Ne·​gro ˈnē-(ˌ)grō How to pronounce Negro (audio)
plural Negroes
dated, often offensive : a person of Black African ancestry
dated, often offensive : a member of a group of people formerly considered to constitute a race (see race entry 1 sense 1a) of humans having African ancestry and classified according to physical traits (such as dark skin pigmentation)
Negro adjective dated, often offensive
Negroid adjective or noun
or less commonly negroid
dated, often offensive
Negroness noun dated, often offensive
Usage of Negro and Negress

The terms Negro and, to a lesser extent, Negress were formerly in common use, but began to fall out of favor in the 1960s, and by the 1980s had largely been replaced in nonhistorical contexts by Black and African American. A few organizations continue to use Negro in their names, reflecting the historical preference for the term: the full name of the UNCF, a philanthropic education organization founded in the mid-20th century, is the United Negro College Fund, also called the United Fund; and the Negro League Baseball Museum, which documents the Black baseball leagues active largely between 1920 and the late 1940s, continues to carry the name used by those leagues. The use of Negro in these contexts and others like them is not regarded as offensive. Both Negro and Negress are sometimes used by Black people in self-reference, but use of either term by others is offensive.

Word History


Spanish or Portuguese, from negro black, from Latin nigr-, niger

First Known Use

1555, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of Negro was in 1555

Dictionary Entries Near Negro

Cite this Entry

“Negro.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


Ne·​gro ˈnē-grō How to pronounce Negro (audio)
plural Negroes
sometimes offensive
: a member of a race of humankind native to Africa and classified according to physical features (as dark skin coloration)
Negro adjective sometimes offensive
adjective or noun often capitalized sometimes offensive

from Spanish Negro or Portuguese Negro "a person of a black race," derived from Latin nigr-, niger "black"

Geographical Definition


geographical name

Ne·​gro ˈnā-(ˌ)grō How to pronounce Negro (audio)
river 400 miles (640 kilometers) long in south central Argentina flowing east into the Atlantic
river 1400 miles (2253 kilometers) long in eastern Colombia and northern Brazil flowing into the Amazon River
river 434 miles (698 kilometers) long in central Uruguay flowing southwest into the Uruguay River
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