The following is a list of ethnic slurs (ethnophaulisms) that are, or have been, used as insinuations or allegations about members of a given ethnicity or to refer to them in a derogatory (critical or disrespectful), pejorative (disapproving or contemptuous), or insulting manner in the English-speaking world. For the purposes of this list, an ethnic slur is a term designed to insult others on the basis of race, ethnicity, or nationality. Each term is listed followed by its country or region of usage, a definition, and a reference to that term.
However the complexity of the issue of the listing and usage of such terms needs to be noted. For instance, many of the terms listed below (such as "Gringo", "Yank", etc.) are used by large numbers of human beings in many parts of the world as part of their ordinary speech or thinking without any intention of causing offence, and with little or no evidence that such usage does in fact cause much or indeed any offence, while the implicit or explicit labeling of such large numbers of people as racists (or similar terms such as prejudiced, bigoted, ethnophobic, xenophobic, etc.), simply because they use some words on the list below, can itself be deeply unfair and insensitive and can thus cause deep offence.
Ethnic slurs may also be produced by combining a general-purpose insult with the name of ethnicity, such as "dirty Jew", "Russian pig", etc. Other common insulting modifiers include "dog", "filthy", etc. Such terms are not included in this list.
(AUS) Australian Aboriginal person. Originally, this was simply an informal term for Aborigine, and was in fact used by Aboriginal people themselves until it started to be considered offensive in the 1950s. In remoter areas, Aboriginal people still often refer to themselves (quite neutrally) as Blackfellas (and whites as Whitefellas). Although Abo is still considered quite offensive by many, the pejorative boong is now more commonly used when the intent is deliberately to offend, as that word's status as an insult is unequivocal.
(US) also Gator Bait. A black person, especially a black child. More commonly used in states where alligators are found, particularly Florida. First used in the early 20th century, although some hypothesize the term originated in the late 19th century.
(North America) a white woman to a black person—or a black woman who acts too much like a white one. While Miss Ann, also just plain Ann, is a derisive reference to the white woman, by extension it is applied to any black woman who puts on airs and tries to act like Miss Ann.
(North America) an American Indian (Native American) who is "red on the outside, white on the inside." Used primarily by other American Indians to indicate someone who has lost touch with their cultural identity. First used in the 1970s.
(Israel) Arabs, derived from Hebrew "Aravi" (Arab) which is itself inoffensive.
(US) a black woman who "kisses up" to whites, a "sellout," female counterpart of Uncle Tom.
(North America; UK; Malaysia) an Asian person living in a Western country (e.g., an Asian American) who is yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Used primarily by Asians to indicate someone who has lost touch with the cultural identity of his or her parents.
(UK, Ireland) a person of common or low-class Irish ancestry.
(North America) a lower-class immigrant of Central European descent. Originally referred to those of Bohemian (now Czech Republic) descent. It was commonly used toward Central European immigrants during the early 20th century. Probably from Bohemian + a distortion of Hungarian. See also hunky.
Boong / bong / bung
(Aus) Australian aboriginal. Boong, pronounced with ʊ (like the vowel in bull), is related to the Australian English slang word bung, meaning "dead", "infected", or "dysfunctional". From bung, to go bung "Originally to die, then to break down, go bankrupt, cease to function [Ab. bong dead]". First used in 1847 by J. D. Lang, Cooksland, 430.
a. (African-American, 1960s-1970s) white people as a reified collective oppressor group, similar to The Man or The System.
b. (Vietnam War military slang) Slang term used by American troops as a shorthand term for Vietnamese guerrillas. Derived from the verbal shorthand for "Victor Charlie", the NATO phonetic alphabet for VC, the abbreviation for Viet Cong. Other references to the Viet Cong included "Mr. Charles" as a rueful admission of the skill at asymmetric warfare.
an Anglo-Indian or Eurasian half-caste, probably from Hindi chi-chi fie!, literally, dirt.
(UK, USA) a Frenchman, from the defeat of the French against the German in 1940, and the huge variety of cheeses originating from France. Gained popularity after the term was used on an episode of The Simpsons.
(US, Canada, UK) mocking the language of or a person of perceived Chinese or East Asian descent. An offensive term that has raised considerable controversy, for example when used by comedian Rosie O'Donnell. (Some Chinese languages/dialects are tonal languages.)
found offensive, although it is a translation of the Chinese 中國人. It was used in the gold rush and railway-construction eras in western North America, when discrimination against Chinese was common.
(New Zealand/Australia) a Pacific Islander. Named after the coconut, the nut from the coconut palm; in the American sense, it derives from the fact that a coconut is brown on the outside and white on the inside (see also "Oreo" below).
(US, UK and Australia) a black person. Possibly from Portuguesebarracão, a building constructed to hold slaves for sale (1837). Popularized by the song "Zip Coon", played at Minstrel shows in the 1830s.
(US) a poor Appalachian or poor Southerner, a white person, first used in the 19th century. It is sometimes used specifically to refer to a native of Florida or Georgia, sometimes positively or self-descriptively. Also used in a more general sense in North America to refer to white people disparagingly.
Term originating from the Hebrew Bible, generally used to refer to a dark skinned person usually of Africandescent. Originally merely descriptive, in present day Israel it increasingly assumed a pejorative connotation and is regarded as insulting by Ethiopian Israelis and by African migrant workers and asylum seekers in Israel.
a. (UK and Commonwealth) refers to Italians, Spaniards, or Portuguese, possibly derived from the Spanish name, "Diego," a corruption of the title Hidalgo (member of the Gentry, from Spanish > hijo de algo "son of someone [important]", its Portuguese cognate fidalgo (filho de algo), or the Sardinian language first person pronoun, dego).
(UK, France, Hungary ("fricc"), Poland [Fryc], Russia [фриц] ) a German [from Friedrich (Frederick)].
(Canada, UK and US) a French person. Prior to 19th century, referred to the Dutch (as they were stereotyped as being marsh-dwellers). When France became Britain's main enemy, replacing the Dutch, the epithet was transferred to them, because of the French penchant for eating frogs' legs (see comparable French term Rosbif). Also used in Canada to refer to both the French and French Canadians, and occasionally incorrectly as more broadly to people from Quebec who are not, in fact, necessarily French or French-speaking.
A predominately UK expression which originally was a children's literature character and type of black doll but which eventually became to be used as a jibe against people with dark skin, most commonly Afro-Caribbeans.
Asians, used especially for enemy soldiers. Its use has been traced to US Marines serving in the Philippines in the early 20th century. The earliest recorded example is dated 1920. It gained widespread notice as a result of the Korean and Vietnam wars.
A White person from an English-speaking country. Used in Spanish-speaking regions - chiefly Latin America, but sometimes used by Latino Americans. Also used in Portuguese-speakingBrazil. Likely from the Spanish word "griego", meaning Greek. The use of the term Greek for something foreign or unintelligible is also seen in the similar expression "it's Greek to me".
(used in Mainland China and Taiwan) Foreigners. Basically the same meaning as the term Gweilo used in Hong Kong. More often used when referring foreigners as military enemies, such as Riben Guizi (日本鬼子, Japanese devils, because of Second Sino-Japanese War), Meiguo Guizi (美国鬼子, American devils, because of Korean War).
(US) An Italian-American male. Derives from the Italian given name, Guido. Used mostly in the Northeastern United States as a stereotype for working-class urban Italian-Americans. A female equivalent may be guidette.
A person of Italian birth or descent. Most likely derived from "Guinea Negro," implying that Italians are dark or swarthy-skinned like the natives of Guinea. The diminutive "Ginzo" probably dates back to World War II and is derived from Australian slang picked up by US servicemen in the Pacific Theater.
(used in South of Mainland China and Hong Kong) A White man. Loosely translated as "foreign devil"; more literally, might be "ghost dude/bloke/guy/etc." Gwei means "ghost". The color white is associated with ghosts in China. A lo is a regular guy (i.e. a fellow, a chap, or a bloke). Once a mark of xenophobia, the word is now in general, informal use.
b. (UK and Australia) Egyptians. These are variations of "Gypsy", the most common word in English for people of Romani origin. "Gypsy" is not in itself an ethnic slur but its usage is sometimes controversial.
(US) Used to refer to Iraqis, Arabs, Afghans, or Middle Eastern and South Asian people in general. Derived from the honorific Al-Hajji, the title given to a Muslim who has completed the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).
Anyone who is mixed race, such as of Native American (especially North American) and white European parentage. Métis is a French term for a half-breed, and mestizo is the equivalent in Spanish, although these are not offensive per se.
(US) a white person. Derived from an African-American pronunciation of "hunky", the disparaging term for a Hungarian laborer. The first record of its use as an insulting term for a white person dates from the 1950s.
(New Zealand), an offensive term for a Māori (from the formerly common Maorified version of the English name George).
a. (US and UK) Germans, especially German soldiers; popular during World War I. Derived from a speech given by Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany to the German contingent sent to China during the Boxer Rebellion in which he exhorted them to "be like Huns" (i.e., savage and ruthless) to their Chinese enemy.
(US and UK) term for a black person with stereotypical black features (e.g. dark skin, wide nose, and big lips).Jiggaboo or jigabo is from a Bantu verb tshikabo, meaning meek or servile.
Jock, jocky, jockie
(UK) a Scottish person, Scots language nickname for the personal name John, cognate to the English, Jack. Occasionally used as an insult, but also in respectful reference to élite Scottish, particularly Highland troops, e.g. the 9th (Scottish) Division. Same vein as the English insult for the French, as Frogs. In Ian Rankin's detective novel "Tooth & Nail" the protagonist - a Scottish detective loaned to the London police - suffers from prejudice by English colleagues who frequently use "Jock" and "Jockland" (Scotland) as terms of insult; the book was based on the author's own experience as a Scot living in London.
originally used by francophone colonialists in Central Africa's Belgian Congo to refer to the native population; use has expanded to other groups, including North Africans and Indians.
Mack, Mick, Mickey, Mickey Finn
(Britain, Commonwealth and US) an Irish person or a person of Irish descent. Mick is considered more offensive in the UK and US. From the prefix "Mc"/"Mac" meaning "son of" that is commonly found in Celtic surnames.
Black person—especially a radical, revolutionary, or racially-activist one. Originally referred to Kenyans of the Kikuyu tribe involved in a ferocious insurgency against British colonialists in the 1950s.
(CAN) a North American Indian [From the Algonquian word for "friend"].
(UK) used in the south of England, relating to the supposed stupidity and lack of sophistication of those in the north of the country. In some cases this has been adopted in the north of England, with a pub in Leeds even taking the name 'The Northern Monkey'. (see also Southern Faerie)
(Syria and the Levant) a member of the Alawite sect of Shi'a Islam. Once a common and neutral term derived from the name of Ibn Nusayr, the sect's founder, it fell out of favour within the community in the early decades of the 20th century due the perception that it implied a heretical separateness from mainstream Islam. Resurgent in the context of the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the term is now often employed by Sunni fundamentalist enemies of the government of Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite, to suggest that the faith is a human invention lacking divine legitimacy.
(US) black on the outside and white on the inside, hinted by the appearance of an Oreo cookie. Used as early as the 1960s.
(Primarily UK) an Irishman. derived from Pádraig/Patrick/Patty. Often derogatory; however, Lord Edward FitzGerald, a major leader of the United Irishmen of 1798, proclaimed himself proudly "a Paddy and no more" and stated that "he desired no other title than this".
(Southwest US, Mexico) adjective: term for a person of Mexican heritage who is partially or fully assimilated into American culture (literally, "diluted, watered down (drink); undersized (clothing)"). (See also "Chicano")
(Primarily US) a Pole or a person of Polish or Slavic origin, from the Polish endonym, Polak (see Name of Poland). Note: the proper Swedish demonym for Polish people is polack and the Norwegian equivalent is polakk.
a. (US) a person of Hispanic descent. First recorded use in 1915. Theories include from "no spik English" (and spiggoty from the Chicano no speak-o t'e English), but common belief is that it is an abbreviation of "Hispanic".
(US and CAN) a female Native American. Derived from lower East Coast Algonquian (Massachuset: ussqua), which originally meant "young woman", but which took on strong negative connotations in the late 20th century. (The equivalent derisive for a male is "buck", and for a child, "papoose".)
a person of East Asian descent in reference to the appearance of the eyes, similar to "slant".
a. (Britain and Ireland) an inconsequential person (typically lower-class); (note that in Britain, the term "Irish Tinker" may be used, giving it the same meaning as example b.)
b. (Scotland and Ireland) a Gypsy [origin unknown – possibly relating to one of the 'traditional' occupations of Gypsies as travelling 'tinkerers' or repairers of common household objects]
c. (Scotland) a member of the native community previously itinerant (but mainly now settled) who were reputed for their production of domestic implements from basic materials and for repair of the same items, being also known in the past as "travelling tinsmiths", possibly derived from a reputation for rowdy and alcoholic recreation. Often confused with Gypsy/Romany people.
a person who wears a turban. Often refers specifically to an Arab or Muslim—based on their habit of wearing keffiyehs.
Touch of the tar brush
(British) derogatory descriptive phrase for a person of predominantly Caucasian ancestry with real or suspected African or Asian distant ancestry.
(South Wales) Often used to describe a person from Llanelli. The origin of this is uncertain, some theories suggest it due to Llanelli's popularity with Turkish sailors in the late 19th to early 20th century or possibly when Turkish migrants heading for the US stopped in Llanelli and decided to settle due to there being jobs available, however most likely it's due to the fact that during World War One there was a trade embargo in place during Gallipoli, but Llanelli continued to trade tin with the Turkish, this lead to people from neighbouring Swansea and other surrounding areas to refer to them as Turks.
(US) an illegal immigrant into the United States. Originally applied specifically to Mexican migrant workers who had crossed the Rio Grande border river illegally to find work in the United States, its meaning has since broadened to anyone who illegally breaks into the United States across its southern border.
(US) used in 19th-century United States to refer to the Irish. Sometimes used today in reference to white people in a manner similar to white trash or redneck. Also refers to white youth that imitate urban black youth by means of clothing style, mannerisms, and slang speech. Also used by radical Québécois in self-reference, as in the seminal 1968 book White Niggers of America.
(UK and Commonwealth) any swarthy or dark-skinned foreigner. Possibly derived from "golliwogg" In Britain, it usually refers to dark skinned people from Asia or Africa, though some use the term to refer to anyone outside the borders of their own country. In Australia, the term "wog" is usually used to refer to Southern Europeans and Mediterraneans (Albanians, Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, Lebanese, and others).
^Richard A. Spears, Slang and Euphemism (2001), p. 1.
^Woo, Emma (2008). Chinese American Names: Tradition and Transition. McFarland. p. 66. Retrieved 15 July 2013. "[Translated Electronically] Not surprisingly, Chinese Americans who do not speak Chinese may be told that they are "not really Chinese." This message is found in the term ABC which stands for "American-born Chinese." It implies that the native-born who cannot speak Chinese has either rejected or lost his Chinese heritage. Yet many native-born Chinese Americans cheerfully use this term in describing them-selves."
^Radhakrishnan, Rajagopalan, "Diaspora, Hybridity, Pedagogy", Peripheral Centres, Central Peripheries (ed. Ghosh-Schellhorn, Martina & Alexander, Vera), page 116, LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, 2006, ISBN 3-8258-9210-7.
^Bruce Moore (editor), The Australian Oxford Dictionary, (2004) p. 3.
^Hope, Christopher (9 November 1996). "Books: Hairybacks and white kaffirs". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 June 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014. "whenever English speakers objected to living in a racial zoo designed to protect the mythical purity of Afrikaner nationalists, they were accused by their masters of giving way to Boerehaat (hatred of the Boers)"
^HAT. Johannesburg: Perskor. 2000. p. 104. ISBN9780628037695. "Someone who hates Afrikaners and tries to harm or prejudice them"
^Warman v. Beaumont, CHRT (Canadian Human Rights Commission 2007) (“I haven't seen the new $50 bills, but the $20's and $100's I have seen. I have talked with a few people about them (who aren't WN) but they don't like the fact that there is native stuff on the bills. I mean, who wants to pay for something and be reminded of a chug? Not me!”).
^"Jewish Attitudes Toward Non-Jews". Jewfaq.org. Retrieved 1 November 2013. "There is nothing inherently insulting about the word 'goy.' In fact, the Torah occasionally refers to the Jewish people using the term 'goy.' Most notably, in Exodus 19:6, God says that the Children of Israel will be 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,' that is, a goy kadosh. Because Jews have had so many bad experiences with anti-Semitic non-Jews over the centuries, the term 'goy' has taken on some negative connotations, but in general the term is no more insulting than the word 'gentile.'"
^"The word goy means literally "nation", but has come to mean "Gentile", sometimes with a derogatory connotation." Diane Wolfthal. Picturing Yiddish: gender, identity, and memory in the illustrated Yiddish books of Renaissance, Brill Academic Publishers, 2004, p. 59, footnote 60, ISBN 90-04-11742-3.
^"Se infatti gli italiani chiamano i neri 'mulignan', accomunandoli appunto alle 'melanzane' per il colore della pelle, sono essi stessi definiti storicamente come 'guinea′", Simona Cappellari, Giorgio Colombo Fiorini, Letteratura italoamericana, 2008, p. 79.
^Mihesuah, Devon A. (2002). American Indians: stereotypes & realities (Reprint ed.). Atlanta, GA: Clarity. p. 70. ISBN978-0-932863-22-5. Retrieved 27 February 2012. "It's little wonder that Indians are closed-mouthed about their spirituality. Non-Indians claiming to be "spiritual leaders," "healers," and "medicine men and women" abound in this country, and these "crystal twinkies" (as a former Hopi student likes to call them) make a pretty decent living at deceiving the public."