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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for ethnic

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

  • nonracial
Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Have the state Department of Education advise school districts across the state on how best to access literacy programs to improve reading proficiency and reduce economic, racial and ethnic disparities. Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press, "What Whitmer promised group of Detroit school students in literacy settlement," 14 May 2020 Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Vermont, and New York do not report the racial or ethnic breakdown of coronavirus cases. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, "A New Low in COVID-19 Data Standards," 14 May 2020 The study is being structured to ensure geographic, socioeconomic and racial and ethnic diversity. oregonlive, "OHSU to begin notifying Oregonians selected for coronavirus study," 12 May 2020 Only about half of the posts were ultimately removed; the company’s moderators appeared more rigorous in enforcing cases of racial and ethnic slurs than misogyny. Tom Simonite, Wired, "Facebook's AI for Hate Speech Improves. How Much Is Unclear," 12 May 2020 Hispanics are nearly twice as likely as whites to have lost their jobs amid the , according to a underlining that the pandemic is wreaking a disproportionate toll on some racial and ethnic groups. Scott Clement, Washington Post, "Hispanics are almost twice as likely as whites to lose their jobs amid coronavirus pandemic," 6 May 2020 That number decreases even further for women from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. Naima Cochrane, Essence, "Hey Verzuz, Here's More Women You Can Put In The Game," 4 May 2020 Wheeler is also silent regarding the role of racial and ethnic differences in exposure and risk, even though a federal court called EPA to task in 2009 for not specifically addressing at-risk groups. H. Christopher Frey, The Conversation, "EPA decides to reject the latest science, endanger public health and ignore the law by keeping an outdated fine particle air pollution standard," 1 May 2020 That's a 6,900% increase — by far the largest percentage increase experienced by any one racial or ethnic group. Shannon Liao, CNN, "Unemployment claims from Asian Americans have spiked 6,900% in New York. Here's why," 1 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 For instance, in 2016 ethnic Amharas based in the Wolkait district opposed a federal plan that reorganized their land and placed it within the boundaries of the Tigray Regional State. Yohannes Y. Gedamu, Washington Post, "Ethiopia just pardoned political prisoners. Could that signal a shift to real democracy?," 9 Feb. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ethnic

Time Traveler for ethnic

Time Traveler

The first known use of ethnic was in 1542

See more words from the same year

Statistics for ethnic

Last Updated

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ethnic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for ethnic


How to pronounce ethnic (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on ethnic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ethnic

Spanish Central: Translation of ethnic

Nglish: Translation of ethnic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ethnic for Arabic Speakers

Comments on ethnic

What made you want to look up ethnic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Obscure Shapes

  • a pile of three dimensional shapes in green
  • Something that is ooid is shaped like:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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