Meaning of ethnic in English:


Pronunciation /ˈɛθnɪk/

See synonyms for ethnic

Translate ethnic into Spanish


  • 1Of or belonging to a population group or subgroup made up of people who share a common cultural background or descent.

    ‘the students' ethnic backgrounds are very diverse’
    • ‘two playwrights of different ethnic origins’
    • ‘ethnic and cultural rights and traditions’
    • ‘These policy shifts stem from struggles over social dominance among cultural and ethnic groups within the larger society.’
    • ‘He says Germany's 2 million-plus Turks are the country's largest foreign ethnic group.’
    • ‘The company dates back to a time when they would sell their products within ethnic communities, before eventually expanding to include the other Australians.’
    • ‘The most promising developments in recent years have included the formation of historical societies within ethnic communities.’
    • ‘I know that in Christchurch where it was very difficult to get representatives from within small ethnic communities, that is exactly what I did.’
    • ‘The production and distribution of rental housing was handled within the city's ethnic communities.’
    • ‘His celebration, his hopes and further aspirations should not just be seen as inspiration within the ethnic community.’
    • ‘We seek help from within the ethnic communities to give us a balance as to what we are actually seeking to achieve.’
    • ‘In recent years, rugby league has made giant strides in developing the interest and involvement in the game in indigenous and ethnic communities and its success will be on full parade on Sunday night.’
    • ‘An innovative Lancashire County Council scheme aims to recruit more teachers of ethnic and black origin.’
    racial, race-related
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Denoting origin by birth or descent rather than by present nationality.
      ‘ethnic Indian populations’
      • ‘ethnic Albanians in Kosovo’
      • ‘About 25 per cent of the university's students are Bulgarians of Turkish ethnic origin and Roma.’
      • ‘They were predominantly ethnic Albanian, but from different backgrounds - farmers, politicians and retirees.’
      • ‘Macedonia came close to civil war last year, when ethnic Albanians staged an uprising demanding greater rights.’
      • ‘They're predominantly ethnic Chinese, who suffered greatly at the hands of the country's military.’
      • ‘The reason for tabling the strategy was that 250,000 families of ethnic Turk origin make their living in the tobacco sector.’
      • ‘Not one of the pledges made by the Khmer Rouge then was adhered to; they refused to disarm and continued their campaign of terror in several parts of the country, killing many of ethnic Vietnamese origin.’
      • ‘Three of them are said to be of ethnic Pakistani origin.’
      • ‘Last year, three women of ethnic Bulgarian origin went on a hunger strike as a last resort in their desperation to seek protection from the state.’
      • ‘Up to 11,000 people, mainly ethnic Albanians, were killed and some 3,000 are still registered as missing.’
      • ‘Since 1959 non-citizens within the ethnic Chinese population have been denied the right to run businesses in rural Indonesia.’
      • ‘The Constitution is designed to guarantee power-sharing between the country's indigenous Fijian and ethnic Indian populations.’
      • ‘In 1998, just before then President Suharto stepped down, unrest and arson destroyed or damaged hundreds of properties belonging to ethnic Chinese in Solo.’
      • ‘Hundreds of properties belonging to ethnic Chinese in Solo were burned down in 1998 just before then President Suharto stepped down.’
      • ‘They are, instead, a subset of the country's citizens: those who belong to the ethnic Slav majority.’
      • ‘This is especially true for those who are temporarily occupying houses belonging to ethnic Serbs who have returned or intend to return.’
      • ‘He did acknowledge the emergence of a separatist movement within the ethnic Albanian population in the late 1980s.’
      • ‘And in Fiji, tensions continued between its indigenous and its ethnic Indian populations.’
    2. 1.2Characteristic of or belonging to a non-Western cultural tradition.
      ‘ethnic jewellery’
      • ‘folk and ethnic music’
      • ‘Dark blue walls shimmer with candlelight, a display case of market vegetables glows in the background and strains of ethnic music play at just the right level for conversation.’
      • ‘The festival, to be held on October 9, features ethnic foods and music, craft booths, and food vendors.’
      • ‘And despite the many different ethnic influences, the music seems to create an atmosphere that almost radiates from the CD player.’
      • ‘For children aged 5 to 7 there will be a fancy dress competition with ethnic costumes and ‘painting the flag’.’
      • ‘It was while in Cornell that he began to be interested in ethnic music from India, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and also African as well as Western music.’
      • ‘Another feature of the festival is the ethnic dress.’
      • ‘So there are now two photos of me in ethnic dress!’
      • ‘He is now exploring ethnic music from around the world.’
      • ‘Antonio Marras is excellent in creating dresses in ethnic styles.’
      • ‘Our patterns are based on ethnic designs, and are always faithful in spirit and approach to the African originals that have influenced their design.’
      • ‘The ethnic instruments we carry are used in numerous styles of traditional music, from folk to Celtic to classical.’
  • 2 archaic Neither Christian nor Jewish; pagan.

    • ‘Christmas is an imitation of the Saturnalia of the ethnic Romans, and so used as if Bacchus, and not Christ, were the God of Christians.’


dated, offensive
  • A member of an ethnic minority.

    • ‘When I look at the situation in Quebec, the anglos and ethnics are politically powerless.’
    • ‘Willis also skips over the secular and leftist politics that led Catholic ethnics and working-class voters to take their distance from liberalism and the Democratic Party in 1972.’
    • ‘The number of young ethnics in prison keeps on rising,’ says Douyon.’
    • ‘We are not helping ethnics or asylum seekers but at the same time we are not discriminating against them either.’
    • ‘And I shudder to think of the inconvenient opening hours and limited range of services (such as restaurants) that we would have without the ethnics.’
    • ‘Of the five men, none were Harvardians, and three were ethnics; of the two apparently native-born men, one had been a plumber before the war.’
    • ‘And culturally sensitive viewers need to beware: Supercar is a show that really slurs the ethnics when it gets a chance.’
    • ‘These groups gave confidence to the ethnics and allowed them to assimilate into American culture at their own chosen pace.’


Ethnic is sometimes used in a euphemistic way to refer to non-white people as a whole, as in a radio station which broadcasts to the ethnic community in Birmingham. Although this usage is quite common, more specific terms such as ‘black’ or ‘Asian’ are preferable. Note that use of the word as a noun is often regarded as offensive, especially in British English, and is best avoided


Late Middle English (denoting a person not of the Christian or Jewish faith): via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek ethnikos ‘heathen, pagan’, from ethnos ‘nation’. Current senses date from the 19th century.