ori·​en·​tal | \ ˌȯr-ē-ˈen-tᵊl How to pronounce oriental (audio) \

Definition of oriental

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 or Oriental : of, relating to, or situated in the Orient : eastern
2 or Oriental, sometimes offensive, see usage paragraph below : of, relating to, or coming from Asia and especially eastern Asia oriental food oriental art oriental medicine
3 Oriental : of, relating to, or constituting the biogeographic region that includes Asia south and southeast of the Himalayas and the Malay Archipelago west of Wallace's line
4a : of superior grade, luster, or value
b : being corundum or sapphire but simulating another gem in color


plural Orientals

Definition of Oriental (Entry 2 of 2)

1 dated, usually offensive, see usage paragraph below : asian especially : one who is a native of east Asia or is of east Asian descent

Other Words from oriental


orientally \ ˌȯr-​ē-​ˈen-​tᵊl-​ē How to pronounce oriental (audio) \ adverb

Usage of Oriental


The adjective oriental, which carries strong associations with colonialism and with language that others and exoticizes, is usually considered offensive when used by non-Asian people to describe people of various Asian identities. Its use to describe elements of Asian culture oriental music an oriental garden sometimes has a dated feel, but is not usually regarded as offensive.

Usage of Oriental


The noun Oriental has a long history of association with colonialism and with language that others and exoticizes people of various Asian identities. While Oriental is not offensive in senses 2 and 3 above, the use of Oriental to refer to a person is usually considered offensive.

First Known Use of oriental


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of oriental was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Oriental.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oriental. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for oriental


adjective, often capitalized
ori·​en·​tal | \ ˌōr-ē-ˈen-tᵊl How to pronounce oriental (audio) \

Kids Definition of oriental

1 sometimes offensive : asian entry 1
Hint: In the past, this word was not considered offensive when applied to Asian people. In recent years, however, many people have come to find the word hurtful when applied to a person, and you may offend someone by using it in that way.
2 : relating to or from the region that includes the countries of eastern Asia (as China, Japan, South Korea, and North Korea)

More from Merriam-Webster on oriental

Nglish: Translation of oriental for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of oriental for Arabic Speakers


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