Asia, Southeastern Asia, or Southern
Asia. Not usually included in the U.S. usage of this term are Central
Asia (former Soviet territories), Northern Asia (Russia), and Western
Asia (the Middle East). In the United States, the largest Asian populations
are Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Cambodian,
Pakistani, Laotian, Hmong, and Thai.
A resident or citizen of the United States with Asian
A person who has connections to two different cultures.
A person whose biological parents are of two different
A person with ancestors from the African diaspora.
The fraction of Native or Aboriginal heritage a tribe
may require for recognition or official membership.
A person traditionally classified as a member of the
Caucasian race, especially a person with light to fair skin. [This
definition is no longer in scientific use.] In the United States,
this term is often used interchangeably with the term White. There
is a growing movement to discontinue the use of Caucasian and Caucasoid
as racial terms, and discard them alongside their archaic partners:
Australoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid.
A person with any amount of non-White ancestry, especially
ancestry from the African diaspora. An offensive
term in the United States.
The customary traditions and values of a social or
ethnic group that span generations.
A person with ancestors from the aboriginal inhabitants
of the circumpolar region, excluding Scandinavia and most of Russia.
The two main groups are the Inuit and the Yupik. Can
be considered offensive.
Relating to a large group of people who share common
traits such as culture, religion, or language.
Self-identified association with an ethnic group or
groups because of shared values and history, related to common traits
such as culture or religion. Usually passed down through family or
A person with both European and Asian ancestry.
A resident or citizen of the United States with European
A person with ancestors from the indigenous peoples
of the Americas, excluding Inuit. In Canada, this term also excludes
constitutionally-recognized Métis. Originally used in Canada,
now also used in the United States.
A biracial person. Often considered
offensive because of the implication that a biracial person is not
complete or whole, and the possible abbreviation from the offensive
A person with mixed Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry.
From the Hawaiian for “part” or “half.” Some
Asian transracial adoptees also use this term to identify themselves.
Something that belongs to a person as a result of their
A resident or citizen of the United States with Latin
American, Spanish, or Spanish-speaking ancestry. In the United States,
the largest Hispanic populations are Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban,
Salvadoran, Dominican, Guatemalan, Colombian, and Spanish. The term
Hispanic is often used interchangeably with the term Latino.
The system of assigning a multiracial person the monoracial
identity of the racial group in their heritage with the lowest social
(1) A person with ancestors from the country of India.
(2) A person with Native American ancestry. Has been
expanded to “American Indian”. Controversial
when used to refer to Native Americans because the label “Indian”
is believed to originate with Columbus’ mistaken belief he had
landed in the South East Asian islands known to Europeans as the Indies;
although this term is used by some Native Americans.
Native to a land or region, especially before an invasion.
A relationship involving two adults or peers of different
socially-designated races. (Examples: interracial marriage, interracial
friendship, interracial couple.)
/ Inuk (singular)
A member of one of the indigenous peoples from the
Arctic. A native inhabitant of northernmost North America from Northern
Alaska to Eastern Canada and Greenland.
A resident or citizen of the United Stated with Latin
American, Spanish, or Spanish-speaking ancestry. In the United States,
the largest Latino populations are Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran,
Dominican, Guatemalan, Colombian, and Spanish. The term Latino is
often used interchangeably with the term Hispanic.
A newer term used by some people with both Black and
White ancestry. From a French term for mixture or medley.
A multiracial person, especially in Latin America,
with mixed Native American and Spanish (or European) ancestry. Can
be considered offensive because the term originated as a preference
for lighter skin.
(1) A person whose biological parents are of two different
socially-designated races; biracial.
(2) In Canada, a multiracial person of Aboriginal and
A group differing from the majority of the population,
especially in race, religion, or ethnic background. Can
be considered offensive in the United States because of the assumed
White, Christian, English-speaking majority.
The marriage, cohabitation, or sexual relationship
between a woman and a man of different socially-designated races.
A person with ancestry from two or more different socially-designated
(1) A person who claims ancestry from a single racial
(2) A system of racial classification that allows only
one race per person.
A multiracial person with Black and White ancestry;
usually a biracial person with one Black biological parent and one
White biological parent. The word is believed to be derived from the
Spanish “mulato” for mule, the infertile crossbreed of
a horse and a donkey. Usually considered
offensive, although the term has been reclaimed by some biracial people.
Representing or including two or more different cultures.
Representing or including two or more different ethnic
(1) Representing or including two or more different
socially-designated races. (Example: multiracial family)
(2) A person with ancestry from two or more different
socially-designated races. This term includes all racially mixed people.
(Example: multiracial child)
A person with ancestry from the tribes indigenous to
the 48 contiguous United States. The largest tribes in the United
States today are Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Sioux, Chippewa, Lumbee,
Blackfeet, Iroquois, and Pueblo.
An historical law, now primarily a social practice,
declaring that a person with any amount of ancestry from the African
diaspora is Black—and non-White. Originated to keep the White
A term that applies to objects from Asian cultures
or countries, such as rugs or furniture.
This word does not properly apply to people, and is considered offensive
when used to refer to a person with Asian ancestry.
A person with ancestry from any of the three regions
of Oceania (Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia), including a person
with Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamoru, Samoan, Tahitian, or Mariana
(1) A person who is perceived to be a member of a racial
or ethnic group other than their own.
(2) Historically, a person perceived by White society
as a White person though they had Black ancestry.
(3) This term is also applicable to the experience
of members of multiracial families.
A person with ancestry from the racial or ethnic groups
in the United States that historically were or currently are targeted
by racism, including people with African, Native American, Asian,
or Latino ancestry.
(1) A subjective social classification of humans based
on one or a combination of physical characteristics such as skin color,
facial form, eye shape, eye color, hair color, or hair texture.
(2) Scientifically, there is only one human race; however,
the social construct of different races affects all people.
(1) Hatred or intolerance of a group of people based
on that group’s race (usually a race different from one’s
own). Based on ignorance and prejudice.
(2) A belief that inherent differences between the
socially-designated races determine collective or individual achievement.
(3) A system of government based upon or promoting
this type of belief or intolerance.
4) Race-based prejudice plus power. By this definition of racism, People of Color cannot be racist because they do not possess institutionalized power.
When a group of people re-appropriate offensive or oppressive
terms that are (or historically have been) used in a way disparaging
of that group. Offensive terms come to acquire positive meaning for
some of the group, while keeping their original negative meaning outside
of the group. The use of a reclaimed term
by people who are not members of that group is almost always considered
Connecting or across two or more different cultures.
(1) Connecting or across national boundaries.
(2) Including people of different nationalities.
Connecting or across two or more different socially-designated
races. Most often used in the compound term “transracial adoption”
to signify adoption across racial lines.
(1) A person with European ancestry, often with slight
(2) As a group, the people who currently have a dominant
societal position in the United States.
A system of societal advantages and benefits a person
receives because they are—or are perceived to be—White.
A person may not have asked for such privileges, nor realize they