The following list contains diversity related information. These terms will help guide use of appropriate terms and lists unacceptable phrases that are commonly used. Be aware that words and phrases that are acceptable today could potentially be outdated or harmful in the near future. Used with permission from DiversityInc LLC.
Accents - Many words used in English derived from other languages require accents (e.g., resume: to begin again, résumé: summary of a job applicant's experience) to retain their meaning. Use accents in a proper name only if the person uses them. [For PC users: press Ctrl plus ' then release and press desired vowel for an acute accent (e.g., Ã¡).]
Acquaintance Rape - When a victim is attacked by someone he or she has met or been involved with before – i.e. friend, date, boyfriend, girlfriend, acquaintance.
ADA - Acronym for Americans with Disabilities Act, federal civil-rights legislation that deals with discrimination in employment, public accommodation, transportation and telecommunications, on the basis of disability. See disability, disabled.
African Caribbean, Afro-Caribbean - Although people from the Caribbean of African descent can be from any race or ethnicity, the terms refer to nonwhite Caribbean people of African descent. Both are acceptable. See African American, Black.
AIDS - Acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, a disease that weakens the human immune system, which makes it difficult for the body to fight opportunistic infections. Medications can slow progression, but there is no cure. HIV is only one of the factors needed for an AIDS diagnosis. HIV-positive people do not always develop AIDS. Regardless of orientation, anyone can develop AIDS. HIV disease is gaining popularity as an alternate term, but AIDS is still the preferred term. Do not use full-blown AIDS, AIDS victim or AIDS sufferer. Use person with AIDS, or, if used in a medical context. AIDS patient. See HIV.
Amerasian - Describes person born in Korea of a Korean mother and a non-Asian father, and a person born in Vietnam of a Vietnamese mother and a non-Asian father. Originally described people fathered by members of the U.S. military during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Although not a derogatory term, avoid when possible. See Asian, Asian American.
American Indian - Used by the U.S. Census Bureau as the preferred term for Native American. Although not a derogatory term and used by some Native Americans, it is not preferred. Do not use Indian as a synonym. See Native American, Indian.
Assistance animals - Describes animals that assist people with disabilities. Mostly refers to dogs, but can include other animals. Also service animals, guide dogs. Seeing Eye dog is a trademark of a group called The Seeing Eye. See disability, disabled.
Bilingual education - A teaching method in which students are taught the language of the country they live in by using their native language. Although often related to Spanish and English, it refers to any two languages.
Black - Nonwhite person of Black descent, regardless of national origin. Use Black only in this larger context. Use terms as African American, Haitian, etc. when race is known. See African American, white, race.
Blind - Use only for a person with total loss of sight. Many people who are legally blind have partial sight. For them, use visually impaired, partially sighted or person with low vision as alternatives. Avoid as a synonym for ignorant. See disability, disabled.
Braille - A system of writing and printing for people who are blind where characters and letters are formed by raised dots felt with the fingers. Not limited to English. Always capitalized. See blind, disability, disabled.
Cantonese - Dialect spoken in the Canton province of China, and Hong Kong. Spoken by many 19th century Chinese immigrants to the United States and still spoken widely in many Chinese-American communities. See Chinese, Mandarin, Asian, Asian American.
Catholic, Catholicism - Although these terms usually refer to the Roman Catholic Church, they can also refer to other Christian denominations, such as the Eastern Orthodox churches. Use in reference to the Roman Catholic Church only when the context is clear. See Christian, religious terms.
Chicano - Term for Mexican American popularized by Mexican Americans activists in the 1970s. Also Chicana(s) for women and Chianos for women and men in a group. Although not a derogatory term, it is not preferred by many Mexican Americans. Use only if preferred by the person or if in a quote or title. See Latino, Hispanic.
Chinese - Describes a person from China. Also the written language for China and Taiwan. Mandarin is the spoken language. Do not use as a synonym for Chinese American, a person of Chinese descent from the United States. See Mandarin, Cantonese, Asian, Asian American.
Civil unions - Civil unions offer same-sex couples some of the benefits of marriage under state laws. Depending on their state's law, same-sex partners who enter into civil unions may have the right to visit each other in the hospital, file their state taxes jointly, inherit each other's property and take part in other benefits. The "Defense of Marriage Act," denies same-sex couples access to any federal protections of marriage, such as Social Security survivor benefits. There also is no guarantee that civil unions will be recognized by other states or the federal government. See opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples, civil unions, same-sex marriage.
Civil rights - Political, social and economic legal rights and responsibilities guaranteed by the government. Also equal rights. Many groups in U.S. history, such as women, people of color and LGBTs, have struggled to attain them. The civil-rights movement refers to the struggles of African Americans. Do not use special rights.
Consent - Informed (i.e., a person has an understanding of what is being asked of them), voluntary (i.e., the choice by a person to participate or not participate is present and respected), active (i.e., actions, both verbal and non-verbal, demonstrate agreement from both parties) and uses clear words and actions (i.e., No means No, Stop means Stop, Slow Down means Slow Down).
Dating violence - Violence that is committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim (see IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS of Dating violence).
Deaf - Use for a person with total or profound loss of hearing. Many people have only moderate or mild hearing loss. For them, use person with hearing loss, partially deaf or hearing impaired. Do not use deaf-dumb, deaf-mute. See disability, disabled, mute.
Derogatory terms - Offensive words or phrases. Do not use except in quotes that reveal the bias of people quoted or when their use is in some way essential to a written communication. Terms considered derogatory by many people are used by some people in an informal, non-derogatory manner among each other in an attempt to reclaim them from their hateful origins. Because such usage in controversial, however, and people who use these terms informally consider their use by people not in their group as inappropriate, avoid them.
Disability - Functional limitations of at least one major life activity, such as walking, learning, etc. Legal definitions vary. Do not mention unless relevant. Person with a disability is preferred, not disabled person. Do not use victim of, suffers from, stricken with, afflicted with. See disabled.
Diversity - Although often related to only race ethnicity and gender, it also includes people with disabilities, orientation and gender identity. White people should be included. See race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, gender identity.
Domestic partnership - Legal recognition of unmarried, opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples, which gives them some of the legal rights of married couples. Domestic partnerships are not marriages or civil unions. They are not usually binding between jurisdictions. See opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples, civil union, gay marriage.
Domestic violence - Violence that occurs between partners who are married and/or living together for long periods of time (see IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS of Domestic violence).
Gay - Person attracted to the same sex, sexually and emotionally. Most associated with men. Describes gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people as a group, but the acronym LGBT is preferred. Avoid homosexual(s). Do not use gay lifestyle. See LGBT, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, orientation.
Gender-neutral terms - In general, use gender-neutral terms (e.g., police officer, not policeman) whenever possible, except if gender-specific terms are preferred by the person or if in a quote or title.
Gender expression - Describes how gender identity is expressed, regardless of orientation, including traditionally masculine or feminine behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice and gestures. See gender, gender identity, orientation, transgender.
Gender identity - Self-identification as male or female, regardless of sex assigned at birth. Do not use gender identity and orientation as synonyms. See gender, gender expression, orientation, transgender.
HBCU - Acronym for historically Black colleges and universities, established to provide higher education to African Americans at a time in U.S. history when such access was limited. Most of them now do not have only African Americans as students, but most of them still retain African-American majorities. See affirmative action, HSI.
Hip hop - An urban culture rooted in rap music, break dancing and graffiti that was created by African Americans and Latinos in the late 1970s, now popular with most U.S. youth. Do not capitalize. Hyphenated only when used as an adjective. See rap.
Hispanic - Person of descent from a Spanish-speaking country, regardless of ability to speak Spanish. Always capitalized. Use Latino instead of Hispanic, except if the person quoted prefers Hispanic, if Hispanic is in a quote, or title, or if Latino would be inaccurate. The U.S. Census Bureau uses Latino and Hispanic interchangeably to refer to persons of any race of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American, Dominican, Spanish, and other Hispanic descent. See Latino, Spanish.
Homophobia - Describes fear, hatred, and/or dislike of gay men and lesbians. Also often includes bisexuals and transgender people, but transphobia is the term when referring to trans-gender people specifically. See homosexual, orientation, gender identity, transgender.
Homosexual - Person attracted to the same sex. Because of negative use historically, avoid homosexual as a synonym for gay. Use only if heterosexual would be used similarly, such as in a scientific reference. Do not use homo. See gay, heterosexual.
HSI - Acronym for Hispanic-serving institutions, a term created by the federal government for colleges and universities. HSIs must have at least 25 percent Latinos, half of which are low income. Universities that earn this classification become eligible for additional funding. See affirmative action, HBCU.
Hyphenated Americans - Derogatory term coined by Theodore Roosevelt to describe Americans that he believed did not want to join the U.S. mainstream. Still used negatively to describe people that identify as African American, Mexican American, etc., even though these terms are now hyphenated only when used as adjectives. See derogatory terms.
Immigrant - Person who enters into a new country to live. See immigration, emigrant, alien.
Indian - Describes a person from India. Use Indian American if referring to someone of Indian descent born in the United States. If referring to an American Indian, the term Native American is preferred. See Native American, American Indian, indigenous.
Intersex - Person whose sex is ambiguous. Intersex people often are operated on soon after birth, but it is becoming more common not to perform surgery, even though a sex is assigned. In these cases, intersex people are allowed to make their own decisions about their sex and whether to have surgery when their gender identities are more apparent. Use pronoun preferred by the intersex person. Do not assume gender identity or orientation. Do not use hermaphrodite. See sex, gender, gender identity, orientation.
Islam - Religion founded by Muhammed. Muslims are adherents of Islam. Islam and Muslim are not synonyms. An imam is a leader of prayer at a mosque, an Islamic place of worship. The two major divisions are Sunni and Shiite. Most Islamic countries have Sunni majorities, except Iran, which has a Shiite majority. See Muhammed, Muslim, Arab.
Judaism - Religion founded by Abraham and Moses. Adherents are Jews; while not necessarily derogatory, do not use Hebrews. Jews can be of any race or nationality. Hebrew is the official language of Israel, which has a secular government. Both Christians and Muslims also trace their religion to Abraham. Do not use kike or hebe, which most Jews consider extremely derogatory. See Christian, Islam, Muslim, religious terms.
Latin America - In common usage, includes all countries in the Americas that are primarily Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking. Although French-speaking countries are sometimes included in this definition, such usage is not preferred. See Latino, Spanish, Hispanic.
Latino - Person of Latin American descent, regardless of ability to speak Spanish or Portuguese. Always capitalized. Always use Latino instead of Hispanic, except if the person prefers Hispanic, if Hispanic is in a quote or title, or if it would be inaccurate. Also Latina(s) for women and Latino(s) for women and men in a group. The U.S. Census Bureau uses Latino and Hispanic interchangeably to refer to persons of any race of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American, Dominican, Spanish, and other Hispanic descent. See Latino, Spanish, Hispanic.
LGBT - Acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Many gay activists consider GLBT or LBGT to be more inclusive than gay as an adjective. Always use lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender on first reference. See bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender.
Mandarin - Official language of China and Taiwan, not a dialect. Refers to the spoken language only. Written language is Chinese, regardless of spoken dialect. See Chinese,Cantonese, Asian, Asian American.
Mestizo - Although used by many Latinos to describe a person of mixed Spanish and indigenous descent, avoid unless in a quote or a title. Use specific heritage when possible. See Latin America, Latino.
Migrant - Although migrant can be defined as a person who migrates, the term mostly refers to farm laborers who move often to different locations to harvest seasonal crops. Do not use as a synonym for immigrant or emigrant. See alien, immigrant, emigrant, immigration.
Minority, minority group - Describes person/group not in the majority. Historically refers to people of color but can describe other groups, such as women, depending on the context. Use only when part of a quote or title. Use people of color, traditionally underrepresented groups or other terms when possible, such as Black or Latino. See people of color.
MTF - Acronym for male-to-female. Describes transgender person classified as male at birth, but who identifies as female. Do not assume sex-reassignment surgery. See FTM, sex reassignment surgery, transgender.
Native American - Descendant of native inhabitants of the United States, regardless of tribal affiliation. American Indian is used by the U.S. Census Bureau and is preferred. Indian is not a synonym. Do not use half-blood or half-breed, derogatory terms for an American Indian of mixed racial and ethnic heritage. If possible, use tribe name rather than American Indian or Native American. See Native Indian, Indian.
Negro - Once considered appropriate, this term for African Americans and Black people is outdated. Do not use except when part of a title or phrase as used by African Americans. See African Americans, Black, people of color, derogatory terms.
Nigger - Derogatory term for African Americans and Black people. Because it continues to be extremely offensive to many people of color, do not use it except in very rare circumstances, even if in quotes. Do not confuse with niggard (a miser) or niggardly (miserly). Use N-word. See African American, Black, people of color, N-word, derogatory terms.
Ñ - Do not substitute n for this 17th letter of the 29-letter Spanish alphabet. [For PC users: press Ctrl plus Shift plus ~ then hold and press n for Ã‘ (uppercase); press Ctrl plus Shift plus ~ then release and press n for Ã± (lowercase). See Spanish.
Opposite-sex couples - Describes couples with partners of the opposite sex. Although heterosexuality is implied, this term also includes couples where one or both partners are bisexual. Hyphenate opposite-sex only when used as an adjective. See partner, same-sex couples, bisexual.
Orientation - Describes sexual and emotional attraction, such as homosexual (gay or lesbian), bisexual and heterosexual. Do not use sexual preference. Not synonymous with gender identity or gender expression. See gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, gender identity, gender expression, transgender, gender, sex.
Pacific Islander - Used by the U.S. Census Bureau to describe people from Fiji, Guam, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, the Philippines, Samoa, Tahiti and Tonga. Also used by many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for people from the Pacific Islands in general, but use specific countries when possible. See Asian American, Asian.
Pacific Rim - Describes imaginary lines framing the Pacific Ocean, which borders several countries, primarily the United States, Canada, China, Japan and Australia. Not derogatory, but use specific regions and countries when possible. See Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islander.
Partner - Describes a person in an opposite-sex couple or a same-sex couple who usually is unmarried. Use girlfriend, boyfriend, lover or companion if the couple prefers those terms. Use partner if they prefer it or if their preference is unknown. See opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples.
People of color - Describes all non-white people. Singular is person of color. When describing a title or geographic location, of color can be used alone. (e.g., directors of color, New Yorker of color). Use specific terms (e.g., Black, Latino, Asian American) when possible. See African American, Black, Hispanic, Latino, Asian American, American Indian, Caucasian, white.
Protestantism - Describes religious denominations formed as a result of their 16th-century break from the Roman Catholic Church, which includes Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Quakers. Do not use for Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons. Also, do not use for Eastern Orthodox churches. See Christian, religious terms.
Queer - Derogatory term for gay. Although queer has become acceptable among some LGBTs as an inclusive alternative for gay or LGBT, it is still considered offensive by many LGBTs because of its negative history. Do not use it unless part of a quote, title or phrase as used by LGBTs. See gay, LGBT, derogatory term.
Religious terms - Do not use fundamentalist or liberal unless preferred by groups or individuals. Use conservative or moderate, respectively, as alternates. Avoid Judeo-Christian. See Christian, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism.
Same-sex couples - Describes couples with partners of the same sex. Although homosexuality is implied, this term includes couples in which one or both partners are bisexual. Hyphenate same-sex only when used as an adjective. See partner, opposite-sex couples, bisexual.
Same-sex marriage - Marriage for same-sex couples. Also gay marriage. Use marriage for same-sex couples when possible. Legal in Massachusetts only, but many other states are debating the practice. The federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman only, would have to be declared unconstitutional before recognition between states could be enforced. Many politicians have proposed civil unions as an alternative. See opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples, civil unions, same-sex marriage, domestic partnership.
Sex-change operation - Use sex-reassignment surgery instead. Some transsexual people choose to receive this surgery to undergo physical alterations to look like their gender identity. See sex reassignment surgery, transsexual, transvestite.
Sex-reassignment surgery - Some transsexual people choose to receive this surgery to undergo physical alterations to look like their gender identity. Do not use sex-change operation. See sex-change operation, transsexual, transvestite.
Sexual Assault and/or Rape - Any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape (see IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS of Sexual Assault).
Sikhism - Religion founded by Guru Nanak in the 16th century, derived form Hinduism. Adherents are Sikhs. Although elements of Islam have been incorporated, it is not Islamic. See Hinduism, Islam, religious terms.
Slang terms - Do not use in except in quotes or if their use adds to the clarity and/or integrity of a written communication. Avoid any slang that could be considered derogatory. See derogatory terms.
Sodomy - Oral or anal sex between members of the opposite or same sex. Laws banning it were declared unconstitutional in the United States. Only use specific terminology unless sodomy is in quotes or used in a legal context. See orientation.
Stalking - A pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear (see IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS of Stalking).
Third World - Used during the Cold War, it describes countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America still developing economically. Do not use except in quotes or a title. The term developing countries is preferred.
Transgender - Person whose gender identity and/or gender expression varies from sex assigned at birth. Describes transsexuals, cross-dressers, intersex people and many other classifications. Orientation is not to be assumed. Use a specific term when known or if preferred by the person. Use transgender when a specific term is not known or if preferred by the person. See gender, sex, identity, gender expression, intersex, LGBT, transsexual, transvestite, transition, cross-dresser, orientation.
Transition - Process of altering sex to match self-identified gender, which can include hormone therapy, sex-reassignment surgery and/or legal identity. See LGBT, sex-reassignment surgery, sex-change operation, transgender, transsexual.
Transsexual - Person who identifies as a member of the opposite sex, regardless of orientation. A transsexual may or may not choose to undergo physical alterations, up to and including sex-reassignment surgery, which is the preferred term to sex-change operation. Orientation is not to be assumed. Use the pronoun that matches public appearance and/or that is preferred by the person. Do not use transsexual as a synonym for transgender. See transgender, transition, orientation.
Tribe - Although not derogatory, avoid except in quotes or a title, or when modified into an adjective (e.g., tribal law). Many American Indians prefer nation. Avoid referring to ethnic groups in Africa (e.g. Hutu, Tutsi) as tribes. See indigenous, American Indian, Native American.
White - Defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as a person of descent from the original people of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. See race, ethnicity, people of color, African American, Black, Hispanic, Latino, Asian American, American Indian.