Wikipedia:Naming conventions (identity)

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Main guideline: Wikipedia:Naming conventions

Naming conventions (identity) is a Wikipedia guideline for dealing with issues of labeling people and organizations in Wikipedia articles. It doesn't address the use of proper names for individuals. For the guideline on referring to individuals by name, see WP:COMMONNAME.

Labeling in a manner which is neither offensive nor contrary to the wishes of those about whom we are writing articles is not only good etiquette, but also helps to reduce editorial conflicts about which specific labels should be used in a given article.

General guidelines[edit]

When in doubt, or when editing a controversial article, take the time to read the article's talk page before editing. Often, compromises on specific articles or terms have been hashed out at considerable cost in terms of personal time and effort. Aim for consensus.


Use the name(s) and terminology that the individual or organization themselves use.

  • Self identification: When naming or writing an article about specific groups or their members always use the terminology which those individuals or organizations themselves use. Transsexual people, for example, should be referred to using the personal pronouns (male, female, or another) that they themselves prefer.
  • Do not assume that a different term is more inclusive or accurate. For example, a person who appears female or who was born female may identify as male or something else other than female.

Be specific[edit]

Be as specific as possible.

  • Use the most specific terminology available. If someone is of Ethiopian descent, describe them as "Ethiopian," not "African."
  • Almost always use terms as adjectives rather than nouns, thus, black people, not blacks, gay people, not gays, person with albinism, not albino, and so on. Note that there may be exceptions to this rule: "Jews" is the standard plural.

Be neutral[edit]

Where there is doubt, aim for neutrality.

  • Some terms are considered pejorative, or have negative associations, even if they are quite commonly used. Even though people may use these terms themselves, they may not appreciate being referred to by such terms by others (for example, faggot, nigger, tranny). Note that neutral terminology is not necessarily the most common term — a term that the person or their cultural group does not accept for themselves is not neutral even if it remains the most widely used term among outsiders.
  • However, do not be so general as to render terms meaningless.

Avoid gratuitous references[edit]

Do not call more attention to a person's identity labels than is strictly necessary.

  • While it is appropriate for an article to note that a person is African-American, gay, Christian, etc., and to discuss the ways in which those identities have impacted their work, it is never necessary or appropriate for an article to constantly qualify the person as a "gay writer" or an "African-American linguist".
  • Further, it is only rarely, if ever, necessary for a reference to the person's cultural, religious, sexual or gender identities to be present in the very first sentence of the article before their occupation has even been mentioned. For example, it is usually more appropriate for an article to begin "John Smith is an American writer", and then discuss his sexual orientation later in the article, than for the article to begin "John Smith is a gay writer from the United States." Similarly, it is almost never necessary for the very first sentence of an article to point out that the subject is female.

Pay attention to the person's specific cultural context[edit]

Do not impose a label that you think should be used by the cultural group in question, if it's not the label that is used by the group in question.

  • While coloured is considered inappropriate in the United States, it is the standard and normal designation of a specific cultural group in South Africa which uses that term for itself. Do not impose an alternate term that would be considered more acceptable in the United States but is not known or recognized by South African Coloured community itself.
  • Similarly, while "African American" is sometimes preferred to "black" in the United States, demographic differences in Canada — where 71 per cent of the country's black population are of Caribbean rather than African origin — mean that "African Canadian" cannot be used as a substitute for "Black Canadian" in most cases. Although "African American" is broadly used synonymously with "black" in the United States, sometimes even disregarding origin (African or otherwise), the term may not be the correct choice. Also, "black" should never be replaced with "African American" if the subject is not American.

Preferred terms[edit]

Ethnic and national identities[edit]

  • Avoid outdated terms when referring to present-day people. However, historic terms can be appropriate when describing historic usage, or in description of past eras.
  • Avoid unclarified use of ambiguous terms. For example, "Asian" can be a continent-wide term, or may more specifically connote South Asian in the United Kingdom, but East Asian in the United States. Wikilinking the term, if it must be used by itself, is a good idea: [[Asia]]n. Otherwise, simply be more specific. When making first reference to someone from India or having an Indian background as "Indian", wikilink the term as [[India]]n, unless no confusion of this usage with its usage in reference to indigenous peoples of the Americas is likely to result in the context. "Russian" should not be used as a stand-in for "Soviet" when referring to a person from the era of the USSR whose ethnic identity is not known more specifically.
  • Physical anthropology terms such as Caucasoid, Negroid, and Mongoloid are not appropriate for contemporary ethnic, national or social identities, and should be used only in their correct scientific or historical context.
  • "Caucasian" in the meaning of "pertaining to the Caucasus region" is correct, though clarification distinguishing this usage from that of Caucasian race may be helpful.
  • "Chinese" or "Chinese person" are preferred over "Chinaman," which is outdated and has racist connotations. See dedicated guideline Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Chinese). The same may apply to similar constructions such as "Irishman". See dedicated guideline Wikipedia:Manual of Style (Ireland-related articles).
  • Roma is preferred over gypsy when referring to the ethnic group, although the terms are not always synonymous
  • For Scottish clans see Category:Scottish clans
  • "Kosovan"/"Kosovar": See dedicated guideline Wikipedia:Manual of Style (Kosovo-related articles).

Indigenous peoples[edit]

  • A 1996 survey revealed that "natives" in the United States preferred "American Indian" to "Native American," although "Native American" is also generally acceptable.[1]. Neither of these terms is generally used in Alaska, where the term Eskimo is sometimes offensive, and Alaska Native is usually preferred.[citation needed]
  • In Canada, the term "Aboriginal peoples" is preferred over "natives" as a collective term. "Aboriginal" encompasses First Nations, the Métis and the Inuit; the term "First Nations" refers only to "Indian" groups and does not encompass the latter two groups. "Indian" and "Eskimo" are not generally considered acceptable. Note that it is never appropriate to describe an aboriginal Canadian as "American Indian" or "Native American".
  • Although terms such as "American Indian" or "Native American" are commonly used within the United States to collectively denote all indigenous peoples of North and South America regardless of which individual country they reside in, the terms are widely rejected by people outside of that country due to the potential ambiguity of the word "American". The terms should only be used this way in the narrow context of the United States. For cases where the article is a broad, transnational summary of very general aspects of indigenous North and South American cultures, use constructions such as indigenous peoples of the Americas.
  • It is always preferable to refer to groups and individuals as specifically as is appropriate in the context — the individual culture to which a person belongs (e.g., Inuit, Navajo, Anishnaabe, Abenaki, Maya, etc.) should be used instead of broad umbrella terms such as "Indian", "native" or "First Nations" whenever possible. See also Native American name controversy for more terms and background.
  • In Australia, both "Aboriginal" and "Indigenous" are used as collective adjectives; individual people and institutions should be referred to, as specifically as is appropriate in the context, by the groups with which they identify (see List of Indigenous Australian group names). However, "Aborigine" is strongly deprecated as a noun.

Sex and sexual identities[edit]

  • For people, the terms "gay" (often, but not always, used for males only) and "lesbian" (which is used for females only) are preferred over "homosexual," which has clinical associations and may even be considered pejorative. However, homosexual may be used in describing people in certain instances, in particular in historical contexts.
  • When referring to the broader community of all people who identify with one of the "minority sexual and gender identities", the inclusive term lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender is preferred rather than referring simply to the "gay community". This may subsequently be abbreviated as LGBT, although for clarity's sake the term should be spelled out in full the first time it appears in an article.
  • For sexual behaviors, "homosexual" may be acceptable, although in many cases "same-sex" can and should be used instead. For instance, articles discussing the question of legalizing or banning marriage between two people of the same gender should refer to same-sex marriage rather than "homosexual marriage" or "gay marriage".
  • Two-Spirit is preferred over berdache. However, the latter term is appropriate in historical contexts, specifically when discussing the defined and specific role of the berdache within historical aboriginal cultures.
  • Transgender people should be referred to using pronouns consistent with their current gender identification. If unsure, it may be acceptable to employ terms consistent with the person's gender presentation: for example, if a person lives as female and appears female, it is probably fine to describe her using female pronouns. Note that it is not necessary for a person to have had or even to have contemplated sex reassignment surgery — use the pronouns consistent with the person's public gender presentation, regardless of the current configuration of their genitals. A person's current gender identity should be adopted when referring to any phase of that person's life, unless this usage is overridden by that person's own expressed preference. Watch, however, for situations where this may create some confusion (e.g. "she fathered her first child") — instead, such a sentence should be rewritten to avoid references to gender (e.g. "Smith became a parent for the first time").
  • Neologisms, like transman and transwoman, should be used carefully as many terms defining gender minorities have somewhat fluid inclusionary criteria and are umbrella terms defining those outside gender binary roles and identities.