eth·​nic | \ ˈeth-nik How to pronounce ethnic (audio) \

Definition of ethnic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of or relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background ethnic minorities ethnic enclaves
b : being a member of a specified ethnic group an ethnic German
c : of, relating to, or characteristic of a minority ethnic group ethnic neighborhoods ethnic foods
2 : of or relating to the Gentiles or to nations not converted to Christianity : heathen, pagan … ancient ethnic revels of a faith long since forsaken …— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



Definition of ethnic (Entry 2 of 2)

chiefly US
: a member of an ethnic group especially : a member of a minority group who retains the customs, language, or social views of the group

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Synonyms & Antonyms for ethnic

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

  • nonracial
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Examples of ethnic in a Sentence

Adjective The U.S. has a wide variety of ethnic groups made up of immigrants or their descendants. children who were raised in a home where there was a strong ethnic consciousness
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Declines in the general fertility rate were seen across racial and ethnic groups. Los Angeles Times, "Record-low U.S. birth rate fell another 4% in 2020, CDC says," 4 May 2021 Focus interventions through a racial equity framework — Public and private entities should intentionally focus their housing intervention efforts around reducing racial and ethnic disparities. Bailey Loosemore, The Courier-Journal, "'Extreme disparities' in housing between Black, white residents magnified by COVID-19," 4 May 2021 As vaccine supply catches up with demand, the nation's attention has centered on how to reach out to key vaccine holdouts like racial and ethnic minorities or White, evangelical Christians. Richard Galant, CNN, "Donald Trump saw it coming," 2 May 2021 Native Americans across the country had death rates higher than any other racial or ethnic group in the country. New York Times, "Indian Health Service Settles Dispute Over Care in New Mexico," 2 May 2021 Scott didn't downplay the country's racial and ethnic differences, but said Democrats ignore the country's strides over the past century for political and financial gain. Mabinty Quarshie, USA TODAY, "OnPolitics: 'America is ready for a takeoff'," 30 Apr. 2021 Students from traditionally underserved racial and ethnic groups don't fare as well on the test, and had an average score of 17.7. Tim Harlow, Star Tribune, "Robbinsdale Armstrong High School senior earns perfect ACT score on first try," 30 Apr. 2021 As international audiences for the medium grow, so have discussions about the ways in which characters of different racial and ethnic backgrounds are depicted in anime. Kat Moon, Time, "'Some Seeds Are Being Planted.' How Yasuke Paves a New Path for Black Creators in Anime," 30 Apr. 2021 The National Academy of Medicine is among many groups concluding that increasing racial and ethnic diversity among physicians would markedly improve care, access, and life expectancy for minority populations. Usha Lee Mcfarling, STAT, "After 40 years, medical schools are admitting fewer Black male or Native American students," 28 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The word ethnic is often identified with White people; expanding the concept of ethnicity to non-White people who also have cultural heritages important and valuable to them is a positive step for this nation. Vanessa Williams, Washington Post, "Kamala Harris forces us to look beyond Black and White," 14 Aug. 2020 My research traces the history of the roughly 14 million ethnic Germans expelled by national governments across Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, in reaction to the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. Anil Menon, The Conversation, "Postwar forced resettlement of Germans echoes through the decades," 7 May 2020 Politicians can’t simply rely on the support of co-ethnics. Gabrielle Lynch, Quartz Africa, "In Kenya elite collaboration is more important than ethnicity for political power and stability," 20 Feb. 2020 The move followed an announcement by Gen. Richard Clarke in August of a comprehensive review of Special Operations Forces' culture and ethnics. NBC News, "Navy SEAL team leaders relieved of duty for 'breakdown of order and discipline"," 7 Sep. 2019 Then with Lacroix from 1987 until 2009 shows were like stage productions for me, with all inspiration coming from history and art, or folk and ethnics. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "Talking With @fkachristianlacroix, aka the Real Christian Lacroix, About Instagram and the 1980s," 13 Mar. 2019 The mayor enjoyed support from the city’s working-class white ethnics—Irish, Italians, Poles and others—who had long been a pillar of the Democrats’ winning coalition but were abandoning the party in the 1960s over a raft of social issues. David Greenberg, WSJ, "A Half Century of ‘Liberal Media Bias’," 23 Aug. 2018 In the late 1960s, the mayor was wooing white ethnics. Sam Roberts, New York Times, "Mary Sansone, a Grass-Roots Political Godmother, Dies at 101," 15 May 2018 Researchers have said that facial recognition algorithms often fail to identify, or misidentify, people of certain racial or ethnics groups. Jon Schuppe /, NBC News, "Axon's police body cams could be getting an AI upgrade. Civil rights groups are worried.," 26 Apr. 2018

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

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First Known Use of ethnic


1542, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1941, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ethnic


Middle English, from Late Latin ethnicus, from Greek ethnikos national, gentile, from ethnos nation, people; akin to Greek ēthos custom — more at sib

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Statistics for ethnic

Last Updated

7 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ethnic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for ethnic



English Language Learners Definition of ethnic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of or relating to races or large groups of people who have the same customs, religion, origin, etc.
: associated with or belonging to a particular race or group of people who have a culture that is different from the main culture of a country



English Language Learners Definition of ethnic (Entry 2 of 2)

chiefly US : a person who belongs to a particular ethnic group


eth·​nic | \ ˈeth-nik How to pronounce ethnic (audio) \

Kids Definition of ethnic

: of or relating to groups of people with common characteristics and customs ethnic food

Other Words from ethnic

ethnically \ -​ni-​kə-​lē \ adverb

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