List of common nouns derived from ethnic group names

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This is a list of common nouns, used in the English language, whose etymology goes back to the name of some, often historical or archaic, ethnic or religious group, but whose current meaning has lost that connotation and does not imply any actual ethnicity or religion.

Several of these terms are derogatory or insulting. Such entries on this list should not be confused with "ethnic slurs" referring to a person's actual ethnicity, which have a separate list.

a Parisian gangster or thug (from the collective name Apache for several nations of Native Americans).[1]
a person with an unconventional artistic lifestyle (originally meaning an inhabitant of Bohemia; the secondary meaning may derive from an erroneous idea that the Romani people originate from Bohemia).[2] Not used as an insult in most circumstances.
Synonymous with sodomite. From Middle English bougre, heretic, from Anglo-French bugre, from Medieval Latin Bulgarus, literally, Bulgarian; (from the association of Bulgaria with the Bogomils, who were accused of sodomy).[3]
used descriptively for any human consuming human flesh (originally meaning Carib, erroneously thought to be cannibals).[4]
(U.S.) originally (mid-18th century) – a Scots-Irish settler into the Virginia Piedmont; later (late 18th century) – a term for backwoodsman; hick, or most severely "poor white trash", especially on the frontier or in the Appalachian area; still later (post Civil War) – a self-referential indicating an independent backwoods small farmer in the West Virginia/Carolina/Tennessee/Kentucky area.[5][6]
a crude person, lacking culture or refinement; an obsolete term. A separate sense is in reference to the members of the current Goth subculture. Originally from the East Germanic tribe called the Goths that sacked Rome in 410.[7]
a foreigner; especially used disparagingly against North Americans and Europeans in Latin America. (Possibly from the Spanish word griego, meaning Greek.[8] In Roman days, foreigners were usually divided into Greeks and Barbarians. The use of the term Greek for something foreign or unintelligible can also be seen in the expression "it's Greek to me".)[9]
a swindler; a racehorse owner; in Britain also a male servant at a college—from Gypsy, which in turn is derived from Egyptian.[10][11]
barbarous or destructive person; was also in used in World War I as an ethnic slur for the Germans (from the confederation of Eurasian tribes that first appeared in Europe in the 4th century, leading to mass migrations of Germanic tribes westward, and established an empire extending into Europe in the 5th century, partially financed by the plundering of wealthy Roman cities).[12] In modern Scotland and Northern Ireland the term is widely understood as a derogatory reference to a Protestant, or a supporter of a historically Protestant football club, most notably Rangers F.C..[13]
Mongol (or Mongoloid)
used to derogatorily describe people with Down syndrome (which was widely called "Mongol" or "Mongoloid Idiocy").[14] The shorthand version "mong" is also used as an insult.[15]
a person who does not care about artistic and cultural values (from a people that inhabited Canaan when, according to the biblical account, the Israelites arrived).[16]
a person of diminished stature (possibly in reference to certain hunter-gatherer peoples, such as the Mbuti of Central Africa, sometimes grouped together under the term Pygmies, but that designation actually stems from the original meaning of pygmy as an unusually small person).[17]
[18] is the personal representative of a head of state or government who prepares an international summit, particularly the annual G8 Summit. The name is derived from the Sherpa people, a Nepalese ethnic group, who serve as guides and porters in the Himalayas, a reference to the fact that the sherpa clears the way for a head of state at a major summit.
a violently ferocious person, a rather obsolete term (from the Turkic nomadic tribe of Tatars that invaded Europe in the 13th century, later generalized to any Mongolian or Turkic invaders of Europe).[19]
a gangster or ruffian ready to use excessive violence (from the religious Indian Thuggee cult, alleged to practice robbery and murder by strangulation).[20]
a person who willfully and maliciously destroys property (from the East Germanic tribe that sacked Rome in 455).[21]


  1. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007).
  2. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007).
  3. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007).
  4. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007).
  5. ^ James Kirke Paulding’s Letters from the South, written during an Excursion in the Summer of 1816. NY: James Eastburn (1817).
  6. ^ Elizabeth A. Perkins & John Dabney Shane's "Border Life: Experience and Memory in the Revolutionary Ohio Valley" University of North Carolina Press (May 1998), ISBN 0-8078-2400-3 .
  7. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007).
  8. ^ Harper, Douglas. "gringo". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved October 29, 2015. 
  9. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007).
  10. ^ "Gyp | Define Gyp at". Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  11. ^ "What's in a Name: Vultures – National Zoo| FONZ". Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  12. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007).
  13. ^ "Dictionary of the Scots Language". Dictionary of the Scots Language. Scottish Language Dictionaries. Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  14. ^ Ward, Connor O. John Langdon Down the man and the message Archived 2006-09-02 at the Wayback Machine.. 2006
  15. ^ Clark, Nicola (October 19, 2011). "Ricky Gervais, please stop using the word 'mong'". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 26 May 2012. 
  16. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007).
  17. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007).
  18. ^ Analyse par Nicolas Gros-Verheyde auteur du blog Bruxelles2 (B2), et de Bruxelles2 - Le Club (Club de B2) suite au sommet européen concernant la situation Ukraine-Russie
  19. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007).
  20. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007).
  21. ^ Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 5, 2007)