[ red-skin ]
/ ˈrɛdˌskɪn /

noun Older Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.

a contemptuous term used to refer to a North American Indian.



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Origin of redskin

?1760–70; red1 + skin; probably loan translation of French peau rouge, itself translated from an American Indian term

usage note for redskin

The date and origin of this term is in dispute. Evidence seems to show that in the 1760s, French colonists in the Mississippi Valley translated a Native American spoken term into the French language as peau rouge , which was then translated into English as redskin. Through the early part of the 19th century, American Indians continued to use their native word self-referentially, and it was translated into spoken and written English as redskin with no derogatory connotations, even as a term of respect. However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, within the historical context of white-Indian hostilities, use of the term redskin was associated with attitudes of contempt and condescension. By the 1960s, redskin had declined in use; because of heightened cultural sensitivities, it was perceived as offensive. Yet use of the term survives in the names of some sports teams. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


Why is redskin trending?

On July 3, 2020, searches for redskin increased 3,047% compared to the previous week after calls mounted for the Washington Redskins football team to change its name.

More information on redskin

Amid growing awareness of systemic racism in the U.S. following the George Floyd protests, teams like the Washington Redskins are facing increasing pressure to change their names due to the racism of the word.

While the history of the term redskin is complex (see our Usage Note on this page), the term redskin has clearly become a racist way to refer to Native Americans. In addition to the use of the term as a team name, Native Americans, among others, find the caricatured imagery of Native Americans used in team logos and mascots offensive.

While threats from corporations and investors about pulling their sponsorships have recently dominated headlines over the Washington Redskins name controversy, Native American activists, notably Suzan Shown Harjo, have long called for the name changes.

The ongoing 2020 protests against systemic racism has also sparked change in other names and symbols with racist associations. Learn more in our Trends And News section for our definition page on Dixie as well as our editorial article on the Confederate flag.

British Dictionary definitions for redskin

/ (ˈrɛdˌskɪn) /


an old-fashioned informal name, now considered taboo, for a Native American

Word Origin for redskin

C17: so called because one particular tribe, the now extinct Beothuks of Newfoundland, painted themselves with red ochre
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