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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The demonyms Latino and Latina (feminine), are defined in English language dictionaries as:

  • "a person of Latin-American or Spanish-speaking descent."[1]
  • "A Latin American."[2]
  • "A person of Hispanic, especially Latin-American, descent, often one living in the United States."[2]
  • "a native or inhabitant of Latin America"[3]
  • "a person of Latin-American origin living in the United States"[3]
  • "someone who lives in the US and who comes from or whose family comes from Latin America"[4]

The two words originate in American Spanish Latino and Latina (from Latin Latinus, Latina), either meaning "Latin", or possibly a clipped form of latinoamericano, "Latin American".[1][2][3]

In the United States, the term is in official use in the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino, defined as "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race."[5][6]


Use in the United States

Part of a series of articles on
Argentine Americans
Bolivian Americans
Chilean Americans
Colombian Americans
Costa Rican Americans
Cuban Americans
Dominican Americans
Ecuadorian Americans
Guatemalan Americans
Honduran Americans
Mexican Americans
Nicaraguan Americans
Panamanian Americans
Paraguayan Americans
Peruvian Americans
Puerto Ricans (stateside)
Salvadoran Americans
Spanish Americans
Uruguayan Americans
Venezuelan Americans
History of Hispanic and Latino Americans
History of Mexican-Americans
Christian Hispanics and Latinos · Catholicism · Hispanic and Latino Muslims · Santeria
Political movements
Hispanic and Latino American politics
Chicano Movement
National Hispanic Institute
Congressional Hispanic Caucus
Congressional Hispanic Conference
National Council of La Raza
Association of Hispanic Arts · MEChA · UFW
Hispanic culture
Literature · Studies · Music
English · Spanish in the United States
Spanish · Spanglish
Communities with Hispanic majority
Puerto Rico-related topics
Notable Hispanics
Related topics
Latino and Hispanic Portal

The term "Latino" was officially adopted in 1997 by the United States Government in the ethnonym "Hispanic or Latino", which replaced the single term "Hispanic": "Because regional usage of the terms differs -- Hispanic is commonly used in the eastern portion of the United States, whereas Latino is commonly used in the western portion."[7]

U.S. official use of the term "Hispanic" has its origins in the 1970 census. The Census Bureau attempted to identify all Hispanics by use of the following criteria in sampled sets:[8]

  • Spanish speakers and persons belonging to a household where Spanish was spoken
  • Persons with Spanish heritage by birth location
  • Persons who self-identify with Spanish ancestry or descent

Neither "Hispanic" nor "Latino" refers to a race, as a person of Latino or Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race.[6][9] Like non-Latinos, a Latino can be of any single race: White/Caucasian, Black/African American, Asian, Native American, or Pacific Islander. Again like non-Latinos, some may identify with more than one race, such as Mestizo (a bi-racial person of White/Caucasian and Native American descent), Mulatto (a person of White/Caucasian and Black/African American descent), Zambo (a person of Native American and Black/African American descent) or any other race or combination.

Although as officially defined in the United States, "Latino" does not include Brazilian Americans,[5][6] and specifically refers to "Spanish culture or origin",[5][6] some of the dictionary definitions may include them and/or Brazilian people in general. Furthermore, Hispanic or Latino origin is, like race, a matter of self-identification in the US, and government and non-government questionnaires, including the census form,[10] usually contain a blank entry space wherein respondents can indicate a Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin other than the few (Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban) which are specified; However, Brazilian Americans are not included with Hispanics and Latinos in the government's population reports.[6][11]

Some authorities of American English maintain a distinction between the terms "Hispanic" and "Latino":

"Though often used interchangeably in American English, Hispanic and Latino are not identical terms, and in certain contexts the choice between them can be significant. Hispanic, from the Latin word for "Spain," has the broader reference, potentially encompassing all Spanish-speaking peoples in both hemispheres and emphasizing the common denominator of language among communities that sometimes have little else in common. Latino—which in Spanish means "Latin" but which as an English word is probably a shortening of the Spanish word latinoamericano—refers more exclusively to persons or communities of Latin American origin. Of the two, only Hispanic can be used in referring to Spain and its history and culture; a native of Spain residing in the United States is a Hispanic, not a Latino, and one cannot substitute Latino in the phrase the Hispanic influence on native Mexican cultures without garbling the meaning. In practice, however, this distinction is of little significance when referring to residents of the United States, most of whom are of Latin American origin and can theoretically be called by either word."[12]

Listed below are the 28 categories tabulated in the 2000 United States Census: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican Republic; Central American: Costa Rican, Guatemalan, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Panamanian, Salvadoran, Other Central American; South American: Argentinian, Bolivian, Chilean, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Paraguayan, Peruvian, Uruguayan, Venezuelan, Other South American; Other Hispanic or Latino: Spaniard, Spanish, Spanish American, All other Hispanic or Latino.[13]

Similar and related terms

Latin Europeans Latin Americans
The countries of
Latin Europe and Latin America

Sometimes "Latino" is used interchangeably with "Latin", as Latino is also defined as a "Latin inhabitant of the United States";[14] and sometimes it is used interchangeably with "Latin American".[15] As a demonym, though, "Latin" can have other meanings:[16][17]

  • "a native or inhabitant of Latium; an ancient Roman."
  • "a member of any of the Latin peoples, or those speaking chiefly Romance languages, esp. a native of or émigré from Latin America."
  • "a member of the Latin Church; a Roman Catholic, as distinguished from a member of the Greek Church."
  • "A Latino or Latina."

"Latin American" may also not mean the same as "Latino," depending on which definition of the latter is used. The term "Latino", as an English word, was implemented in the US to refer US citizens who share a common ethnicity, not to Latin Americans in general.[18][19][20] Also, a Spaniard, for example, though a "Latino" by some definitions, is not a Latin American. The term "Latin American", in turn, though normally applied to inhabitants of Latin America, is nevertheless preferred by some individuals and organizations in the United States.[21][22][23] "Latin American" is defined as:

  • "A native or inhabitant of Latin America."[24]
  • "A person of Latin-American descent."[24]


The term Latino despite its increasing popularity is still highly debated among those who are called by the name.[25][26] Latin America is made up of around 20 nations that have different histories, traditions, constitutions, and backgrounds. The term Latino has a connotation towards a single European origin group that is Latino from the Latin language, which does not represent all people from Latin America. There are many so called Latino people who are, for example, of Jewish ancestry. Also, the term Latino tends to imply a monolithic group. People from Latin America represent many religious groups and not just Catholics or Christian, as well as many racial groups and mixtures. Another aspect of diversity within this group is their heterogeneous immigration history. Also, the term Latino may express a confusion about those who, despite having Latino names, do not identify with the culture from their original home countries, are multigenerational descendants from immigrants from Latin America, do not speak or understand Spanish or Portuguese, and have never been to Latin America; in fact, some so-called Latinos were present in the US before the US came to be the country as it is known today. This heterogeneity in the Latino community makes the name highly debated.

Since the adoption of the term Latino by the US Census Bureau in 2000[27] and its subsequent widespread use there have been several controversies and disagreements, specially in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries. Regarding it as an arbitrary generic term, many Latin American scholars, journalists and indigenous rights organisations have objected against the mass media use of the word "Latino", pointing out that such ethnonyms are optional and should be used only to describe people involved in the practices, ideologies and identity politics of their supporters.[28][29][30][31] Journalist Rodolfo Acuña writes:

"When and why the Latino identity came about is a more involved story. Essentially, politicians, the media, and marketers find it convenient to deal with the different U.S. Spanish-speaking people under one umbrella. However, many people with Spanish surnames contest the term Latino. They claim it is misleading because no Latino or Hispanic nationality exists since no Latino state exists, so generalizing the term Latino slights the various national identities included under the umbrella.[32]

Popular personalities like Andy Garcia have also expressed concern. He has stated that, in spite of his love of his native Cuba, he dislikes to be labeled as a 'Latino actor' preferring instead to be addressed as an actor without a tag attached to him.[33]

Definitions in other languages

The term Latino (feminine Latina) in the Romance languages, such as Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, literally translates as "Latin". (The cognate French term is Latin, not Latino.) Portuguese dictionaries define the demonym Latino to refer to natives of Romance-speaking nations influenced by Roman civilization, and to the natives or inhabitants of ancient Latium (modern Lazio).[34][35] Italian dictionaries define the demonym Latino as: the ancient Latins and Romans, and their language, Latin, as well as the neo-Latin nations.[36][37] The dictionary of the Real Academia Española defines ten meanings for Latino, including the ancient peoples of Latium and the modern Romance-speaking European and American nations.[38] In these languages, Latino, just like any other demonym, is by convention not capitalized.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Latino - Definitions from". Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. Retrieved 2008-03-03.   Definition source: Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.
  2. ^ a b c "Latino - Definitions from". Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. Retrieved 2008-03-03.   Definition source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
  3. ^ a b c "Latino - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Merriam Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved 2008-03-03.  
  4. ^ "Cambridge Dictionaries Online - Cambridge University Press". Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Cambridge University Press 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-03.  
  5. ^ a b c Office of Management and Budget. "Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Federal Register Notice October 30, 1997". Retrieved 2008-01-11.  
  6. ^ a b c d e United States Census Bureau (March 2001). "Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2007-07-15.  
  7. ^ Office of Management and Budget. "Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Federal Register Notice October 30, 1997". Retrieved 2008-01-11. "Terminology for Hispanics.--OMB does not accept the recommendation to retain the single term "Hispanic." Instead, OMB has decided that the term should be "Hispanic or Latino." Because regional usage of the terms differs -- Hispanic is commonly used in the eastern portion of the United States, whereas Latino is commonly used in the western portion -- this change may contribute to improved response rates."   (Boldface in the original.)
  8. ^ Gibson, Campbell (09 2002). "Historical Census Statistics on Population Totals By Race, 1790 to 1990, and By Hispanic Origin, 1970 to 1990, For The United States, Regions, Divisions, and States". Working Paper Series No. 56. Retrieved 2006-12-07.  
  9. ^ U.S. Census Bureau. "U.S. Census Bureau Guidance on the Presentation and Comparison of Race and Hispanic Origin Data". Retrieved 2007-03-18. "Race and Hispanic origin are two separate concepts in the federal statistical system. People who are Hispanic may be of any race. People in each race group may be either Hispanic or Not Hispanic. Each person has two attributes, their race (or races) and whether or not they are Hispanic."  
  10. ^ "U.S. Census form". U.S. Census Bureau.   See question 7
  11. ^ "B03001. Hispanic or Latino Origin by Spedific Origin". 2006 American Community Survey. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  12. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary". Retrieved 2007-03-18.  
  13. ^ "American FactFinder Help; Spanish/Hispanic/Latino". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2009-03-02.  
  14. ^ Douglas Harper. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2008-06-08.  
  15. ^ Oboler, Suzanne. Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives: Identity and the Politics of (Re) Presentation.  
  16. ^ "Latin - Definitions from". Retrieved 2008-01-28.  
  17. ^ "Latin - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary; Latin[2,noun]". Retrieved 2008-01-28.  
  18. ^ The concept of “Latino” is an American concept.
  19. ^ Being Latino is an American identity.
  20. ^ The very term Latino has meaning only in reference to the U.S. experience. Outside the United States, we don't speak of Latinos; we speak of Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and so forth. Latinos are made in the USA. Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, Mariela Páez, Latinos: Remaking America (University of California Press, 2008) ISBN 0520258274, p. 4.
  21. ^ "LULAC-League of United Latin American Citizens". Retrieved 2008-03-05.  
  22. ^ "Latin American Association". Retrieved 2008-03-05.  
  23. ^ "Latin American Youth Center". Retrieved 2008-03-05.  
  24. ^ a b "Latin American - Definitions from". Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. Retrieved 2008-03-03.  . Definition source: Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.
  25. ^ The Term 'Latino' Describes No One
  26. ^ Latino or Hispanic Panic: Which Term Should We Use?
  27. ^ Fisher, Celia B. and Lerner, Richard M. Encyclopedia of Applied Developmental Science SAGE, 2004, ISBN 0761928200 Page 634
  28. ^ Latino & Hispanic? It’s Time to Rethink these Terms!
  29. ^ The New York Times - Latino? Hispanic? Quechua? No, American Take Your Pick
  30. ^ Los Angeles Times - Look beyond the 'Latino' label
  31. ^ Hispanic magazine, December 2000
  32. ^ Acuña, Rodolfo, U.S. Latino issues, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003 ISBN 0313322112
  33. ^ [1]
  34. ^ "Dicionário de Língua Portuguesa da Porto Editora". Porto Editora. Retrieved 2008-05-01.  
  35. ^ "UOL - Michaelis - Moderno Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa". Editora Melhoramentos Ltda. Retrieved 2008-05-01.  
  36. ^ "De Mauro - latino". PARAVIA. Retrieved 2008-05-01.  
  37. ^ " - Dizionari". De Agostini Scuola. Retrieved 2008-05-01.  
  38. ^ "Real Academia Española. Diccionario Usual". Real Academia Española. Retrieved 2008-05-01.  


  • The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States, 4 vls, Oxford University Press 2006, ISBN 0195156005
  • Miguel A. De La Torre, "Encyclopedia on Hispanic American Religious Culture," Volume 1 & 2, ABC-CLIO Publishers, 2009.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also latino




From Spanish latino a < Spanish latinoamericano (Latin American) < Latin latinus (pertaining to Latium, the region of Italy around Rome), possibly from Proto-Indo-European base *stela- (to spread, to extend, hence flat country as opposed to mountainous).


(US) IPA: /ləˈtinoʊ/, /læˈtinoʊ/


Latino (not comparable)


not comparable

none (absolute)

  1. Of Latin American descent.




Latino (plural Latinos)

  1. A person from Latin America.
  2. A person residing in the United States, who is of Latin American descent.
    Latinos have quickly become the largest ethnic minority in the United States.


See also



Proper noun

Latino (accusative Latinon)

  1. Latin (the Latin language)


Proper noun

Latino (plural Latinos)

  1. Latino, male person from Latin America

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