apart·​heid ə-ˈpär-ˌtāt How to pronounce apartheid (audio) -ˌtīt How to pronounce apartheid (audio)
: racial segregation
specifically : a former policy of segregation and political, social, and economic discrimination against the non-white 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.

: separation, segregation
cultural apartheid
gender apartheid

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Some points Arraf made to students in attendance included: Israel is the oppressor, and Israel is an apartheid state. Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, 12 May 2023 South Africa’s relations with Moscow date back to the Cold War, when the now ruling African National Congress was backed by the Soviet Union in its struggle against the apartheid government. Missy Ryan, Washington Post, 11 May 2023 Remarkably, in spite of the evidence of supply shortages and vaccine apartheid, a WTO ministerial declaration issued in June failed to waive any IP barriers. Joseph Stiglitz, Scientific American, 14 Nov. 2022 Amid multiple crises over the last few years—a pandemic and ensuing vaccine apartheid, the war in Ukraine and a steady drumbeat of climate disasters—those debts have increased. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 9 Sep. 2022 The prevailing conditions have moved both Israeli and international human rights groups to determine that a form of apartheid exists in the country. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 11 Apr. 2023 But the bitter reality is that the Islamic Republic is an apartheid state for women, who are segregated from men in the workplace, in classrooms and at beaches; are banned from attending sports arenas, riding bicycles, and singing solo in public; and have to sit at the back of the bus. Marc Malkin, Variety, 16 Nov. 2022 The final blow came when several Arab coalition members refused to extend a two-tier legal system in the occupied West Bank, which has differentiated between Israeli settlers and Palestinians since Israel captured the territory in 1967 and which critics call a form of apartheid. Patrick Kingsley, BostonGlobe.com, 30 June 2022 But in September 1986, amid growing outrage among Americans over the brutality of apartheid, Congress voted to override Reagan's veto of legislation that placed economic sanctions on South Africa. Emily Langer, BostonGlobe.com, 28 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'apartheid.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Afrikaans, from apart apart + -heid -hood

First Known Use

1947, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of apartheid was in 1947

Dictionary Entries Near apartheid

Cite this Entry

“Apartheid.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apartheid. Accessed 29 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


apart·​heid ə-ˈpär-ˌtāt How to pronounce apartheid (audio) -ˌtīt How to pronounce apartheid (audio)
: racial segregation
especially : a policy of racial segregation formerly practiced in the Republic of South Africa
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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