Latino (demonym)

The term Latino (/læˈtn, lə-/)[1] is a noun and adjective often used in English, Spanish and Portuguese to refer to people in the United States with cultural ties to Latin America.

Within the Latino community itself in the United States, there is some variation in how it is defined or used. Various U.S. governmental agencies, especially the Census Bureau, codified their usage, and so have specific definitions which may or may not agree with community usage, and includes a specific list of countries from which American residents stem, which are, or are not, included in the agency's definition of Latino.

These agencies were also simultaneously using the term Hispanic, which usually has a slightly different meaning: where Latino includes Brazil, Hispanic usually does not. Conversely, Hispanic includes Spaniards, whereas Latino does not.

Usage of Latino is tied to the United States. Residents of Central and South American countries usually refer to themselves by national origin, rarely as Latino. There is criticism of the term, coming from both inside and outside the United States.


"Latino" as a category used in the United States may be understood as a shorthand for the Spanish word latinoamericano (Latin American in English).[2][failed verification]

Community usageEdit

Both Hispanic and Latino are generally used to denote people living in the United States,[3][4] so much so that "Outside the United States, we don't speak of Latinos; we speak of Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and so forth."[5][6] In Latin America, the term latino is not a common endonym and its usage in Spanish as a demonym is restricted to the Latin American-descended population of the United States.

Governmental usageEdit

The U.S. government Office of Management and Budget has defined Hispanic or Latino people as "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race".[7] The United States Census uses the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino to refer to "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race".[8] The Census Bureau also explains that "[o]rigin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race."[9] Hence the U.S. Census and the OMB are using the terms differently. The U.S. Census and the OMB use the terms interchangeably, where both terms are synonyms. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the majority (51%) of Hispanic and Latino Americans prefer to identify with their families' country of origin, while only 24% prefer the term Hispanic or Latino.[10]

Style guidesEdit

The AP Stylebook's recommended usage of Latino in Latin America includes not only persons of Spanish-speaking ancestry, but also more generally includes persons "from – or whose ancestors were from – ... Latin America, including Brazilians". However, in the recent past, the term Latinos was also applied to people from the Caribbean region,[11] but those from former French, Dutch and British colonies are excluded.[12]


The origin of Latino in English is generally given as a shortening of latinoamericano, Spanish for 'Latin American'.[13] The term Latin America was first coined by South Americans in France in the mid-19th century, and adapted by the French as Amérique latine during the time of the French intervention in Mexico in the 1860s.[a][14]

By the late 1850s, the term latino was being used in local California newspapers such as El Clamor Publico by californios writing about America latina and Latinoamerica, and identifying themselves as latinos as the abbreviated term for their "hemispheric membership in la raza latina".[15]


In the United StatesEdit

Contrast with HispanicEdit

Whereas Latino designates someone with roots in Latin America, the term Hispanic in contrast is a demonym that includes Spaniards and other speakers of the Spanish language.[16][17][18][better source needed]

The term Latino was officially adopted in 1997 by the United States Government in the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino, which replaced the single term Hispanic: "Because regional usage of the terms differs – Hispanic is commonly used in the eastern portion of the United States, whereas Latino is commonly used in the western portion."[7]

U.S. official use of the term "Hispanic" has its origins in the 1970 census. The Census Bureau attempted to identify all Hispanics by use of the following criteria in sampled sets:[19]

  • Spanish speakers and persons belonging to a household where Spanish was spoken
  • Persons with Spanish heritage by birth location
  • Persons who self-identify with Latin America, excluding Brazil

Neither "Hispanic" nor "Latino" refers to a race, as a person of Latino/Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race.[20][21] Like non-Latinos, a Latino can be of any race or combination of races: White American / Caucasian, Black / African American, Asian American, Native American / Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander American, or two or more ethnicities. While Brazilian Americans are not included with Hispanics and Latinos in the government's census population reports, any Brazilian American can report as being Hispanic or Latino since Hispanic or Latino origin is, like race or ethnicity, a matter of self-identification.[20][22]

Other federal and local government agencies and non-profit organizations include Brazilians and Portuguese in their definition of Hispanic. The U.S. Department of Transportation defines Hispanic Americans as, "persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or other Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race".[23] This definition has been adopted by the Small Business Administration as well as by many federal, state, and municipal agencies for the purposes of awarding government contracts to minority owned businesses. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Conference include representatives of Spanish and Portuguese descent. The Hispanic Society of America is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. Each year since 1997 the International Latino Book Award is conferred to the best achievements in Spanish or Portuguese literature at BookExpo America, the largest publishing trade show in the United States. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, which proclaims itself the champion of Hispanic success in higher education, has member institutions in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.

Some authorities of American English maintain a distinction between the terms "Hispanic" and "Latino":

Though often used interchangeably in American English, Hispanic and Latino are not identical terms, and in certain contexts the choice between them can be significant. Hispanic, from the Latin word for "Spain," has the broader reference, potentially encompassing all Spanish-speaking peoples in both hemispheres and emphasizing the common denominator of language among communities that sometimes have little else in common. Latino—which in Spanish and Portuguese means "Latin" but which as an English word is probably a shortening of the Spanish word latinoamericano—refers more exclusively to persons or communities of Latin American origin. Of the two, only Hispanic can be used in referring to Spain and its history and culture; a native of Spain residing in the United States is a Hispanic, not a Latino, and one cannot substitute Latino in the phrase the Hispanic influence on native Mexican cultures without garbling the meaning. In practice, however, this distinction is of little significance when referring to residents of the United States, most of whom are of Latin American origin and can theoretically be called by either word.[24]

The AP Stylebook also distinguishes between the terms Hispanic and Latino. The Stylebook limits the term "Hispanic" to people "from – or whose ancestors were from – a Spanish-speaking land or culture". It provides a more expansive definition, however, of the term "Latino". The Stylebook definition of Latino includes not only people of Spanish-speaking ancestry, but also more generally includes persons "from – or whose ancestors were from – . . . Latin America". The Stylebook specifically lists "Brazilian" as an example of a group which can be considered Latino.

There were 28 categories tabulated in the 2000 United States Census: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican Republic; Central American: Costa Rican, Guatemalan, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Panamanian, Salvadoran, Other Central American; South American: Argentinian, Bolivian, Chilean, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Paraguayan, Peruvian, Uruguayan, Venezuelan, Other South American; Other Hispanic or Latino: Spaniard, Spanish, Spanish American, All other Hispanic or Latino.[25]

Outside the United StatesEdit


In a recent study, 79% of the Brazilian population identified themselves as "Brazilians" while 13% as "Citizens of the World" and only 4% as "Latino-Americanos".[26]


The use of the term Latino, despite its increasing popularity, is still highly debated among those who are called by the name.[27][28] Since the adoption of the term by the U.S. Census Bureau[29] and its subsequent widespread use, there have been several controversies and disagreements, especially in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries. Since it is an arbitrary generic term,[according to whom?] many Latin American scholars, journalists, and indigenous rights organisations have objected to the mass media use of the word "Latino", pointing out that such ethnonyms are optional and should be used only to describe people involved in the practices, ideologies, and identity politics of their supporters.[30][31][32][33] Journalist Rodolfo Acuña writes:

When and why the Latino identity came about is a more involved story. Essentially, politicians, the media, and marketers find it convenient to deal with the different U.S. Spanish-speaking people under one umbrella. However, many people with Spanish surnames contest the term Latino. They claim it is misleading because no Latino or Hispanic nationality exists since no Latino state exists, so generalizing the term Latino slights the various national identities included under the umbrella.[34]

Similar and related termsEdit

The term Latino is a loan word borrowed from Spanish, and ultimately has its roots in the Latin language used in Ancient Rome.[citation needed]

Gender neutral termsEdit

Attempts have been made to introduce gender neutral language into Spanish by changing the ending of Latino. Terms like Latinx,[35] and Latin@ are just a few examples.[citation needed]


Latinx (pronounced lə-TEE-neks or lə-TINKS) is a gender-neutral neologism which is sometimes used in lieu of Latino or Latina. Its plural is Latinxs.

The term was first seen around 2004, predominantly online, among intersectional advocacy groups combining the identity politics of race and gender. It slowly gained in usage, and came into popular use around 2014, especially in American universities, where its use has since become widespread.

Reactions to this neologism have been mixed. There tends to be a generational and regional divide among supporters and critics of the term, with more support among young people in the United States, and more criticism among older generations, and from those outside the U.S.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Adapted by the French as Amérique latine: Juan Francisco Martinez wrote that "France began talking about Amerique latine during the rule of Napoleon III as a way of distinguishing between those areas of the Americas originally colonized by Europeans of Latin descent and those colonized by peoples from northern Europe. But the term was used to justify French intervention in the young republics of Latin America." [14]


  1. ^ "the definition of Latino". Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Latino". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  3. ^ "The concept of "Latino" is an American concept". Archived from the original (ms powerpoint) on 2012-07-07. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  4. ^ Thomas, Jeffrey (December 8, 2006). "New Survey Paints Vivid Portrait of U.S. Latinos". USINFO. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-09. Being Latino is an American identity
  5. ^ Suarez-Orozco, Marcelo; Páez, Mariela, eds. (2008). Latinos: Remaking America. University of California Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-520-25827-3. The very term Latino has meaning only in reference to the U.S. experience. Outside the United States, we don't speak of Latinos; we speak of Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and so forth. Latinos are made in the USA.
  6. ^ Grande, Michael (May 7, 2005). "Latino & Hispanic? It's Time to Rethink these Terms!". Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  7. ^ a b Office of Management and Budget (October 30, 1997). "Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity" (PDF). Federal Register Notice. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  8. ^ "The Hispanic Population: 2010 Census Briefs" (PDF). Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-19. Retrieved 2016-01-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Taylor, Paul; Lopez, Mark Hugo; Martínez, Jessica; Velasco, Gabriel (4 April 2012). "When Labels Don't Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity". Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project.
  11. ^ Flores, Juan; Jiménez Román, Miriam (30 November 2009). "Triple-Consciousness? Approaches to Afro-Latino Culture in the United States". Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies. Tandf. 4 (3): 319–328. doi:10.1080/17442220903331662.
  12. ^ Delgado, Richard; Stefancic, Jean (2011). The Latino/a Condition: A Critical Reader (2nd ed.). NYU Press. p. 36. ISBN 9780814720394.
  13. ^ Gutierrez, Ramon A.; Almaguer, Tomas (2016). The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective. University of California Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-520-96051-0.
  14. ^ a b Martinez, Juan Francisco (2009). "Identity (Latino/a vs. Hispanic)". In Miguel A. De La Torre (ed.). Hispanic American Religious Cultures. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 292. ISBN 978-1-59884-139-8. OCLC 774498013. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  15. ^ Gutierrez, Ramon A. (23 August 2016). "1. What's in a Name?". In Gutierrez, Ramon A.; Almaguer, Tomas (eds.). The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective (1st ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-520-96051-0. OCLC 1043876740. The word latinoamericano emerged in the years following the wars of independence in Spain's former colonies. [...] By the late 1850s, Californios were writing in newspapers about their membership in América latina (Latin America) and latinoamerica, calling themselves latinos as the shortened name for their hemispheric membership in la raza latina (the Latin race).
  16. ^ "Defining "Hispanic" as meaning those with Spanish-speaking roots in the Americas and "Latino" as meaning those with both Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking roots in Latin America". Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  17. ^ Anderson, Kevin (2008-10-18). "US elections 2008 (News),New Mexico (News),US politics". The Guardian. London.
  18. ^ "Herald Style Guide". Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  19. ^ Gibson, Campbell; Jung, Kay (September 2002). "Historical Census Statistics on Population Totals By Race, 1790 to 1990, and By Hispanic Origin, 1970 to 1990, For The United States, Regions, Divisions, and States". Working Paper Series No. 56. Retrieved 2006-12-07.
  20. ^ a b United States Census Bureau (March 2001). "Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-02-12. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
  21. ^ U.S. Census Bureau. "U.S. Census Bureau Guidance on the Presentation and Comparison of Race and Hispanic Origin Data". Retrieved 2007-03-18. Race and Hispanic origin are two separate concepts in the federal statistical system. People who are Hispanic may be of any race. People in each race group may be either Hispanic or Not Hispanic. Each person has two attributes, their race (or races) and whether or not they are Hispanic.
  22. ^ "B03001. Hispanic or Latino Origin by Spedific Origin". 2006 American Community Survey. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
  23. ^ U.S. Department of Transportation, "Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program Administration Reference Manual For Division Office Civil Rights Personnel",
  24. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary". Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  25. ^ "American FactFinder Help; Spanish/Hispanic/Latino". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2010-03-31. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
  26. ^ "Brasileiro despreza identidade latina, mas quer liderança regional, aponta pesquisa". BBC News Brasil (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2018-08-11.
  27. ^ ALEMAN, EVELYN G. (10 April 1999). "The Term 'Latino' Describes No One". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  28. ^ "Latino or Hispanic Panic: Which Term Should We Use?" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 August 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  29. ^ Fisher, Celia B. and Lerner, Richard M. Encyclopedia of Applied Developmental Science SAGE, 2004, ISBN 0-7619-2820-0 Page 634
  30. ^ "Global Politician". Archived from the original on 3 May 2016. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  31. ^ "Latino? Hispanic? Quechua? No, American; Take Your Pick". The New York Times. 18 November 1992. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  32. ^ "Gregory Rodriguez: Look beyond the 'Latino' label". Los Angeles Times. 12 November 2006. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  33. ^ Hispanic magazine, December 2000
  34. ^ Acuña, Rodolfo, U.S. Latino issues, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003 ISBN 0-313-32211-2
  35. ^ OED Online. "X, n." Retrieved April 19, 2017.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit