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rac·​ist ˈrā-sist How to pronounce racist (audio)
 also  -shist
: of, relating to, or characterized by racism: such as
: having, reflecting, or fostering the belief that race (see race entry 1 sense 1a) is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
racist speech
racist views
a racist person
Over the last three years, there have been episodes of racist graffiti, jokes, anonymous hate notes or brawls at 175 campuses …Joseph Berger
The viciousness her liaison with Lennon inspired was virulently sexist, openly racist, and as ugly as ugly gets.Esquire
Racist violence against Romani in eastern Europe is reminiscent of pogroms against the Jews in the Tsarist Empire.Donald Kenrick
: of, relating to, or characterized by the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another
racist laws/policies
a racist society
In contrast, people of color in a racist system always face headwinds.Claire Gillespie
The History and Dictionary Meanings of Racism and Racist: Usage Guide

Racism and racist appear to be words of recent origin, with no citations currently known that would suggest these words were in use prior to the early 20th century. But the fact that the words are 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 or described 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.


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plural racists
: a person who is racist : someone who holds the belief that race (see race entry 1 sense 1a) is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
… anonymous racists, misogynists and bullies sowing … hatred and violence.Andrew Keen

Examples of racist in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Dreaming Whilst Black is wry and cutting about the racist microaggressions our leads are subjected to, often by institutions and individuals cooing about the importance of diversity in the same breath. Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Sep. 2023 As with Ford’s protagonist, who’s on a mission of vengeance aimed, with racist hostility, at all Native Americans, Jake’s rescue attempt is also a matter of revenge, fuelled by hate as well as by love. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 8 Sep. 2023 Column: How a racist housing policy caused the biggest, bitterest brawl in California’s Capitol Columnist George Skelton looks back at the uproar over California’s attempt in the 1960s to ban racial discrimination in housing. Laurel Rosenhall, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2023 In a cabin in the woods, the group stumbles across a racist board game, and subsequently finds themselves being hunted by a masked murderer. Amy MacKelden, ELLE, 6 Sep. 2023 But the discovery in 2017 of such an account, run by students, with racist posts shattered a Bay Area high school and its town. Soumya Karlamangla, New York Times, 5 Sep. 2023 But that venture also reportedly generated concern as Franke and Hildebrandt allegedly espoused homophobic, transphobic, racist and ableist rhetoric, according to Insider. David Chiu, Peoplemag, 4 Sep. 2023 Users published her home address, the names of her biological parents and a redacted copy of her birth certificate in a thread that included racist and transphobic slurs. Nitasha Tiku, Washington Post, 3 Sep. 2023 Hundreds of people gathered Sunday to remember and mourn the loss of three Black people who were fatally shot in what authorities say was a racist attack in Jacksonville, Florida. USA TODAY, 29 Aug. 2023
This total includes racist, antisemitic, or anti-LGBTQ content and efforts. Bill Hutchinson, ABC News, 3 Sep. 2023 The former president, seeking a second non-consecutive term, has viciously gone after James in public comments, deriding James, who is Black, as a racist. Molly Crane-Newman, Dave Goldiner New York Daily News (tns), al, 31 Aug. 2023 The gunman used racial slurs, left behind a racist screed and drew swastikas on his firearm, authorities said. Eric Levenson, CNN, 27 Aug. 2023 The months leading up to the 1963 March were bloody and full of conflict between activists and racists. Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post, 26 Aug. 2023 Brave, a Democrat who was elected in 2020 as New Hampshire’s first Black sheriff and reelected in 2022, has claimed to be the victim of a racist and politically motivated campaign to oust him. Steven Porter, BostonGlobe.com, 21 Aug. 2023 Since then, the city has continued to sever ties to the racist past by removing a Confederate soldier statue atop a memorial in a park bordering City Hall. Bobby Caina Calvan, Anchorage Daily News, 28 Aug. 2023 Headline of the day At vigil, state and local leaders say Jacksonville is no place for racists As the authorities try to understand the shooter's mindset, officials, faith leaders and residents gathered to remember the victims, all of whom were Black. Chuck Todd, NBC News, 28 Aug. 2023 The father then found a suicide note, a will, and writings that Waters has described as racist. Russ Bynum and Aaron Morrison, BostonGlobe.com, 27 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'racist.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



race entry 1 + -ist entry 2, perhaps after French raciste, adjective


race entry 1 + -ist entry 1, perhaps after French raciste, noun

First Known Use


1923, in the meaning defined above


1919, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of racist was in 1919

Dictionary Entries Near racist

Cite this Entry

“Racist.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racist. Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

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