Is there a noun for the general, solely negative, discrimination of any kind of group?

Like, a word that encompasses misandry, misogyny, anti-semitism, the common use of both "racist" and "sexist", etc.

If there is no such word, that is a valid answer too.

  • @Malandy - positive discrimination? “Discrimination is the practice of treating one person or group of people less fairly or less well than other people or groups.” collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/discrimination - The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex. en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/discrimination
    – user 66974
    Jul 20, 2018 at 20:41
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    The very fact that we have "positive discrimination" is proof enough that discrimination in and of itself is by default negative. Furthermore, since when is it "discrimination of", anyway. That's what ESL learners always say. And you always have to correct them that in English it's "discrimination against". And that against right there really drives the point home that it's not a good thing at all.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jul 20, 2018 at 20:57
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    The dictionaries quoted show that the word 'discrimination' has now become almost wholly negative. But it need not be: consider "He was a discriminating collector of antique silver". That is, he could distinguish the very good stuff from the rest: a positive attribute in an antique collector.
    – JeremyC
    Jul 20, 2018 at 22:23
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    Reminder to everyone: Comments are for clarifying questions and suggestions to improve the asker's question, not for suggesting answers. That's what answers are for. Comments don't have the quality assurance mechanisms that answers do.
    – V2Blast
    Jul 21, 2018 at 6:11
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    @Malandy (a) If you already know that discrimination is not always negative, why select it as the correct answer? Prejudice and bigotry are both better answers. (b) You really should add some example sentences to clarify exactly what you're looking for.
    – lly
    Jul 21, 2018 at 14:06

9 Answers 9


bigotry [big-uh-tree] noun, plural big·ot·ries.

1 stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own.

Source: Dictionary.com

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    This wouldn't cover the examples the OP gave though, would it? Sex and ethnicity are not creeds, beliefs, nor opinions. Also, one can discriminate based on shared traits. I've known people that discriminate on others because they're of the same ethnicity.
    – JoL
    Jul 21, 2018 at 0:46
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    I think that dictionary entry is not general enough. Bigotry does encompass sexism and racism, perhaps consider changing to MW: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bigotry Jul 21, 2018 at 9:41
  • Okay, yeah. Bigotry is much better than the broader Discrimination.
    – Malady
    Jan 22, 2021 at 12:44

The trouble with discrimination as the kind of general term you seem to seek is its wider use.

Discrimination is a quality I hope I have. I hope I exercise discrimination in the kinds of literature, art and music I like, in the kinds of political rhetoric to which I pay attention, the charities I support. There is nothing wrong with discriminating between the better and the worse, even though we should also be open to different tastes from our own.

The word that always has a negative connotation is prejudice.

  • It seems, according to the Cambridge dictionary, "prejudice" is basically an near-exact synonym for "discrimination"?
    – Malady
    Jul 21, 2018 at 10:49
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    Except that discrimination, unlike prejudice, is not always derogatory.
    – Tuffy
    Jul 21, 2018 at 13:03
  • Okay, you've convinced me? Prejudice is at least as close as "Discrimination" to what I would've wanted. So, you're getting the Accept due to popular vote, basically...
    – Malady
    Jul 21, 2018 at 15:48
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    But isn't "discrimination" the action, while "prejudice" is a belief?
    – Sentry
    Jul 22, 2018 at 17:26
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    @Sentry: You're correct, but I'm not sure what you're aiming at. Note that there are other forms of immoral discrimination that are not caused by prejudice. Prejudice implies genuine belief in a false truth - but it doesn't cover cases of disingenuous discrimination; e.g. not allowing women to drive cars, not because you think they can't drive (which would be prejudice), but because you simply want to have less cars on the road (and you're a man who wants an exclusion rule that does not exclude you).
    – Flater
    Jul 23, 2018 at 7:30

Many words have multiple meanings, or shades of meaning. The word discrimination is often used in a negative sense:

Discrimination is the practice of treating one person or group of people less fairly or less well than other people or groups.

...discrimination against immigrants.


The negative meaning is clear from the context and, in some cases, the use of a preposition like "against".

If you are looking for a word that has just the meaning you want, and no other meanings, then you are out of luck: there is no such word. (For this meaning or any other.)


If the discrimination is not negative enough, what about mistreatment? This is also more active than the discrimination, but I think the word can be applied to the groups as well. I can imagine some contexts where it can convey your idea as I understand it.

from mistreat:mistreat

to treat a person or animal badly, cruelly, or unfairly:

  • Oooh... This is nice... But "discrimination" is used more often for groups... So I think that answer is best...
    – Malady
    Jul 20, 2018 at 21:04
  • I have also upvoted the accepted answer, but you used the word discrimination directly in your question, so I thought that you are looking for a different one. I know that the shift in the meaning might be too large to use my answer in all situations.
    – Thinkeye
    Jul 20, 2018 at 21:13
  • Yeah, "discrimination" is not the word I want, but it's apparently the best that English's got.
    – Malady
    Jul 20, 2018 at 21:33

intolerance [in-tol-er-uh ns] noun

1 lack of tolerance; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect opinions or beliefs contrary to one's own.

2 unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect persons of a different social group, especially members of a minority group.

Source: Dictionary.com


contempt [kuh n-tempt] noun

1 the feeling with which a person regards anything considered mean, vile, or worthless; disdain; scorn.

Source: Dictionary.com

Adjective form; contemptuous


PV22 already brought up bigotry. Synonyms include prejudice. Perhaps also chauvinism, which is now used much more broadly than its original meaning of jingoism, particularly for misogyny. Someone who believes a particular group of people is superior to others and should rule over them is a supremacist.

Someone who thinks people like them should spurn groups of people is a separatist; unlike the other words I list, this is a term that radical groups (such as separatist feminists, red-pillers, or Malcolm X in the early ’60s) sometimes use to describe themselves. When these groups want the separation to be enforced by law, that becomes apartheid, which always have negative connotations. Especially in the United States, segregation has historically meant either private businesses refusing to serve members of a group, or laws to prevent some group from participating equally in society.

For what it’s worth, the neutral sense of “discrimination” is nearly extinct. Years ago, when I was taking economics as an undergrad, the (British) professor got to the topic of “price discrimination” and the (American) students all said, no, discrimination is illegal. He explained that, in economics, it's just a neutral term for charging any two people different prices, but they weren’t buying it. In common use today, “discrimination” is some action motivated by prejudice, and doesn’t convey the original, neutral meaning of making distinctions.

  • These days, "chauvinism" is used pretty much exclusively for misogyny; a "separatist" is almost certainly going to be understood as somebody who wants their region to become an independent country. And your last paragraph seems to be equating "used in Britain" with "nearly extinct". Pfft. Jul 23, 2018 at 6:46
  • @DavidRicherby I think chauvinism is still used similarly to its original meaning, jingoism. (Not necessarily French.) Any of those words can be qualified, if the meaning isn’t clear in context, as in “Gender Apartheid” or “Black separatists.” Finally, I don’t know how common “discrimination” in the neutral sense is in Britain these days, but “price discrimination” is a piece of jargon from classical economics, not a term in current everyday use.
    – Davislor
    Jul 23, 2018 at 16:03
  • I'm certainly not claiming that "neutral" use of "discrimination" is common in British English, but it's not so rare that I can imagine a class of students objecting to its use. The verb form is probably more common and I think people can easily discriminate between cases where it just means "tell the difference between two things, or take different actions according to the situation" and the cases where it means "be racist or sexist or whatever-ist." Jul 23, 2018 at 16:26
  • @DavidRicherby Thanks for the information. I wouldn’t have guessed that college students would’ve objected to the word here either.
    – Davislor
    Jul 23, 2018 at 16:29

Persecution seems to fit.

Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another individual or group. The most common forms are religious persecution, racism and political persecution, though there is naturally some overlap between these terms.


How about hater (sometimes spelled h8r in text messages)?

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    Hi Henry. Welcome to SE. H8R and Hater is an interesting contemporary suggestion. Did you consider how it’s used these days to describe the slightest disapproval; i.e. P1: “I don’t like your shirt.”, P2: “You are just a hater.”? If it is used in this way, does it really carry the same emphasis on actual destructive hate like racism? Jul 21, 2018 at 14:08

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