English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

It is an archaic, racist in (in the derogatory sense towards non-caucasians) and technically incorrect if sub-sets of "Caucasian" - such as Middle Eastern - exist in the same list. Moreover what is meant is


Why not use "European"? I blame early American web sites for this incorrect use of the word (though unknowingly on their part) which the web seems to adopted.

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by Mitch, Colin Fine, RegDwigнt May 25 '12 at 12:43

Questions on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange are expected to relate to English language and usage within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

It's not an explicitly racist term, so at the end of day, it all comes down to interpretation. I don't find it racist at all. It's just a term used to categorize ethnicity. That's all it is to me. – deutschZuid May 25 '12 at 2:32
I recently had my ears boxed by a Person of Color as she insisted on being called for not recognizing her notion that “Caucasian” has nothing to do with racial groups, skin color, or anything else, but was uniquely a matter of “cultural identity” alone. It’s something of an American Myth that the first few immigrant generations are not “white” (and hence, “Caucasian”), but become so in time, even people like Italians or Israelis or Iberians or Brahmin (Aryan), who all apparently have to live here awhile to become “white”. I fled before her righteousness. – tchrist May 25 '12 at 2:35
@JamesJiao Does “ethnicity” mean “cultural identity”? Does a white person who grows up in an “Hispanic ethnicity” lose his “right” to call himself “Caucasian”? Aren’t Caucasians defined by their physical features, not by who they hang out with?? – tchrist May 25 '12 at 2:45
@tchrist When did I say it's about who you hang out with? And please, calm down, read my post again. Tell me exactly which part of my post you interpret as "it's about who you hung out with"? – deutschZuid May 25 '12 at 2:53
Looking through your question and the comments, I have no choice but interpret this as "peeving disguised as a question", which is off-topic here. – RegDwigнt May 25 '12 at 12:43

First this is a purely American (USA) construct.

And I think it is grounded in some bureaucratic/legal definition of race/ethnicity. They really wanted to say "white folks" but could not actually bring themselves to do this. Based on some (I think now disproved) research that suggested most Europeans were descended from a group which migrated from the Caucasus region they disguised the racist nature of the definition with pseudo science.

So an American policeman would describe someone as "male, Caucasian, 5 foot 10", a British policeman as "male, white, 1 meter 80".

share|improve this answer
I think you are right, however I still dont get why it is used instead of "European" in the first place, even today. – markmnl May 25 '12 at 5:50
"European" would mean somebody from Europe. I consider myself Caucasian, but not European; because I understand "Caucasian" to describe my ethnicity, but "European" would imply that either my nationality or my country of birth is somewhere in Europe. – user16269 May 25 '12 at 6:30
you are European! It is much more accurate description then Caucasian - "European" is a race -which all "white" Americans are – markmnl May 25 '12 at 7:55
@feanor: -- its in the regulations! e.g. You need to report statistics on the "race" of each employee to prove you are an equal opportunity employer. The choices are "African American, Latin American, Asian, Caucasian , Native American etc. ". If they were consistent they should have used "European American" but the term would seem derogatory to those whose ancestors came over from the British Isles in sailing ships. :-) – James Anderson May 25 '12 at 9:44
Actually, a British policeman would describe the suspect (a policeman's world consists of cops and suspects) as "IC1, six foot one...". The police force explicitly do not use white or black, but have 6 physical groupings instead. Why they do this depends on who you ask, but at least it avoids arguments as to whether a Spaniard is 'Hispanic' or 'European'. – TimLymington May 25 '12 at 19:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.