Part of a (possibly offensive or at least cringe-worthy) ad says

"We have to go out accompanied and what is better than dating a beautiful exotic Latina woman here in Colombia, right?"

From a prescriptivist and etymological perspective, I assume "exotic" ought not to have any connotations of sexiness, since it's just derived from the Ancient Greek for foreign. And there's plenty of uses of "exotic" that have nothing to do with sexiness, for example cane toads being introduced to Australia from other countries.

But from a real world, descriptivist perspective, does "exotic" have any connotations of sexiness?

Wiktionary says that exotic means "Foreign, especially in an exciting way.". I suspect, but can't prove, that the main way a woman can be exciting to some men is by being sexy.

In at least American English (but probably not as much in Australian English), Exotic dancer is a euphemism for a stripper / pole dancer / belly dancer (I suspect some belly dancers would take issue with this!). William Safire notes the similarity between the words "exotic" and "erotic" (which is to do with sex), but notes that there isn't really such a phrase as "erotic dancer". I don't know whether "exotic dancer" has influenced what people interpret the word "exotic" by itself as meaning.

Does the word "exotic" have any connotations of sexiness?

  • 1
    See a good dictionary. E.g., The ODO has this to say, "1.1 Attractive or striking because colourful or out of the ordinary SYNONYMS: attractive, glamorous, romantic, fascinating;" oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/exotic Dangerously close to "sexy" but closer the sense of "sensual."
    – Kris
    Sep 6, 2014 at 5:29
  • On the other hand, here's what Urban Dictionary has under exotic: "Exotic people have mysterious, alluring and sensual eyes. ALL will surrender to those eyes" urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=exotic However, that usage is slang.
    – Kris
    Sep 6, 2014 at 5:34
  • "a beautiful exotic Latina" is absolutely fine, and any sexual connotations are in the eye of the beholder. 'Exotic' because she's a Latina, and thus very different from the ordinary, next-door-neighbor, giving her a mysterious attractiveness.
    – Kris
    Sep 6, 2014 at 5:36
  • As an American woman of mixed ethnicity I can attest that yes, people in the US use it with offensively sexual connotations. Of course context matters, but when a woman is described as "exotic" the person doing the describing is usually emitting very strong pervy vibes, and if a man does it to your face it's virtually always part of a creepy come-on.
    – 1006a
    Feb 21, 2019 at 6:18

2 Answers 2


It's all in the context, at least in the US. A nightclub promoting "exotic dancers" is most likely to have adult-oriented content and some connotation of appeal to "prurient interests". On a sign along the highway advertising an exhibit of animals native to other countries than the US, as "exotic animals", or used in connection to a store which sells aquariums and brightly colored non-native fish, and other fresh water and marine creatures, the word does not have those connotations. Other contexts may be more mixed. Some pieces of fine art from some cultures may be called "exotic" because of where and when they are from, but they may also include, or exhibit elements and themes that tend towards prurience.

And context also means that those who spend their time reading the Communications Research, or Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, or similar publications, and who don't happen to go it to certain parts of larger towns and cities, will be less exposed to the use of "exotic" with connotations suggesting prurience, than those who read alternative newspapers and who visit, or transit through those certain parts of town.

  • In many such contexts, "dancer" alone would do for people to get ideas. Or any other harmless word, for that matter.
    – Kris
    Sep 6, 2014 at 5:30
  • Notice where Wikipedia redirects you from "exotic dancer:" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exotic_dancer
    – Kris
    Sep 6, 2014 at 5:40
  • Kris, in some cases, Wikipedia aggregates page titles that would have similar content into a single page, and redirects searches for titles that might be synonymous to the page containing content to that page.
    – brasshat
    Sep 6, 2014 at 14:59
  • Brasshat, Yes, not without a good reason.
    – Kris
    Sep 8, 2014 at 4:38
  • Agreed. However in the page in question, I'm not sure I agree that "exotic dancer" should always redirect to where Wikipedians have decided it should redirect. I know people who proudly claim to be exotic dancers who practice entirely different forms. Belly dancers are one example.
    – brasshat
    Sep 8, 2014 at 4:42

As far as I have seen the usage, no.

As you say, exotic is pretty much all about being exciting. When used in a female related context, it's pretty much to reinforce the attractiveness, not the sexiness.

Now, maybe some people find attractive to be equivalent to sexy (indeed, the world at large generally portrays women as being sexy - such as with scantily clad clothing - to reinforce their attractiveness), but that is not the connotation of exotic

  • Huh? "all about being exciting?" I'm not sure.
    – Kris
    Sep 6, 2014 at 5:37
  • @Kris Oxford defines "exotic" as "seeming exciting and unusual because it is connected with foreign countries". The usage of "exotic" that I have ever seen are all connected to holidays abroad or something originated from foreign countries (relative to where the word is used), the usage there emphasizes that the place is exciting
    – Raestloz
    Sep 8, 2014 at 6:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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