Maybe this question is too simple for this site, and I should post it on the english-learners-site, but I will give it a try.

Lets say we have 3 scenarios:

  1. A person who hates all followers of a specific religion, no matter what their background is, but otherwise likes people of all skin colors and origin countries who are not followers of a specific religion.

  2. A person who hates all people with a specific skin color, no matter what their background is, but otherwise likes followers of all religions and origin countries who do not have a specific skin color.

  3. A person who hates all people from a specific country, no matter what their background is, but otherwise likes followers of all religions and all skin colors who are not from a specific country.

"Hates" in this context means believing they are worthless, being prejudiced against them, generally discriminating against them, bad behaviour against them, and disliking them.

"likes" just means the opposite of my explanation above.

So, based on this definition of the word racist:

  1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.

  2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

Would you use the word racist to describe the person in all of the 3 examples I gave? Or are there better fitting words for specific forms of discrimination? Particularly for the first scenario (religion specific racism). I am looking for a better word to describe such a person.

Religion is independent from race, and I am not sure if only country of origin is enough to relate to a specific race so that the word racist could fit here. Skin color is more obvious, but there could also be some discussion if a specific skin color already suffices to assign something to a specific race.

(I am not a native english speaker, so sorry for any mistakes and if this is obvious for native speakers.)


This question may be related to this Question and this Question, but I dont see it as a duplicate at all, because there are various different aspects in the question and answers. Also i could not find the questions by search before i wrote my question, maybe some of the answers and aspects are similar, but the questions itself are different in my opinion. But that is only my opinion, feel free to close this, if you think they are too similar. I got some useful answers already, so I dont insist to keep this open.

I will accept the answer with most votes at the weekend, so the community decides which answer fits best

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  • I don't understand why religion is mentioned for racist. Shouldn't it be "region"? You used region in No. 3 and religion in No. 1 & 2. Please correct them . – user140086 Oct 7 '15 at 9:37
  • All of the above suggest the person as dimcriminator. – Nikita Shrivastava Oct 7 '15 at 9:39
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    @Rathony The intersection of racism and religious bias is notable because of the association of religion with ethnicity. For instance, in the current climate of divisive debate over the role of Islam in global conflicts, Muslims often face racially and ethnically based hatred. Similar racial criticisms have been aimed at Jews many times in the past. It can be difficult to separate the racially and ethnically motivated hatred from purely religious criticism, and it's a tricky thing to describe briefly with the common terminology we have available. – recognizer Oct 7 '15 at 15:07
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    @Rathony Slurs based on racial and ethnic background are often used against Muslims. It is frequently a vocal component of anti-Muslim hatred. You can try all you want to factually separate them, but religiously prejudiced bigots will invoke race all the same. – recognizer Oct 7 '15 at 16:04

Bigot is the term that you're looking for.

bigot: a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc.; especially: a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group) - (Merriam-Webster)

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  • ty for the answer. i "Bigot" commonly used? I watch a lot news and movies and read books in english but never heard it. Especially in connection with Taliban and IS i would have expected to hear it. In german we have the same word, but only as adjective with a slightly different meaning and only rarely used. I will wait some time for other answers and oppinions before accepting an answer... – kl78 Oct 7 '15 at 10:01
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    +1 for the answer, but for me I think an accusation of bigotry is slightly less 'strong' than one of racism, and slightly 'stronger' than one of prejudice. While valid, I'm not sure that any of them could usefully be applied to IS. Maybe 'Intolerant'? – JHCL Oct 7 '15 at 10:35
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    Bigot is used a lot in the UK. Anti-muslim sentiment cannot accurately be described as racist. I wouldn't say one word is stronger than the other; they're just different. You might have more of a problem with someone being racist than sexist, for example; another person would disagree. Being racist is a subset of being a bigot. – user4683 Oct 7 '15 at 12:05
  • Yes, but this has been discussed before. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 8 '15 at 8:57
  • TimLymington: The site or my computer went haywire and I wasn't able to finish my comment, which was expanding on Alex's comment and may have had something to do with the definition. But then again it may not have. I can't remember, so I've deleted the comment all together for the common good. – Zan700 Oct 8 '15 at 14:04

You call them either a biased person or a prejudiced person whose meaning includes racist, sexist, and anti-feminist, etc.

It's best to use the adjective, biased, as bias means:

Tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly.

Or prejudiced:

having or showing an unfair feeling of dislike for a person or group because of race, sex, religion, etc.

He is biased/prejudiced against race means he is a racist.

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Your third example is best described by the word xenophobe:

A person who is fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or of people from different countries or cultures. (TFD)

A good option for religious prejudice/discrimination is sectarian:

  1. A member of a sect.
  2. One characterized by bigoted adherence to a factional viewpoint. (TFD)

It is not always applied to religion, but often it is.

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Technically "discrimination on the ground of religion" is not racism, but you will often hear it described as such. A more accurate description is religiously intolerant, although that's a bit of a mouthful.

Dictionary.reference.com describes race (2) as "a group of persons related by common descent or heredity". It can hence be used to mean people with the same skin colour, or people from the same country. So scenarios 2 and 3 would both be appropriate for use of the word racist.

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The other answers have addressed your larger questions, but I thought I would attempt to answer this specific one you asked:

Or are there better fitting words for specific forms of discrimination? Particularly for the first scenario (religion specific racism).

There are a number of terms that describe hatred of a particular religion. For example, the word Islamophobia is specific to the hatred of followers of the Muslim faith. A person who exhibits such hatred would be said to be Islamophobic. I suppose one could also call such a person an Islamophobe though I don't know how common that usage is. (TFD)

Another is the word anti-Semitism which refers to the hatred of followers of Jewish tradition. A person who exhibits this would be called anti-Semetic or an anti-Semite. (MW)

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  • Although Islamophobia should refer to fear of Muslims, rather than hatred of or discrimination towards them, I agree that it's actual usage reflects this answer. – AndyT Dec 17 '15 at 12:50

When we are talking about the beliefs and systems of power in countries which were European settler colonies, "racist" has a very specific meaning. Racist ≠ prejudice, they are not interchangeable. Anyone can have prejudice, not everyone can be racist in the sense of reaping the benefits of systemic racism.

For example, a person of color may internalize racist beliefs, but that does not mean they can profit from racism in the way that a white European can. Conversely, a white person with European ancestry may work very hard to rid themselves of racist prejudices and stereotypes which they have internalized about people of color. Yet that internal work doesn't change the external benefits, privileges, and power assigned to them by virtue of being white.

"Racists", independent of prejudice, are those who profit from racism at the expense of people of color.

Edit: If we want to be as general as possible, racist is someone who or something which dehumanizes a group of people, while elevating or humanizing another.

Defining racism as individual hatred is elementary and dangerously superficial. Racism doesn't care about how enlightened or dehumanizing you are ; it will operate and do what it does regardless, which broadly speaking, is distributing wealth and wellbeing to some while taking it from others on the basis of racial, ethnic, national, and/or religious differences. Prejudice is about individual persuasion, whether it positive or negative bias.

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  • You seem very sure about that (some references would be nice). What proportion of people who use the term today agree with that definition, I wonder? It's a somewhat circular argument, you know: "Racists are those who profit from racism." – JHCL Oct 7 '15 at 20:48
  • I would say that the majority are careless and not as precise. However, if you explore antiracist literature, you'll find that these definitions hold. – Kyle Oct 7 '15 at 20:49
  • Can you define 'Racism', then (without reference to 'racists')? – JHCL Oct 7 '15 at 20:51
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    "Racists", independent of prejudice, are those who profit from racism at the expense of people of color. – So a child that was just born in an above-average hospital that is exclusive to white people is a racist? Moreover, isn’t almost every white person a racist by this definition? Also, can a person of colour ever be a racist? Taking all of this together, isn’t this definition of racist basically equivalent to white person? – Wrzlprmft Oct 7 '15 at 20:52
  • @Wrzlprmft people of color, a collective and not isolated individuals, do not benefit from racism in the way that white people do, no. Remember that I am speaking exclusively of white European English speaking former settler colonies. – Kyle Oct 7 '15 at 20:57

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