[ey-zhuh n, ey-shuh n]


of, belonging to, or characteristic of Asia or its inhabitants.


a native or inhabitant of Asia, or a person of Asian descent.

Origin of Asian

1555–65; < Latin Asiānus < Greek Asiānós. See Asia, -an
Related formshalf-A·sian, adjective, nounnon-A·sian, adjective, nounpro-A·sian, adjective
Can be confusedAsian Asiatic Oriental (see usage note at the current entry)

Usage note

Asian is the most commonly used term referring to people in or from Asia, especially East Asia. In American English, Oriental as a noun or adjective applied to people is outdated and has become a sensitive term to be avoided. It is associated with a bygone era in which Asians had subordinate status and their culture was perceived as strange and exotic. Also, the origin of the term Oriental represents a Eurocentric view of geography, since the Orient, or East, is east of Europe.
However, Oriental is a neutral, inoffensive term when used as an adjective describing Asian culture or things from Asia. Similarly, the term Asiatic is usually offensive when referring to people, but neutral when referring to Asian culture, animals, etc. Though Asian is an acceptable ethnic designation in most contexts, it is best to be as specific as possible, rather than to group all Asians into a single cultural identity. In general, people of South, Southeast, and East Asian origin prefer to be identified by their country of origin: for example, Indian, Pakistani, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, or Chinese. The people of the Middle or Near East and Polynesia are not referred to as Asian. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for asian

Contemporary Examples of asian

Historical Examples of asian

  • There was also an Australian opal and an Asian emerald, the latter greener than the grass.

    The Paliser case

    Edgar Saltus

  • We were close upon the Asian shore, and I put the helm down to go about.

    Paul Patoff

    F. Marion Crawford

  • The Asian rivers that are important highways of commerce are few in number.

    Commercial Geography

    Jacques W. Redway

  • These ports are destined to become the chief American ports in the Asian trade.

    Commercial Geography

    Jacques W. Redway

  • Malagigi sat repenting in his Asian grotto, like S. Gerolamo in the pictures.


    Henry Festing Jones

British Dictionary definitions for asian



of or relating to Asia or to any of its peoples or languages
British of or relating to natives of the Indian subcontinent or any of their descendants, esp when living in Britain


a native or inhabitant of Asia or a descendant of one
British a native of the Indian subcontinent or a descendant of one


To refer to someone from the Indian subcontinent as an Asian is potentially offensive and should be avoided. If you are talking about one specific group, it is better to say so, for instance people of Indian descent
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

Word Origin and History for asian



late 14c., "inhabitant of Asia (Minor)," from Latin Asianus (adjective and noun, "belonging to the province of Asia;" "an inhabitant of Asia"), from Greek Asianos, from Asia (see Asia). Ousted Asiatic as the preferred term in Britain c.1950.

The term "Asiatic" has come to be regarded with disfavour by those to whom it is applied, and they feel entitled to be brought into line with usage in regard to Europeans, Americans and Australians. ["Times Literary Supplement," Feb. 6, 1953]

As an adjective in English, by 1690s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper