noun Older Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.

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

Origin of redskin

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

Usage note

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. 2019

Examples from the Web for redskin

Contemporary Examples of redskin

  • According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, “Redskin” is labeled “usually offensive.”

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Racist Redskins

    Michael Tomasky

    June 1, 2013

  • Now, I should note: Redskin is not the equivalent of the N word, as some are saying.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Racist Redskins

    Michael Tomasky

    June 1, 2013

Historical Examples of redskin

  • A third man was something between the white-man and the redskin.

  • If a redskin had found it, he'd have taken better care o' it.

    The Fiery Totem

    Argyll Saxby

  • The redskin who threw me in here said he would kill me if I left.

    Rodney, the Ranger

    John V. Lane

  • In his guttural tongue the redskin appealed to Dan for a drink of water.

    For the Liberty of Texas

    Edward Stratemeyer

  • Moreover, the redskin made the mistake of trying to cling to his gun.

    Oh, You Tex!

    William Macleod Raine

British Dictionary definitions for redskin



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

Word Origin and History for redskin

"American Indian," 1690s, from red (adj.1) + skin (n.). Red as the skin color of Native Americans is from 1580s; red man is from 1580s. Cf. red cent.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper