oriental

adjective
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

Oriental

noun
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

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Other Words from oriental

Adjective

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

Usage of Oriental

Adjective

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

Noun

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.

The Latin Origins of Oriental and Occidental

The word oriental derives from the Latin orient-, oriens, meaning "the east" or "the part of the sky where the sun rises." Occidental, in contrast, derives from the Latin occident-, occidens, meaning "the west" or "the part of the sky where the sun sets." The geographical regions known as "the Orient" and "the Occident" are named for their positions relative to one another—east and west, respectively.

First Known Use of oriental

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for oriental

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for oriental

Last Updated

18 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Oriental.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oriental. Accessed 16 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for oriental

oriental

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of oriental

 (Entry 1 of 2)

old-fashioned : of, relating to, or from Asia and especially eastern Asia

Oriental

noun

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

old-fashioned + offensive : a person from eastern Asia

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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