rac·​ism | \ ˈrā-ˌsi-zəm How to pronounce racism (audio) also -ˌshi- \

Definition of racism

1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2a : a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles
b : a political or social system founded on racism
3 : racial prejudice or discrimination

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Other Words from racism

racist \ ˈrā-​sist How to pronounce racist (audio) also  -​shist \ noun or adjective

Synonyms for racism


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The History and Dictionary Meaning of Racism

Racism appears to be a word of recent origin, with no citations currently known that would suggest the word was in use prior to the early 20th century. But the fact that the word is fairly new does not prove that the concept of racism did not exist in the distant past. Things may have words to describe them before they exist (spaceship, for instance, has been in use since the 19th century, well before the rocket-fired vessels were invented), and things may exist for a considerable time before they are given names (t-shirt does not appear in print until the 20th century, although the article of clothing existed prior to 1900).

Dictionaries are often treated as the final arbiter in arguments over a word’s meaning, but they are not always well suited for settling disputes. The lexicographer’s role is to explain how words are (or have been) actually used, not how some may feel that they should be used, and they say nothing about the intrinsic nature of the thing named by a word, much less the significance it may have for individuals. When discussing concepts like racism, therefore, it is prudent to recognize that quoting from a dictionary is unlikely to either mollify or persuade the person with whom one is arguing.

Examples of racism in a Sentence

The recording career of the Henderson band was brief … due partly to the racism of booking agencies that didn't take on black acts until the mid-'30s, when Henderson's career was on the downswing. — Greg Tate, Vibe, April 1995 Today, Hawaii has one of the most diverse populations anywhere. Each group has its own stories of prejudice and opportunities limited by racism. — Jill Center, San Francisco Chronicle, 16 Mar. 1995 the racism that was the basis of apartheid Hitler's declaration of his belief in a “master race” was an indication of the inherent racism of the Nazi movement.
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First Known Use of racism

1902, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for racism

Time Traveler

The first known use of racism was in 1902

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Statistics for racism

Cite this Entry

“Racism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism. Accessed 6 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for racism


rac·​ism | \ ˈrā-ˌsi-zəm How to pronounce racism (audio) \

Kids Definition of racism

1 : belief that certain races of people are by birth and nature superior to others
2 : discrimination or hatred based on race

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