African American

[ af-ri-kuhnuh-mer-i-kuhn ]

  1. an American with Black African ancestry.

  1. of or relating to African Americans.

  2. Af·ri·can-A·mer·i·can, occurring between the United States and Africa: Several international charities are promoting African-American cooperation in expanding access to safe drinking water.: See Grammar note at Spanish American.

Origin of African American

An Americanism dating back to 1780–90
  • Sometimes Afro-American, Af·ra·mer·i·can [af-ruh-mer-i-kuhn] /ˌæf rəˈmɛr ɪ kən/ .

usage note For African American

During the 1980s, many Americans sought to display pride in their immigrant origins. Linguistically, this brought about a brief period of short-form hyphenated designations, like Italo-Americans and Greco-Americans. The Black community also embraced the existing term Afro-American, a label that emphasized geographical or ethnic heritage over skin color. The related label, African American, also saw an increase in use among activists in the 1970s and 1980s. African American was even more widely adopted in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s after high-profile Black leaders advocated for it, arguing, as Jesse Jackson did, that the term brought “proper historical context” and had “cultural integrity.” See Black1.

word story For African American

See urban.

Words Nearby African American Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use African American in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for African-American


  1. an American of African descent

  1. of or relating to Americans of African descent

usage For African-American

This is the currently preferred term in the US for people of African ancestry

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012