The pronunciation of the word "guerrilla" is a close homophone to the word "gorilla".

Is there any implicit racism in the origin or later usage of the word "guerrilla", based perhaps on the inferior view of gorillas as black, rude, uncivilized creatures? Could it reflect perhaps an ideological construct to de-legitimize the goals and actions of "guerrilla" groups, just like denoting a group as "terrorist" immediately de-legitimizes its actions?

  • 1
    Of course not! Look here for the etymology of guerrilla link
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 6:38
  • I stopped making toast years ago when I noticed the racist connotations of "griller".
    – JHCL
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 9:37
  • I do detect a difference in nuance between "terrorist" and "freedom fighter."
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 16:42

1 Answer 1


Guerilla has nothing to do with gorilla and I don't think it carries a "racist" nuance because the two terms are homophones. Guerilla just refers to a specific warfare which is generally irregular and not well organized.

  • "fighter in an irregular, independent armed force," 1809, from Spanish guerrilla "body of skirmishers, skirmishing warfare," literally "little war," diminutive of guerra "war," from a Germanic source cognate with Old High German werra "strife, conflict, war," from Proto-Germanic *werra- (see war (n.)). Acquired by English during the Peninsular War (1808-1814), when bands of Spanish peasants and shepherds annoyed the occupying French.

  • Purists failed in their attempt to keep this word restricted to "irregular warfare" and prevent it taking on the sense properly belonging to guerrillero "guerrilla fighter." Figurative use by 1861. As an adjective from 1811.


  • Thanks. I'm not only itnerest in the origin of the word but also in its later usage. See updated question
    – luchonacho
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 7:30
  • @luchonacho - My answer is in the introductory line, etymology is just additional information. Plus, why should "gorilla" be a derogatory" term?
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 7:34
  • @Josh61 in American context, calling a person a gorilla or a person's actions gorilla like most assuredly is considered racist. Using the word gorilla when talking about Harambe of the Ohio zoo, is not. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 12:00
  • @USER_8675309 I'm an American and I've never seen or heard gorilla used in a racist way, nor would I expect anyone to interpret the word as a racist slur (though it still could be used as a generic insult, as in characterizing the person as a big dumb lug or mindless animal [though in reality gorillas are far from mindless]). In fact, during the mid-20th century, at least, gorilla was used as a dysphemism (a term of abuse used as a term of endearment), as in. Get over here, ya big gorilla.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 13:32

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