eth·nic | \ˈeth-nik \

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

ethnical, racial, tribal

Antonyms: Adjective


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Examples of ethnic in a Sentence


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

Three of the soccer players and their coach are all stateless ethnic minorities, according to The New York Times. Christianna Silva, Teen Vogue, "The Thai Soccer Players Are Being Reunited With Families Following Their Cave Rescue," 11 July 2018 Three of the boys and their coach are ethnic minorities and stateless, having fled from Myanmar to Thailand, where such immigrants often face poverty and discrimination. Robyn Dixon,, "Tears flow as Thai boys and parents see each other for first time since cave rescue," 11 July 2018 Just one week after that game, Croatia's pro-independence parties won the first multi-party elections in Yugoslavia, fuelling ethnic tensions between Zagreb and Belgrade, which was opposed to the country's break-up. Lajla Veselica And Nicolas Gaudichet,, "Croatia's World Cup quarterfinals run revives national pride," 5 July 2018 California is home to some of the largest populations of ethnic minorities and diaspora communities in the country. Emily Cadei, sacbee, "Kamala Harris is coming to Puerto Rico's aid. Will Puerto Ricans in Florida return the favor?," 25 June 2018 But, of course, those underlying ethnic tensions never actually went away. Jennifer Williams, Vox, "South Sudan’s civil war has raged for 5 years. Now the leaders of the two sides are meeting.," 20 June 2018 Before becoming an outspoken pillar of Philly’s sizable Liberian community, Woewiyu allegedly played an integral part in stoking ethnic tensions that led to unspeakable violence. Aubrey Nagle,, "Schools buy war-zone trauma kits, Trump-Kim summit recap | Morning Newsletter," 12 June 2018 This is one of those moments that bring to the forefront how invisible Hispanics — living in U.S. territory for centuries and the largest ethnic minority in America — are in the national political conversation. Fabiola Santiago, miamiherald, "Adiós, Paul Ryan. You were an even more spineless Republican than Marco Rubio | Miami Herald," 13 Apr. 2018 Yet people working in Southeast Asia have long warned of the platform’s potential to weaponize information, amplify ethnic tensions and even incite violence. Laignee Barron, Time, "Could Facebook Have Helped Stop the Spread of Hate in Myanmar?," 6 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 Here is our first: A guide to 32 don't-miss food events in Cleveland in 2018, pizza parties and ethnics fests, paczki parties, maple sugar weekends and the return of the Fabulous Food Show., "32 don't-miss Cleveland food events: 365 things to do in 2018," 10 Jan. 2018 The German-American Bund was founded in 1936 by pro-Nazi ethnic Germans living in the United States. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Footage Recalls the Night Madison Square Garden Filled With Nazis," 13 Oct. 2017 The group officials see as among the most vulnerable to Russian influence is the more than one million ethnic Germans who immigrated from the former Soviet Union. Anton Troianovski, WSJ, "Merkel’s Electoral Rivals Target Her Russia Policy," 13 Sep. 2017 This is a realistic assessment for many subgroups within the U.S. population—particularly those of lower economic status, minority ethnics, many women, the aged, and the unemployed—in earlier historical periods marked by high unemployment. Ray Pratt, Slate Magazine, "Paranoia Rises When We Feel Politically Powerless," 31 May 2017 The Fula people are a Muslim ethnic group thought to have roots in the Middle East and North Africa, who are now widely dispersed across West Africa. Martha Ross, The Mercury News, "Rachel Dolezal, who famously claimed to be a black woman, takes African name," 2 Mar. 2017

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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Phrases Related to ethnic

ethnic minorities

Statistics for ethnic

Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for ethnic

The first known use of ethnic was in 1542

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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)

: a person who belongs to a particular ethnic group


eth·nic | \ˈeth-nik \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on ethnic

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Spanish Central: Translation of ethnic

Nglish: Translation of ethnic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ethnic for Arabic Speakers

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