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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
The racist attacks haven’t been reserved for him, Scott noted. Emmanuel Felton, Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2024 And following the most recent racist incident at East, more families are joining the push to address the district’s racial climate and disparities. Sarah Ritter, Kansas City Star, 30 Mar. 2024 In 2022, members of a racist hate group called Patriot Front marched through downtown Coeur d’Alene. Char Adams, NBC News, 27 Mar. 2024 That led to the seizure of Antioch officers’ phones, which in turn opened a separate can of worms: an ongoing scandal over racist text messages sent or received by dozens of current and former Antioch cops. Nate Gartrell, The Mercury News, 26 Mar. 2024 The campaign is also wary of stories that might make Trump look too extreme, or even overtly racist. Clare Malone, The New Yorker, 25 Mar. 2024 In his later years, Wallace would renounce his racist beliefs, offering public apologies and asking Black Americans for forgiveness. Ellen Wexler, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Mar. 2024 In late May 2023, Spanish police said seven people had been detained in relation to incidents of racist abuse directed at Vinícius. Matias Grez, CNN, 19 Mar. 2024 That investigation uncovered racist and homophobic text messages sent or received by nearly half of the city’s police force. Judith Prieve, The Mercury News, 19 Mar. 2024
The play, which Clive Barnes of The Times called racist, closed after a week. Anita Gates, New York Times, 29 Mar. 2024 Read more Claim: Pete Buttigieg said collapsed Baltimore bridge was ‘racist’ Our rating: False Buttigieg didn’t call the bridge racist. Hannah Hudnall, USA TODAY, 29 Mar. 2024 The attacks quickly turned misogynistic and racist. Elise Taylor, Vogue, 5 Mar. 2024 Mencken believed fervently in the superiority of German civilization—and in the leadership of its racist, war-mongering monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, 1 Mar. 2024 Taylor founded American Renaissance, an organization that has published racist, pro-eugenics writings. Ben Goggin, NBC News, 26 Feb. 2024 Musk has systematically removed the guardrails the company had put in place to prevent hate speech on the platform and has welcomed back racists, antisemites, and transphobic posters who had been previously banned. David Gilbert, WIRED, 20 Mar. 2024 The future of public monuments and educational institutions named after racists and Confederate generals has been a subject of national interest for years now, and Abbott enters this broader dialogue with a clear sense of its own geographic identity. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, 11 Mar. 2024 But Gillis was fired just four days later before his first episode after recordings surfaced of him using racist, including anti-Chinese, and homophobic slurs on his podcast. Jillian Sederholm, EW.com, 25 Feb. 2024

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 15 Apr. 2024.

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