As is commonly known, one of the most delicate question is how to refer to people of mixed race, which can be a matter of condemnation.

Some words may have fueled the problem and I never would have thought that the word miscegenation were one of these.

In fact, as Merriam-Webster reads, miscegenation especially refers to a "marriage, cohabitation, or sexual intercourse between a white person and a member of another race."

However, racial issues aside, I'm wondering whether there is a "parallel" word which is especially used to to refer to a "marriage, cohabitation, or sexual intercourse between a black person and a member of another race;" a word which is not perceived as offensive from a black person.

Can anyone explain?

  • 1
    This feels like Fear of a Black Planet.
    – Robusto
    Sep 9, 2013 at 21:02
  • 2
    For me, the clarifying question would be why is there a need to label a relationship as such? In the society I live in (US), there doesn't seem to be a need to distinguish the differences between a couple - indeed, who's business is it anyway? One more thing: your question header is unclear in that it looks like you're looking for the name of people with mixed racial heritage, not couples of different races. Sep 9, 2013 at 21:14
  • @KristinaLopez Since, miscegenation primarily relates to interbreeding (see definitions in my answer below), it surely follows that it involves "couples of different races".
    – TrevorD
    Sep 9, 2013 at 23:28
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    @KristinaLopez that's precisely the society that coined the term to distinguish such couples as a matter of law until Loving v. Virginia rule doing so unconstitutional in 1967.
    – Jon Hanna
    Sep 10, 2013 at 11:22
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    Indeed, unmarried consenting adults can now marry whoever they want in DC, 13 states, 6 tribal jurisdictions and some parts of New Mexico. You're doing better than we are toward total marriage freedom (we never had a race-bar, but still make gender an issue).
    – Jon Hanna
    Sep 10, 2013 at 11:33

7 Answers 7


Miscegenation was coined in the US precisely to condemn such relations. Its historical context was in arguments in defense of slavery: The possibility of mixed-race marriages or sexual relations being projected as an outcome so horrible that it was good that slavery was preventing it (of course slavery led to a lot of mixed-race children too, but that was not talked about) - and anti-miscegenation laws banning marriages and sexual relations between different races that existed in the US until 1967 when the federal Supreme Court ruled the last such laws to be unconstitutional.

The reason miscegenation was taken as applying particularly to the marriage, sexual relations or offspring of white people and people of other races, is that this was seen as a problem to the white racists that coined the word. Indeed while some laws did in fact specifically ban black people from marrying people of any other race (as the race deemed lowest in the racist hierarchy such people believed in) and some blocked people of non-white races from marrying each other, the overall focus was on "protecting the white race" from the perspective of white racists.

There is no parallel word because there wasn't a powerful group of black people who spoke English as their primray language, feared inter-racial marriages and spent centuries enacting and enforcing laws to prevent it, to coin such a word.


People. Pretty sure about 99.9% of all people are mixed to some extent.

If you find someone who is really mixed - like me - then I would use mutt.

You are referring to their skin color not race, because if a person had a black dad and white mom but appeared white the question may never come up - given you don't know the mom and dad. You are referring to when people have traits (mainly skin color) of opposing ethnicity.

Multi-ethnicity if I had to label a couple that looks different.

Global or integrated or diverse if you want something cool to say or code-talk. These words would have to have context.

  • 12
    Mutt is fine (and common) as self-description, but I'd avoid using calling somebody else a mutt, because of the word's association with dogs of low breeding. Sep 9, 2013 at 20:56
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    @Bradd: At least in the U.S., sometimes Heinz 57 can be used as a euphemism for "mutt"; it can also be used to describe someone of mixed race, but, as you said, it needs to be used with heavy caution to ensure it won't be taken as an insult. That said, I've used Heinz 57 to affectionately describe my adopted daughter (who had one black parent, the other being half white and half Cherokee).
    – J.R.
    Sep 9, 2013 at 21:19
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    Upvote here. "race" when applied to individuals is complete BS anyway. 99% of the time it shouldn't matter to you in the first place, and the few times it really does, its best to ask the person in question how they self-identify. If they say something like "Human", that should be good enough for you.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 9, 2013 at 21:26
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    @T.E.D. - the question stems from people who look different and it isn't really about race. Saying you are different races is just pointing out you look really different - because there are tons of these unions with no need for descriptors. Sep 9, 2013 at 21:30
  • One here from my personal experience. A lot of folks in NE Oklahoma are members of one Indian tribe or another. Some of those people you can see the indian in, but a lot of them you cannot. This can be true even amongst siblings. Those who don't "show" may still think of themselves as Indian though, and it is quite fair for them to do so (regardless of what some folks in Massachusetts may think).
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 10, 2013 at 14:42

I believe the term you're looking for is multiracial


  1. Made up of, involving, or acting on behalf of various races: a multiracial society.
  2. Having ancestors of several or various races.

— source thefreedictionary.com

To address your second point, a person that is descended from black and non-black parent is often called a mulatto. As the Wikipedia article explains, the term has no firm definition, and it may not be not entirely free from negative connotations, but it's generally acceptable.

  • +1, but I don't see any symmetry between miscegenation and multiracial, and it is not a noun.
    – user51029
    Sep 9, 2013 at 20:57
  • @AtsutoNagatomo I'd recommend referring to them as multiracial individuals.
    – p.s.w.g
    Sep 9, 2013 at 21:03
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    In the US, mulatto may not be considered acceptable by many people (regardless of their ethnic/racial background).
    – bib
    Sep 9, 2013 at 21:37
  • These racial categorizations, particularly the term Mulatto, were popular during Spanish Colonial times in a historical period whereby there existed over 20 racial categories of mixed race Africans, Spanish European, and Native American populations. The categorizations varied based on common racial features. The term Mulatto survives from this period. These Racial Categorizations were documented in a popular PBS Video Series narrated by Henry Louis Gates Jr. as he visited the former Spanish Colonial Territories cataloging historical myths and truths.
    – user51587
    Sep 10, 2013 at 5:14
  • An old term for this is Mulatto. Sep 10, 2013 at 13:32

one word I've seen and heard used many times is inter-racial if that helps.

  • Interracial (“Between or among two or more different races [eg] Interracial marriages are getting more common these days thanks to globalization”) does seem appropriate. Also see polyracial and biracial (sense 1, “Of or pertaining to two races” might apply here; sense 2, “Having parents of two races” apparently doesn't apply to the question as asked). Sep 9, 2013 at 23:13

"People of mixed race" seems to be pretty good. I don't think you're going to find more specific words without annoying somebody (although "hapa" seems to be an inoffensive word for mixed Asian and not).


As you mention, Merriam-Webster defines miscegenation as:

a mixture of races; especially : marriage, cohabitation, or sexual intercourse between a white person and a member of another race.

But two other standard dictionaries define miscegenation as:

marriage or breeding between people of different races, especially that between people of different skin colours. Chambers

the interbreeding of people considered to be of different racial types ODO

You will note that the definition from Chambers merely states "especially ... between people of different skin colours", but with no mention of specific skin colours, and the Oxford definition merely refers to "different racial types" with no mention of colour.

  • Trevor, intersting answer which rougly shows that racials problems still exist in the U.S. (M-W), but not in Britain (Chambers, ODO).
    – user51029
    Sep 9, 2013 at 23:29
  • @AtsutoNagatomo I intentionally checked both the British & US definitions from ODO and they were identical. I purposely avoided commenting on the differences! ;-)
    – TrevorD
    Sep 9, 2013 at 23:38

A term gaining momentum in Britain is dual heritage.

the fact of having parents from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds.