Latine vs. Latinx: How And Why They’re Used

dark green text "latine vs latinx" on light green background

The terms we use to refer to other people—and ourselves—can communicate a lot about identity, and sometimes even a single letter can make a big difference. Perhaps you know the words Latino and Latina. But have you encountered Latinx or Latine? Even if you have, you might still be confused about why they’re used and whether there’s a difference.

In this article, we’ll explain the reasons and ways that Latinx and Latine are used, cover their overlap and differences, and discuss their pronunciation and origin. Along the way, we’ll answer these questions and others:

  • Why are Latine and Latinx sometimes used instead of Latino and Latina?
  • Is there a difference between Latine and Latinx?
  • How do you use Latinx, Latine, Latino, and Latina correctly?
  • Who uses Latine and Latinx, and why do some people object to them?

Quick Summary

Latinx and Latine are both gender-neutral versions of Latino and Latina, whose -o and -a endings correspond to the masculine and feminine forms traditionally assigned to nouns and adjectives in the Spanish language. Although Latino is often used as the default gender-neutral form (both in Spanish and English), the words Latinx and Latine are used by those who want to avoid the association with gender altogether, as a way to avoid gendered language when it’s not relevant or specifically for use when referring to nonbinary people or groups in which more than one gender is represented. Latinx is more well-known among English speakers. Latine is sometimes preferred, especially when communicating in Spanish, for various reasons, such as being more natural to pronounce or to form plurals with. However, not everyone with this heritage uses Latine or Latinx, with many continuing to use Latino as a gender-neutral default. Additionally, some people instead prefer to identify with terms that indicate their heritage more specifically, such as Mexican American, among many, many others.

First, a note about Latino and Hispanic

Our discussion of Latine and Latinx must begin by addressing the term they’re derived from—Latino—and how it differs from Hispanic. The word Hispanic carries with it the specification of a person’s language, referring to people from or with a heritage rooted in Spanish-speaking Latin American countries or Spain. Latino is used as an identifier among people from or with a heritage rooted in Latin America, irrespective of language and inclusive of countries where Spanish is not the most widely spoken language, such as Brazil and Haiti. Of course, for some people, both terms apply. A Spanish-speaking person from Mexico, for example, may identify as either Latino or Hispanic depending on the context or situation. A contrasting example is that many (Portuguese-speaking) Brazilians identify as Latino but not Hispanic.

Read more about the distinction between Hispanic and Latino.

Latinx and Latine as gender-neutral alternatives

Latinx and Latine are gender-neutral alternatives to Latino and Latina. They are also used to describe a group that includes more than one gender. The use of such alternatives is based on the fact that respective -o and -a endings of Latino and Latina correspond to the masculine and feminine forms traditionally assigned to nouns and adjectives in Spanish, which like many other languages assigns grammatical gender to certain words.

In Spanish, the masculine -o ending is traditionally used as the gender-neutral default. This practice is carried over to English in many Spanish-derived words, including Latino.

Terms like Latinx and Latine are examples of a shift away from using inherently masculine terms in this way, representing a move toward truly gender-neutral language. Gender-neutral terms like these avoid specifying gender when it’s unknown or unnecessary to mention. They promote inclusivity and help to reduce discrimination and bias around gender. More specifically, such terms make space for people and others whose gender identities fall outside or beyond the binary of male and female.

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What is the difference between Latine and Latinx?

Latinx and Latine have the same meaning and can be used in all the same ways. Still, those who use them usually use either one or the other due to preferences that can be based on a number of factors, including pronunciation, pluralization, and what language is being spoken. (In this article, we’ll use them interchangeably.)

Unlike many words, Latinx originated in written media, which has resulted in different pronunciations, including [ luh-tee-neks ], [ lat-n-eks ], and, particularly among Spanish speakers, [ la-teen-ek-ees ] (in which the ending -x is said as the name of the letter X in Spanish—“equis”).

This may account for the familiarity that English speakers have with Latinx, which is less so among Spanish speakers. Even with the Spanish pronunciation of X as “equis,” Latinx can be cumbersome to pronounce as well as apply to adjective-to-noun agreement in Spanish.

In a Spanish-speaking context, Latine is thought to flow more naturally. Adding to its adoption among some speakers is the fact that it can be pronounced easily in both Spanish and English. The E is often vocalized, resulting in the pronunciation [ lah-tee-ney ]. Other times, especially in English language contexts, it may be pronounced as [ luh teen ].

Like Latinx, Latine can be used as a noun or as an adjective. When Latine is used as an adjective in Spanish, the noun that it describes can also be modified to reflect a similar gender-neutral variant (as in niñes Latines, meaning “Latine children”). The substitution of -e endings for the gendered -o and -a is already present in Spanish in nouns such as estudiante (“student”) and adjectives such as interesante (“interesting”) and inteligente (“intelligent”).

Similarly, most people also find Latine easier to pluralize in English (Latines, as opposed to Latinxs, which creates its own questions about pronunciation).

How to use Latine and Latinx 

Is there a “correct” way to use Latinx or Latine? Use often depends on several factors, including whether the word is being written or spoken, and whether it’s being used when communicating in Spanish or English.

Those who use Latinx or Latine often use them when referring to large groups or entire communities or populations.

In contrast, Latinx or Latine are not usually used when an individual is being addressed or referred to and their gender is known to be male or female. This is also the case when addressing or referring to a group that is either entirely male or entirely female. In both of these cases, the forms Latino and Latina (and their plurals) are usually used. For this same reason, most men and women choose to identify themselves as either Latino or Latina.

Still, others may apply Latine or Latinx in these situations, perhaps in an effort to normalize gender-neutral language.

Discover these gender-neutral alternatives for sir and madam as well.

As always, if you’re wondering how to best refer to an individual, it’s best to ask. Remember that in many cases, people prefer to be identified based on their own or their family’s specific country of origin, such as Puerto Rican or Mexican American.

Who uses Latine and Latinx?

Today, the term Latinx is most commonly used by people communicating in English, including by bilingual speakers. Latine, used by some in replacement of Latinx, is most commonly used in Spanish communication, with use increasing in English. For example, you may have encountered both in alternate names for Hispanic Heritage Month (sometimes called Latinx Heritage Month or Latine Heritage Month).

Latine and Latinx both originated among Spanish-speaking LGBTQ+ communities as a means of being gender inclusive. (Read more about their origin in the next section: Where do Latinx and Latine come from?) Many objections to the terms’ use are criticized as being rooted in anti-LGBTQ+ and particularly anti-nonbinary sentiments. In particular, politicized backlash has arisen in response to gender-inclusive efforts that often involve such terms, with notable examples including a ban on gender-neutral language in Argentina and Florida’s Don’t Say Gay Bill in the US.

It’s important to note that not everyone with Latin American heritage uses Latine or Latinx, with many continuing to use Latino as a gender-neutral default.

One reason some individuals choose not to use Latinx in particular relates to compatibility issues with Spanish, especially when spoken. Often because of these issues, the origin of Latinx is sometimes misattributed to white academics—leading some to reject it as a form of colonialism.

This misattribution, however, is criticized for contributing to the erasure of the queer, Latin American roots of the word. Relatedly, it’s also criticized for reinforcing the notion of Latine people as “perpetual foreigners” in the US and operating under the assumption that Latine-created words must themselves only be Spanish words or must be conducive to Spanish-speaking norms. This ignores the fact that Latinx people include English-speakers and non-Spanish-speakers in countries across the Americas—and that Latinx individuals can and do coin words in English that are meant to be used with English language norms.

It’s also important to note that some people object to the word Latino itself—and all of its variations—due to its Eurocentric root (Latin), which has been criticized for erasing the Black, Indigenous, and other non-European heritages and histories of many Latinx people.

Where do Latinx and Latine come from?

Latinx and Latine originated in Spanish-speaking LGBTQ+ communities across Latin American countries and the US. Like Hispanic and Latino, these are both very broad terms that encompass people with many different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The earliest known uses of Latinx online and in print come from around 2004.

It’s also because of the LGBTQ+ community that Latinx gained greater national visibility in the US in 2016. In response to the mass shooting at Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the word Latinx was used in many media reports as a way of encompassing the gender identities of all victims. Awareness of the use and pronunciation of Latinx has increased since then.

Latine emerged around this time, using the non-gender-specific ending -e that’s found in some nouns and adjectives derived from Spanish present participles.

Read about other gender terms you may not know.

The effort to move away from dominant masculine identities in the Spanish language has a long history. One term that gained some prominence during the 1990s is Latin@, which was meant to give equal weight to both the -o and -a endings. Though it is still used by some today (mainly in writing, due to its ambiguous pronunciation), Latin@ is often seen as limiting in terms of representing just the -o and -a endings.

In contrast, the -x ending in Latinx and the -e ending in Latine are interpreted as being able to represent a multitude of identities outside of the gender binary, including fluid ones. In particular, the letterhas a radical history within Latin American culture.

X: A revolutionary letter 

The intersection of language and activism has a long history in Latin America and beyond, continuing today with activist groups pushing for more inclusive language.

The use of as an alternate ending in Spanish likely originates in Latin America decades before English speakers became aware of Latinx. Its roots are often traced to the act of crossing out the -o ending in certain words as part of protests and graffiti.

The letter X also has a central place in the identity of the Mexican American, or Chicano, community. The word Chicano, derived from a particular pronunciation of mexicano (in which the X is spoken with the Nahuatl sh sound), was originally used in a derogatory way toward Mexican people with Indigenous backgrounds. However, by the mid-1900s, the Mexican American community reclaimed the term Chicano as a way of embracing Indigenous heritage. Alternative forms of Chicano, including Xicano and Xicana, reflect the word’s origin and its use to uplift Indigenous identity. The gender-neutral form Xicanx follows the same pattern as Latinx.

Use of Xicano is often intended as an act of defiance against the legacy of Spanish colonization, In a similar way, many use Latinx and Latine as a way of defying the gender binary.

In English, the letter X has a history of being used to create gender-neutral terms and words that uplift the LGBTQ+ community. Examples include words like folx, womxn, and the more recent bachelorx.

Similar terms are likely to continue to emerge. The continuing evolution of Latinx and Latine is a great example of how words can evolve across languages and even coexist. It’s also a reminder that the existence of one variant of a word doesn’t delegitimize the existence of another.

Do you know these 16 Spanish-derived words that highlight Hispanic cultures?

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