Acronyms dictionary


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What does APIDA mean?

APIDA is an abbreviation that stands for Asian Pacific Islander Desi American. 

The term is meant to refer to US citizens and residents who identify as Asian, Pacific Islander, or Desi (or who have an identity that includes one of these heritages). Desi is sometimes used as an identifying term for a person who is of South Asian descent or who traces their heritage to the Indian subcontinent. Please note: the meaning and implications of the word Desi vary from person to person.

APIDA is most commonly used as an adjective, as in APIDA students or the APIDA community. 

Other terms and abbreviations have been and are used as a short way of referring to this diverse group, including Asian American Pacific Islander (abbreviated as AAPI). APIDA is often used with the intent to be more explicitly inclusive of South Asians (though not everyone who has South Asian heritage identifies as Desi). However, APIDA is somewhat less commonly used.

Example: The reading list included many books by APIDA authors.

Related words

AAPI, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Chinese New Year emoji, 🌏 Globe Showing Asia-Australia, 🥮 Mooncake emoji, 🧕 Person With Headscarf emoji

Where does APIDA come from?

APIDA stands for Asian Pacific Islander Desi American. The term encompasses a wide group of identities, including people with a heritage rooted in the Pacific Islands and all of Asia, including Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

The term is used in the context of US citizens and residents who are originally from or who have heritage that’s rooted in these places:

  • The term Asian American refers to a US citizen or resident of Asian birth or descent.
  • The term Pacific Islander is used (including by the US Census Bureau and other organizations) to refer to people who were born on an island in the Pacific Ocean or trace their heritage to one. Examples of Pacific Islanders include Native Hawaiians and people of Samoan or Tongan descent.
  • The word Desi is sometimes used as an identifying term for a person who is of South Asian descent or who traces their heritage to one or more South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Nepal, and Bhutan. Its exact meaning and implications vary from person to person. Some use it as a positive self-identifier, while others avoid it because they view it as too limiting or even disparaging.

APIDA is newer than similar terms like AAPI. It began to gain usage in the 2010s.

APIDA is sometimes used instead of or alongside AAPI, especially as a way to be more inclusive of South Asians.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which is observed in May) is sometimes called Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month or APIDA Heritage Month. 

APIDA is often used in discussion (and in the names) of organizations for people who identify as part of these communities. It’s also used in discussions focused on the specific issues faced by the people in these groups, including racism, discrimination, and the experiences that come with intersection of their identities.

Examples of APIDA

To my APIDA friends, I’m here. I’m with you. I got you.
@PatrickJHale, March 17, 2021
Excited to hear more about a project a student is working on specifically accessing and responding to the experiences of the APIDA community
@justingofficial, June 8, 2020

Who uses APIDA?

APIDA is used alongside or instead of similar terms like AAPI. Still, not everyone who identifies as an Asian American, Pacific Islander, or Desi American uses these identifiers, with some preferring to use more specific terms. In particular, some people prefer to avoid the term Desi due to various reasons. Separately, some Pacific Islanders have called for the separation of the terms to avoid erasing or overshadowing specific issues and forms of racism and colonialism that affect Pacific Islander communities.


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This is not meant to be a formal definition of APIDA like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of APIDA that will help our users expand their word mastery.