apart·​heid | \ ə-ˈpär-ˌtāt How to pronounce apartheid (audio) , -ˌtīt How to pronounce apartheid (audio) \

Essential Meaning of apartheid

: a former social system in South Africa in which black people and people from other racial groups did not have the same political and economic rights as white people and were forced to live separately from white people

Full Definition of apartheid

1 : racial segregation specifically : a former policy of segregation and political, social, and economic discrimination against the nonwhite majority in the Republic of South Africa

Note: The extreme racial segregation of apartheid lasted from 1948 to 1994 and included such restrictions as where people of certain races (see race entry 1 sense 1a) could live or own land, what jobs they could hold, and who could and couldn't participate in government.

2 : separation, segregation cultural apartheid gender apartheid

Examples of apartheid in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web After the collapse of apartheid, the archbishop took on a new role, shepherding the country’s difficult transition as head of its Truth and Reconciliation Commission. New York Times, 31 Dec. 2021 America’s civil rights pioneers inspired South Africa’s successful struggle to throw off the shackles of apartheid, Tutu said. al, 27 Dec. 2021 Following the end of apartheid in 1994, when South Africa became a democracy, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that documented atrocities and sought to promote national reconciliation. Andrew Meldrum, USA TODAY, 27 Dec. 2021 While Tutu’s optimistic vision went on to face several challenges in the following decades, he is widely remembered as one of the key players, alongside Mandela, who helped bring the injustices of apartheid to an end. Liam Hess, Vogue, 26 Dec. 2021 The protests widened into looting and an outpouring of anger over the hardship and inequality that persist in South Africa 27 years after the end of apartheid. Reuters, CNN, 15 Dec. 2021 At the last municipal elections in 2016 the ANC got 54%, at the time its lowest vote share since the end of apartheid. NBC News, 4 Nov. 2021 For decades, boycotts and cultural isolation were a major weapon in the war against apartheid. Ryan Lenora Brown, The Christian Science Monitor, 9 Dec. 2021 His assertion in 2020 that apartheid was not a crime against humanity stirred up a furor in South Africa. Andrew Meldrun And Cara Anna, Anchorage Daily News, 11 Nov. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'apartheid.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of apartheid

1947, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for apartheid

Afrikaans, from apart apart + -heid -hood

Learn More About apartheid

Time Traveler for apartheid

Time Traveler

The first known use of apartheid was in 1947

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near apartheid

apart from anything else



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for apartheid

Last Updated

12 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Apartheid.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apartheid. Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!