[ in-dee-uhn ]
/ ˈɪn di ən /
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Origin of Indian

First recorded in 1350–1400; from Medieval Latin Indiānus; replacing Middle English Indien, from Old French, from Medieval Latin as above; see India, -an

usage note for Indian

Because Christopher Columbus mistakenly believed that the Caribbean island on which he had landed was the subcontinent of India, he called the inhabitants Indians. Eventually, that name was applied to almost all the Indigenous, non-European inhabitants of North and South America. In modern times Indian may refer to an inhabitant of the subcontinent of India or of the East Indies, to a citizen of the Republic of India, or to a member of an aboriginal American people. However, the term Indian is not applied to the Inuit, Yupik, and Aleut of Arctic North America.
In the 18th century the term American Indian came to be used for the aboriginal inhabitants of the United States and Canada; it now includes the aboriginal peoples of South America as well. (When necessary, further distinctions are made with such terms as North American Indian and South American Indian. ) The terms Amerindian and Amerind subsequently developed in the attempt to reduce ambiguity. The most recent designation, especially in North America, is Native American. American Indians themselves tend to favor the terms Indian, American Indian, or a specific tribal name. They sometimes refer to themselves collectively as Indian peoples. All these terms appear in edited writing. Whether one or several will gain ascendancy over the others remains to be seen. See Eskimo. See also honest Injun, Indian giver.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use Indian in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Indian

/ (ˈɪndɪən) /

a native, citizen, or inhabitant of the Republic of India
old-fashioned, taboo a Native American
(not in scholarly usage) any of the languages of Native Americans
of, relating to, or characteristic of India, its inhabitants, or any of their languages
(Not in scholarly usage) of, relating to, or characteristic of Native Americans or any of their languages

undefined Indian

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