I'm seeking terms that emphasize a distrust or misunderstanding between ingroups and outgroups. There are a few issues I have with using xenophobia.

  1. Xenophobic groups tend to be rather large and fairly general. Think mainland Japanese vs. outlanders or USA vs. Middle East. (Yes, I am making broad sweeping generalizations. That's the point.) What if I want to indicate mistrust between members of similar communities, who nevertheless have differing cultural traits? Examples: soldiers vs. citizenry, religious vs. secular, gun-owners vs. anti-gun supporters. Those are heavier examples. As a lighter one, consider a word that can generalize xenophobia to how subcultures like heavy metal fans were viewed by suburbia in movies like Detroit Rock City.

  2. The suffix phobia is fixated on fear and dislike, not necessarily distrust and misunderstanding. Perhaps these are similar in meaning, but I am slightly dissatisfied.

  3. Related words, such as some in this post, tend to be focused on negative personality flaws (e.g. bigotry). Xenophobia doesn't cast that same light. It's, how to say, more clinical or academic in its diagnosis.

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    What about biased [against ______] ?
    – k1eran
    Jul 7, 2016 at 18:44
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    Might also want to see the answers to this question: english.stackexchange.com/q/199235/14073
    – MetaEd
    Jul 7, 2016 at 20:59
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    I'm not sure I understand your last point. Are you saying you do or do not want a word with the same pejorative connotation as e.g. "bigotry"? Distrust and misunderstanding are not always a sign of character flaws. Jul 7, 2016 at 22:47
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    @MarkHubbard Sounds like the non-incense group were incensed over the incense nonsense. Jul 8, 2016 at 0:29
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    These points seem to be factually incorrect. For 1, being a soldier or supporting gun rights is not a cultural trait, one comes to hold such opinions through individual beliefs and reasoning. For 2, outside of psychology phobia is understood to mean "avoidance as if fearing" - for instance "hydrophobic substances" are not thought to literally fear or dislike water. For 3, xenophobia actually has been used in common parlance for a long time, and only recently has been seriously considered an actual disorder. Not everything with the "phobia" in it is an actual phobia in the clinical sense.
    – Superbest
    Jul 8, 2016 at 1:36

4 Answers 4


There's a good argument, I think, to be made for "tribalism." This isn't exactly the traditional definition of the word; I'm not sure where Google gets its definitions, but it says:

the state or fact of being organized in a tribe or tribes.

  • derogatory

    the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one's own tribe or social group.

It' s that secondary "derogatory" meaning of the word that applies here. Merriam-Webster gives a similar pair, but its first definition is much closer to our needs than Google's first definition.

1 : tribal consciousness and loyalty; especially : exaltation of the tribe above other groups

2 : strong in-group loyalty

Particularly with regard to politics (which is appropriate since all three of the specific examples in your first point are political issues), "tribalism" refers to precisely the generic ingroup-vs-outgroup conflict you're looking for. As an example, this excellent essay uses the word "tribalism" this way:

But if we want to look at people’s psychology and motivations, partyism and the particular variant of tribalism that it represents are going to be fertile ground.

Note the classification of "partyism" as a "variant of tribalism".


I think parochialism comes close to what you are referring to:

  • a parochial character, spirit, or tendency; excessive narrowness of interests or view; provincialism.

Another option: Insular

  1. narrow-minded or illiberal; provincial: insular attitudes toward foreigners.

Stressing the distance between cultures would be ethnocentric.

Evaluating other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture.

The first generation of western historians to address the western environment as an agent in shaping the region reflected the ethnocentric preconceptions of their time.


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    This seems to miss the "and subcultures" part of the question. OP mentions "ingroups and outgroups", and the specific examples given are "soldiers vs. citizenry, religious vs. secular, gun-owners vs. anti-gun supporters." None of these are ethnic conflicts. Jul 7, 2016 at 22:48

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