Jump to content

Latino (demonym)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The masculine term Latino (/ləˈtn, læ-, lɑː-/),[1][2] along with its feminine form Latina, is a noun and adjective, often used in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, that most commonly refers to United States inhabitants who have cultural ties to Latin America.

Within the Latino community itself in the United States, there is some variation in how the term is defined or used.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9] Various governmental agencies, especially the U.S. Census Bureau, have specific definitions of Latino which may or may not agree with community usage. These agencies also employ the term Hispanic, which includes Spaniards, whereas Latino often does not. Conversely, Latino can include Brazilians,[10][11] and may include Spaniards and sometimes even some European romanophones such as Portuguese (a usage sometimes found in bilingual subgroups within the U.S., borrowing from how the word is defined in Spanish),[3][6][7][4] but Hispanic does not include any of those other than Spaniards.

Usage of the term is mostly limited to the United States. Residents of Central and South American countries usually refer to themselves by national origin, rarely as Latino. Because of this, many Latin American scholars, journalists, and Indigenous-rights organizations have objected to the mass-media use of the word to refer to all people of Latin American background.


The terms Latino and Latina originated in Ancient Rome. In the English language, the term Latino is a loan word from American Spanish.[12][13] (Oxford Dictionaries attributes the origin to Latin-American Spanish.[14]) Its origin is generally given as a shortening of latinoamericano, Spanish for 'Latin American'.[15] The Oxford English Dictionary traces its usage to 1946.[12]

Latino has its origins in the French term Amérique latine, coined in the mid-19th century during the Second Mexican Empire to identify areas of the Americas colonized by Romance-speaking people and used to show affinity with French allies during the Mexican Empire, also termed the Mexican intervention.[16][17]

By the late 1850s, with the loss of California to Anglo-Americans or the United States, owing to the Mexican–American War, the term latino was being used in local California newspapers such as El Clamor Publico by Californios writing about America latina and Latinoamerica, and identifying themselves as latinos as the abbreviated term for their "hemispheric membership in la raza latina".[18]


Community usage[edit]

Both Hispanic and Latino are generally used to denote people living in the United States.[19][20] Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco and Mariela Páez write that "Outside the United States, we don't speak of Latinos; we speak of Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and so forth."[21] In Latin America, the term latino is not a common endonym and its usage in Spanish as a demonym is restricted to the Latin American-descended population of the United States, but this is not always the case. The exception is Spain where latino is a common demonym for immigrants from Latin America.[citation needed] Sociologist Salvador Vidal‑Ortiz and literary scholar Juliana Martínez write that after the U.S. census introduced Hispanic in the 1970s, Latino emerged as "a term of resistance to the explicit colonial relations that 'Hispanic' sets between Spain and countries in Latin America".[22]: 387 

Governmental usage[edit]

The U.S. government Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has defined Hispanic or Latino people as "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race".[23] The U.S. census uses the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino to refer to "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race".[24] The Census Bureau also explains that "[o]rigin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person's ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race."[25] Hence the U.S. census and the OMB are using the terms differently. The U.S. census and the OMB use the terms interchangeably, where both terms are synonyms. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the majority (51%) of Hispanic and Latino Americans prefer to identify with their families' country of origin, while only 24% prefer the term Hispanic or Latino.[26]

Style guides[edit]

The AP Stylebook recommends usage of Latino for persons of Spanish-speaking ancestry, as well as persons "from – or whose ancestors were from – ... Latin America, including Brazilians". However, in the recent past, the term Latinos was also applied to people from the Caribbean region,[27] but those from former French, Dutch and British colonies are excluded.[28]

Contrast with Hispanic[edit]

Whereas Latino designates someone with roots in Latin America, the term Hispanic in contrast is a demonym that includes Spaniards and other speakers of the Spanish language.[29][30][31][better source needed]

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."[23]

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:[32]

  • Spanish speakers and persons belonging to a household where Spanish was spoken
  • Persons with Spanish heritage by birth location
  • Persons who self-identify with Latin America, excluding Brazil, Haiti and French Guiana

Neither Hispanic nor Latino refers to a race, as a person of Latino or Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race.[33][34] Like non-Latinos, a Latino can be of any race or combination of races: White, Black or African American, Asian American, Native American or Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander American, or two or more ethnicities. While Brazilian Americans are not included with Hispanics and Latinos in the government's census population reports, any Brazilian American can report as being Hispanic or Latino since Hispanic or Latino origin is, like race or ethnicity, a matter of self-identification.[33][35]

Other federal and local government agencies and non-profit organizations include Brazilians and Portuguese in their definition of Hispanic. The U.S. Department of Transportation defines "Hispanic Americans" as: "persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or other Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race".[36] This definition has been adopted by the Small Business Administration as well as by many federal, state, and municipal agencies for the purposes of awarding government contracts to minority owned businesses. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Conference include representatives of Spanish and Portuguese descent. The Hispanic Society of America is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. Each year since 1997 the International Latino Book Award is conferred to the best achievements in Spanish or Portuguese literature at BookExpo America, the largest publishing trade show in the United States. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, which proclaims itself the champion of Hispanic success in higher education, has member institutions in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.

The American Heritage Dictionary maintains 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 and Portuguese 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.[37]

The AP Stylebook also distinguishes between the terms Hispanic and Latino. The Stylebook limits the term Hispanic to people "from – or whose ancestors were from – a Spanish-speaking land or culture". It provides a more expansive definition, however, of the term Latino. The Stylebook definition of Latino includes not only people of Spanish-speaking ancestry, but also more generally includes persons "from – or whose ancestors were from – . . . Latin America". The Stylebook specifically lists "Brazilian" as an example of a group which can be considered Latino.

There were 28 categories tabulated in the 2000 United States census: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, 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.[38]


The use of the term Latino, despite its increasing popularity, is still highly debated among those who are called by the name.[39][40] Since the adoption of the term by the U.S. Census Bureau[41] and its subsequent widespread use, there have been several controversies and disagreements, especially in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries. Many Latin American scholars, journalists, and indigenous-rights organisations have objected to 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.[42][43][44][45] 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.[46]

Gender-neutral forms[edit]

Attempts have been made to introduce gender-neutral language into Spanish by changing the ending of Latino, as in the terms Latin@, Latine,[22] Latino/a,[47] and Latinx.[48][49] Both supporters and opponents of Latinx have cited linguistic imperialism as a reason for supporting or opposing the use of the term.[50]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Latino". Dictionary.com Unabridged (Online). n.d. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  2. ^ "Latino". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). HarperCollins.
  3. ^ a b "¿Son sinónimos los términos 'hispano' y 'latino'?" [Are the terms 'Hispanic' and 'Latino' synonymous?]. Hispanic Council (in Spanish). Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Ask a Scholar: What is the True Definition of Latino?". National Association of Scholars. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  5. ^ "¿A quién consideran latino en Estados Unidos? (y por qué es más complicado de lo que quizá imaginas)" [Who is considered Latino in the United States? (and why it's more complicated than you might imagine)]. BBC (in Spanish). August 29, 2019. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Hispanos o latinos - ¿Quiénes somos?" [Hispanics or Latinos - Who are we?]. aboutespanol.com (in Spanish). Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Are Latins only in Latin America?". February 7, 2020. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  8. ^ "¿Latino o hispano? Parece lo mismo, pero no es igual" [Latino or Hispanic? It seems like the same thing, but it's not]. El Pais (in Spanish). September 5, 2019. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  9. ^ "Diferencia y similitudes entre los términos 'Hispano' y 'Latino'" [Difference and similarities between the terms 'Hispanic' and 'Latino'] (in Spanish). January 10, 2019. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  10. ^ Vásquez, Michelle Bueno (June 3, 2022). "Analysis | How the U.S. census ignores Afro-Latinos". Washington Post. Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  11. ^ "9 Things Latinos Are Tired of Explaining to Everyone Else". Mic. Mic (media company). Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  12. ^ a b "Latino, n.". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1989.
  13. ^ "latino". Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  14. ^ "Definition of Latino by Oxford Dictionary". lexico.com. Archived from the original on October 11, 2020. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  15. ^ Gutierrez, Ramon A.; Almaguer, Tomas (2016). The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective. University of California Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-520-28484-5. OCLC 1043876740.
  16. ^ Shawcross, E. (2018). France, Mexico and Informal Empire in Latin America, 1820-1867: Equilibrium in the New World. Pgs 133-135 Germany: Springer International Publishing.
  17. ^ Martinez, Juan Francisco (2009). "Identity (Latino/a vs. Hispanic)". In Miguel A. De La Torre (ed.). Hispanic American Religious Cultures. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 292. ISBN 978-1-59884-139-8. OCLC 774498013.
  18. ^ Gutierrez, Ramon A. (2016). "What's in a Name?". In Gutierrez, Ramon A.; Almaguer, Tomas (eds.). The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-520-28484-5. OCLC 1043876740. The word latinoamericano emerged in the years following the wars of independence in Spain's former colonies. [...] By the late 1850s, californios were writing in newspapers about their membership in América latina (Latin America) and latinoamerica, calling themselves latinos as the shortened name for their hemispheric membership in la raza latina.
  19. ^ "The concept of 'Latino' is an American concept". Psfaculty.ucdavis.edu. Archived from the original (ms powerpoint) on July 7, 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
  20. ^ Thomas, Jeffrey (December 8, 2006). "New Survey Paints Vivid Portrait of U.S. Latinos". USINFO. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2012. Being Latino is an American identity
  21. ^ Suarez-Orozco, Marcelo; Páez, Mariela, eds. (2008). Latinos: Remaking America. University of California Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-520-25827-3. 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.
  22. ^ a b Vidal-Ortiz, Salvador; Martínez, Juliana (2018). "Latinx thoughts: Latinidad with an X". Latino Studies. 16 (3). Note 2, p. 385. doi:10.1057/s41276-018-0137-8. S2CID 149742570 – via ResearchGate. Terms like Latin@, Latine, and LatinU have been deployed—with less traction—to mobilize Latina/o communities
  23. ^ a b Office of Management and Budget (October 30, 1997). "Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity" (PDF). Federal Register Notice. whitehouse.gov. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  24. ^ "The Hispanic Population: 2010 Census Briefs" (PDF). Census.gov. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  25. ^ "Hispanic Origin Main - People and Households - U.S. Census Bureau". Archived from the original on January 19, 2016. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  26. ^ Taylor, Paul; Lopez, Mark Hugo; Martínez, Jessica; Velasco, Gabriel (April 4, 2012). "When Labels Don't Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity". Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project.
  27. ^ Flores, Juan; Jiménez Román, Miriam (November 30, 2009). "Triple-Consciousness? Approaches to Afro-Latino Culture in the United States". Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies. 4 (3). Tandf: 319–328. doi:10.1080/17442220903331662. S2CID 144948747.
  28. ^ Delgado, Richard; Stefancic, Jean (2011). The Latino/a Condition: A Critical Reader (2nd ed.). NYU Press. p. 36. ISBN 9780814720394.
  29. ^ "Defining 'Hispanic' as meaning those with Spanish-speaking roots in the Americas and 'Latino' as meaning those with both Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking roots in Latin America". Americanhistory.si.edu. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  30. ^ Anderson, Kevin (October 18, 2008). "US elections 2008 (News),New Mexico (News),US politics". The Guardian. London.
  31. ^ "Herald Style Guide". Sites.google.com. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  32. ^ Gibson, Campbell; Jung, Kay (September 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 December 7, 2006.
  33. ^ a b United States Census Bureau (March 2001). "Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 12, 2020. Retrieved July 15, 2007.
  34. ^ U.S. Census Bureau. "U.S. Census Bureau Guidance on the Presentation and Comparison of Race and Hispanic Origin Data". Retrieved March 18, 2007. 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.
  35. ^ "B03001. Hispanic or Latino Origin by Spedific Origin". 2006 American Community Survey. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  36. ^ U.S. Department of Transportation, "Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program Administration Reference Manual For Division Office Civil Rights Personnel", Fhwa.dot.gov
  37. ^ "His·pan·ic". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). HarperCollins. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  38. ^ "American FactFinder Help; Spanish/Hispanic/Latino". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on March 6, 2001. Retrieved March 2, 2009.
  39. ^ ALEMAN, EVELYN G. (April 10, 1999). "The Term 'Latino' Describes No One". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  40. ^ "Latino or Hispanic Panic: Which Term Should We Use?" (PDF). Crossculturecommunications.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 7, 2012. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  41. ^ Fisher, Celia B. and Lerner, Richard M. Encyclopedia of Applied Developmental Science SAGE, 2004, ISBN 0-7619-2820-0 Page 634
  42. ^ "Global Politician". Globalpolitician.com. Archived from the original on May 3, 2016. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  43. ^ "Latino? Hispanic? Quechua? No, American; Take Your Pick". The New York Times. November 18, 1992. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  44. ^ "Gregory Rodriguez: Look beyond the 'Latino' label". Los Angeles Times. November 12, 2006. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  45. ^ Hispanic magazine, December 2000
  46. ^ Acuña, Rodolfo, U.S. Latino issues, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003 ISBN 0-313-32211-2
  47. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (April 2, 2018). "Why 'Latinx' Is Succeeding While Other Gender-Neutral Terms Fail to Catch On". Time. New York. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  48. ^ Dent, Jonathan (March 18, 2019). "New Words in the OED: March 2019". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press.
  49. ^ "'Latinx' And Gender Inclusivity How do you pronounce this more inclusive word?". Merriam Webster. 2017. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017.
  50. ^ "Why People Are Using The Term 'Latinx'". HuffPost. July 5, 2016. Retrieved October 6, 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]