I've heard that the word Oriental, if used to people, is racism.

Is it true? And if it is, why?

  • etymonline.com/… Sep 7, 2013 at 4:50
  • @BenyaminHamidekhoo you link has not reference to political correctness.
    – mplungjan
    Sep 7, 2013 at 4:54
  • @mplungjan I know, i'm an Asian myself and i see no relation between Racism and Oriental. Sep 7, 2013 at 5:03
  • I would just not use such a term anyway. If I would need to mention you in a heritage discussion, I would say "He's from Iran originally" but some people might say "He's the ayrab boy, ya know?" and I would be offended on your behalf.
    – mplungjan
    Sep 7, 2013 at 5:29

2 Answers 2


Possibly because people are not carpets.

I have several oriental carpets given to me by Asian friends

Do note that in the UK, Asian are not Chinese or Japanese.

Also note that some Asians may call themselves oriental like African American may call themselves whatever they want.

Lastly, my Asian friends are just my friends, I luckily never need to specify their genetic makeup. If I have to, I say "from Pakistan" or "from India" or in other cases, "He's Chinese"

The only collective expression I use is Antipodean to not offend Kiwis and Aussies when I do not know from whence they come :)

  • You never describe someone by using their race or color? Sep 7, 2013 at 5:03
  • I very rarely need to. Some of my African friends are Cape Malay, some are white Zimbabweans - so it is interesting that he comes from Cape Town, now if he is brown. black or white. My friend Tony is from Cameroon - his English is britisher than the Queen's. He is remarkably tall so that is what I might use when people are in doubt, but actually I would use his job title before I would need to use his colour to describe him ;)
    – mplungjan
    Sep 7, 2013 at 5:05
  • However, you should note that, strictly, "antipodean" (those who walk on the other side) refers to anyone from a former British/Anglo-Saxon colony in the southern hemisphere, including South African's of European descent.
    – Brad
    Sep 9, 2013 at 19:18
  • Aha, interesting, however I have yet to meet an antipodean from AU or NZ that thinks I'm asking if they are from Africa ;)
    – mplungjan
    Sep 10, 2013 at 4:18

From freedictionary:

Usage Note: Asian is now strongly preferred in place of Oriental for persons native to Asia or descended from an Asian people. The usual objection to Orientalmeaning "eastern"is that it identifies Asian countries and peoples in terms of their location relative to Europe. However, this objection is not generally made of other Eurocentric terms such as Near and Middle Eastern. The real problem with Oriental is more likely its connotations stemming from an earlier era when Europeans viewed the regions east of the Mediterranean as exotic lands full of romance and intrigue, the home of despotic empires and inscrutable customs. At the least these associations can give Oriental a dated feel, and as a noun in contemporary contexts (as in the first Oriental to be elected from the district) it is now widely taken to be offensive. However, Oriental should not be thought of as an ethnic slur to be avoided in all situations. As with Asiatic, its use other than as an ethnonym, in phrases such as Oriental cuisine or Oriental medicine, is not usually considered objectionable.

So when used as a noun I guess it is. Honestly I have a lot of Asian friends and it has just never came up.

Spoiler: Just messaged an Japanese girl I know. She laughed. She said "I wouldn't find it offensive, just the person dumb."

  • Coming from Denmark and living in Holland, I am always taken aback how important colour or genetics is in other countries. I vaguely remember once when the Mayor of Rotterdam was mentioned as the first immigrant to become mayor of a major city.
    – mplungjan
    Sep 7, 2013 at 5:24
  • 2
    I treat color or genetics like hair color or eye color. I am lazy. If I have 5 friends sitting and someone asks, "Who is Fred?" Well if Fred is the only white guy at the table I will say, "Fred is the white guy." I don't understand the issue of stating the obvious. I feel that people who skirt around it may have issues themselves. Sep 7, 2013 at 5:27
  • My friend Fred is from Panama - he has a moustache. I wold say he's the guy with the moustache or the checked shirt and not need to match him to the pantone chart in terms of brown/blackness, And you would certainly have a problem if he was sitting between my Cameroonian friend and Patel from Nottingham.
    – mplungjan
    Sep 7, 2013 at 5:32
  • 2
    @mplungjan - What is the difference between describing someone's skin color or shirt color? They are both identifiable things and there is no negativity or connotation either way. Sep 7, 2013 at 5:34
  • 1
    Please link to your source. TheFreeDictionary is a large website which itself quotes from other sources. Users should be able to link directly to your source to explore it further.
    – TrevorD
    Sep 7, 2013 at 11:05

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