[ reys ]
/ reɪs /
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verb (used without object), raced, rac·ing.
verb (used with object), raced, rac·ing.
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Origin of race

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English noun ras(e). rase “(forward) course, current; onslaught, charge,” from Old Norse rās “a running, race” (cognate with Old English rǣs “a running, race, rush”); verb derivative of the noun


an·ti·rac·ing, adjectivepre·rac·ing, adjectivepro·rac·ing, adjective

Other definitions for race (2 of 4)

[ reys ]
/ reɪs /

usage alert about race

Genetic evidence has undermined the idea of racial divisions of the human species and rendered race obsolete as a biological system of classification. Race therefore should no longer be considered as an objective category, as the term formerly was in expressions like the Caucasian race, the Asian race, the Hispanic race. Instead, if the reference is to a particular inherited physical trait, as skin color or eye shape, that salient feature should be mentioned specifically: discrimination based on color. Rather than using race to generalize about national or geographic origin, or even religious affiliation, it is better to be specific: South Korean, of Polish descent. References to cultural affiliation may refer to ethnicity or ethnic group: Kurdish ethnicity, Hispanic ethnicity. Though race is no longer considered a viable scientific categorization of humans, it continues to be used by the U.S. Census to refer to current prevalent categories of self-identification that include some physical traits, some historical affiliations, and some national origins: Black, white, American Indian, Chinese, Samoan, etc. The current version of the census also asks whether or not Americans are of Hispanic origin, which is not considered a race. There are times when it is still accurate to talk about race in society. Though race has lost its biological basis, the sociological consequences of historical racial categories persist. For example, it may be appropriate to invoke race to discuss social or historical events shaped by racial categorizations, as slavery, segregation, integration, discrimination, equal employment policy. Often in these cases, the adjective “racial” is more appropriate than the noun “race.” While the scientific foundation for race is now disputed, racial factors in sociological and historical contexts continue to be relevant.
of or relating to the races of humankind.

Origin of race

First recorded in 1490–1500; from Middle French race “group of people of common descent,” from Italian razza “kind, species”; further origin uncertain

synonym study for race

1. Race, people, ethnicity, ethnic group, and nation are terms for a large body of persons who may be thought of as a unit because of common characteristics. Race is no longer in technical use as a biological or anthropological system of classification (see usage note). In certain broader or less technical senses, race is sometimes used interchangeably with people. People refers to a body of persons united usually by common interests, ideals, or culture but sometimes also by a common history, or language: We are one people; the peoples of the world; the Swedish people. As with people, members of an ethnicity or ethnic group are united by a shared culture or culture of origin and sometimes shared history, language, or religion, especially in contrast to the culture of a different group: Several ethnicities were represented in the Pride parade. Hostility between ethnic groups divided the region. Nation refers to a current or historical body of persons living under an organized government or rule, occupying a defined area, and acting as a unit in matters of peace and war: the English nation; the Phoenician nation.

Other definitions for race (3 of 4)

[ reys ]
/ reɪs /

the root of the ginger plant; agingerroot.

Origin of race

First recorded in 1540–50; from Middle French rais, raiz from Latin rādīc- (stem of rādīx ) “root, lower part”; see origin at root1

Other definitions for race (4 of 4)

[ reys ]
/ reɪs /

Cape, a cape at the SE extremity of Newfoundland.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a basic definition of race?

A race is a contest of speed. As a verb, race means to engage in a speed contest or to move very quickly. The word race is also used to mean a group of people that shares certain characteristics. Race has many other senses as a noun and a verb.

In a race, two or more people compete to see who can reach a certain location first or who can travel a certain distance faster. A race can be formal, with judges and a crowd, or casual, as with a couple of children running across a yard. A person or thing that participates in a race is a racer.

  • Real-life examples: The Daytona 500 is a famous car race. The Olympic Games hosts races on land and in water. Children often have races to see who is fastest.
  • Used in a sentence: My brother beat me in the race to the last slice of pizza. 

In this sense, race is used as a verb to mean to take part in a race. Race can also mean either to compete against someone in a speed contest or to enter something in a race.

  • Used in a sentence: When Bill was a kid, he liked to race toy cars with his cousins. 

Race can also be used more generally to mean to move very fast.

  • Used in a sentence: The puppy raced through the living room and knocked over a chair. 

Race has been used to refer to a group of people who share certain characteristics, such as skin color. However, genetic evidence has proved that such groupings are not a scientific or biological classification for categories of humans. The term is still commonly used to generally refer to groups of people that share a skin color, heritage, origin, culture, or similar characteristics. This sense of race is an arbitrary label that lumps people together and is not scientific.

  • Used in a sentence: The 2020 US Census asked questions about gender, income, and race. 

The adjective racial comes from this sense of race, as in racial minority.

Where does race come from?

The first records of the contest sense of race come from around 1250. It ultimately comes from the Old Norse rās, meaning “a running or race.” The verb sense of this race comes from the noun.

The first records of the sense of race referring to a group of people come from around 1490. It ultimately comes from the Italian razza, which means “kind or species.”

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What are some other forms related to race?

  • racer (noun)
  • raceable (adjective)
  • antiracing (adjective)
  • preracing (adjective)
  • proracing (adjective)

What are some synonyms for race?

What are some words that share a root or word element with race?

What are some words that often get used in discussing race?

How is race used in real life?

Race is a commonly used word to mean a contest of speed or to move very fast. The term race is also often used unscientifically to refer to certain groups of people.

Try using race!​

Which of the following words is a synonym of race?

A. chase
B. dash
C. walk
D. rush

How to use race in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for race (1 of 4)

/ (reɪs) /

See also race off, races

Word Origin for race

C13: from Old Norse rās running; related to Old English rǣs attack

British Dictionary definitions for race (2 of 4)

/ (reɪs) /

a group of people of common ancestry, distinguished from others by physical characteristics, such as hair type, colour of eyes and skin, stature, etc. Principal races are Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid
the human race human beings collectively
a group of animals or plants having common characteristics that distinguish them from other members of the same species, usually forming a geographically isolated group; subspecies
a group of people sharing the same interests, characteristics, etcthe race of authors
play the race card informal to introduce the subject of race into a public discussion, esp to gain a strategic advantage

Word Origin for race

C16: from French, from Italian razza, of uncertain origin

British Dictionary definitions for race (3 of 4)

/ (reɪs) /

a ginger root

Word Origin for race

C15: from Old French rais, from Latin rādīx a root

British Dictionary definitions for race (4 of 4)

/ (reɪs) /

Cape Race a cape at the SE extremity of Newfoundland, Canada
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

Scientific definitions for race

[ rās ]

  1. An interbreeding, usually geographically isolated population of organisms differing from other populations of the same species in the frequency of hereditary traits. A race that has been given formal taxonomic recognition is known as a subspecies.
  2. A breed or strain, as of domestic animals.
Any of several extensive human populations associated with broadly defined regions of the world and distinguished from one another on the basis of inheritable physical characteristics, traditionally conceived as including such traits as pigmentation, hair texture, and facial features. Because the number of genes responsible for such physical variations is tiny in comparison to the size of the human genome and because genetic variation among members of a traditionally recognized racial group is generally as great as between two such groups, most scientists now consider race to be primarily a social rather than a scientific concept.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with race


see rat race; slow but sure (steady wins the race).

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.