Other, one of the most common adjectives and pronouns, as verb means:

: to treat or consider (a person or a group of people) as alien to oneself or one's group (as because of different racial, sexual, or cultural characteristics).

  • we trace how in small rural communities these processes of othering the poor are racialized. - Victoria Lawson et al.- (M-W)

This usage appears to be relatively recent as suggested by the following extract from M-W:

Over the past few centuries, it has served as an adjective, an adverb, a noun, and a pronoun. In recent decades, other has increased its part-of-speech portfolio to include verb use.

When and in what context has “other” been first used as a verb? Has it emerged as a verb in psychological or sociological contexts? Is it heard in common speech?

  • It think this verb arrived late in the "woke" culture as neutral verb and as a substitute for "discriminating against", which has overwhelming negative connotations for its agent.
    – Greybeard
    Aug 30, 2022 at 16:05
  • 2
    The OED says it was first used as a verb with a related meaning in 1936, although the meaning is somewhat different. This meaning first clearly appears in their citations in 1995: "People who are ‘Othered’ in whatever way, made to feel marginal or suppressed or oppressed or whatever." Aug 30, 2022 at 16:13
  • Rather like outing. Sep 30, 2022 at 18:59

2 Answers 2


To identify other as a verb in online searches, it is easier to use the -ing form.

According to this article (Othering, identity formation and agency), othering is a term first coined as a systematic theoretical concept in 1985 by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, an Indian-American Professor at Columbia University. Apparently, she first used this word in a prior article:

Spivak was the first to use the notion of othering in a systematic way. Although Spivak uses the concept in a review of Derrida as early as 1980, it is not until 1985 that the concept is used systematically in her essay “The Rani of Sirmur”. Here Spivak analyses three dimensions of othering present in archive material of the British colonial power in India.

This Ngram shows that indeed the term took off in the 80's. And LinkedIn has an article that confirms the same, ‘Othering’ in media and steps towards a more inclusive society:

The concept of Othering was developed in the postcolonial period of the 1970s and 1980s. It was Spivak (1985) who first wrote and elaborated on the term while studying the discourses which colonial masters in India used in regards to local people.

It is with these implications that the term was used as a label for social discrimination:

According to Spivak, in the case of the Rani, the process of othering is classed and raced as well as gendered. Importantly, to speak of othering is then not an alternative to speaking of racism(s)/sexism or class, but a way of addressing an aspect hereof (Wren, 2001, p. 144). Hence othering concerns the consequences of racism, sexism, class (or a combination hereof) in terms of symbolic degradation as well as the processes of identity formation related to this degradation.

So the term started off in sociology, but it also has philosophical and psychological implications, with which it has penetrated other fields (such as art and economy, for example). While researching, it seems it is not often used in informal contexts, but it is common enough to be used in newspapers:

  • Othering is largely driven by politicians and the media, as opposed to personal contact (The Guardian)
  • Activists say the episodes make minorities feel separated — “othered,” as the recently coined verb puts it. (Ap news)

Also, I find other used as a verb in combination with the preposition as, this time with a meaning closer to differentiate, distinguish, condemn:

Here, the othering of Medea as a witch or barbarian is made even more poignant... (The Times)

  • I really don't see how you can discuss othering without going into the idea of what the other is to begin with. And that can be quite complicated. Hegel, Lacan, Derrida, Julia Kristeva and other structuralists led the way well before it floated up on English-speaking shores. The other is that which is different from oneself. In short, the stranger.
    – Lambie
    Aug 31, 2022 at 21:31

Other as a verb grew in popularity in philosophical and psychological texts in the early to mid 20th century as a way to explain the process by which something (e.g., thought, God) comes to treat itself as a distinct entity, an Other rather than a Self. The Oxford English Dictionary explains:

transitive (reflexive in early use). To become conscious of by viewing as a distinct entity; (in later use) spec. to conceptualize (a people, a group, etc.) as excluded and intrinsically different from oneself. Cf. other pron. and n. 9.

1936 G. E. Mueller Philos. of our Uncertainty 89 Thought posits and realizes itself by othering itself and taking the expression of this seeming other as its own.

1963 A. W. Watts Two Hands of God Introd. 25 In mystical traditions, God ‘others’ himself in creating the world, in creating the appearance of innumerable creatures acting on their own.

The OED is a little off on the start date of the verb use. Othered appears as early as the writing of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who coined the verb in his notebook to explain the sense of space or time differentiating self from other:

My Neighbor is my other Self, othered by Space - my old age is to my youth an other Self, othered by Time (Coleridge's Notebooks, volume 3, p. 1810)

The term would spread within philosophy in the late 19th century:

This may be stated thus: the Ego is, first, self-relation, simple identity, or In-Itself; secondly, the Ego discerns itself, distinguishes itself, others itself; this Otherness is, as contrasted with the first phase, its being Out-of-Itself, and, since the Othering is a making itself an object to itself, it is also its being For-itself ... (Henry, F. A. (1870). THE FINITE AND THE INFINITE. The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 4(4), 289–304.)

Now, this removal of limits, this " othering " of things, we call death ... (HOLLAND, R. A. (1885). IMMORTALITY. The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 19(2), 113–132.)

While the verb other and othering would see continual use in philosophy and psychology, other also sometimes appears in other contexts, like poetry:

This stream, its confetti / Of butterflies, its stones altering under our reflections, / Scribbles a signature across the earth, taking and giving, / Sucked up by the sun and given back by the wind, othered / And enriched (Dana, R. (1965). Journeys from the Skin, II [Poem]. The Sewanee Review, 73(1), 101–104.)

It was in the stew of these usages, but especially inspired by philosophical writing, that Spivak adapted othering to a postcolonial context, and the term pivoted yet again to the cluster of identity studies. fev's answer picks up on that later context.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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