oriental

1 of 2

adjective

ori·​en·​tal ˌȯr-ē-ˈen-tᵊl How to pronounce oriental (audio)
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
4
a
: of superior grade, luster, or value
b
: being corundum or sapphire but simulating another gem in color
orientally 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.

Oriental

2 of 2

noun

plural Orientals
1
dated, usually offensive, see usage paragraph below : asian
especially : one who is a native of east Asia or is of east Asian descent
2
3
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.

Word History

First Known Use

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near oriental

Cite this Entry

“Oriental.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oriental. Accessed 5 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

oriental 1 of 2

adjective

ori·​en·​tal ˌōr-ē-ˈent-ᵊl How to pronounce oriental (audio)
ˌȯr-
often capitalized
: of, relating to, or situated in Asia
orientally adverb

Oriental

2 of 2

noun

sometimes offensive
: one who is a native of east Asia or is of east Asian descent

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