[ eth-nik ]
See synonyms for ethnic on
  1. pertaining to or characteristic of a people, especially a group (ethnic group ) sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.

  2. referring to the origin, classification, characteristics, etc., of such groups.

  1. being a member of an ethnic group, especially of a group that is a minority within a larger society: ethnic Chinese in San Francisco.

  2. of, relating to, or characteristic of members of such a group.

  3. belonging to or deriving from the cultural, religious, or linguistic traditions of a people or country: ethnic dances.

  4. (of a human being) displaying characteristics, as in physical appearance, language, or accent, that can cause one to be identified by others as a member of a minority ethnic group: Her new boyfriend looks ethnic to me.

  5. Obsolete. pagan; heathen.

  1. a member of an ethnic group.

Origin of ethnic

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English ethnik “heathen,” from Late Latin ethnicus, from Greek ethnikós; see ethno-, -ic

Other words for ethnic

Other words from ethnic

  • eth·ni·cal·ly, adverb
  • in·ter·eth·nic, adjective

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

How to use ethnic in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for ethnic



/ (ˈɛθnɪk) /

  1. relating to or characteristic of a human group having racial, religious, linguistic, and certain other traits in common

  2. relating to the classification of mankind into groups, esp on the basis of racial characteristics

  1. denoting or deriving from the cultural traditions of a group of people: the ethnic dances of Slovakia

  2. characteristic of another culture: the ethnic look; ethnic food

  1. mainly US and Australian a member of an ethnic group, esp a minority group

Origin of ethnic

C14 (in the senses: heathen, Gentile): from Late Latin ethnicus, from Greek ethnikos, from ethnos race

usage For ethnic

Referring to a person as an ethnic is broadly acceptable in the US, Australia and Canada, but could well cause offence in the UK and elsewhere

Derived forms of ethnic

  • ethnically, adverb
  • ethnicity (ɛθˈnɪsɪtɪ), noun

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