Welcome to The Diversity Style Guide

The Diversity Style Guide is a resource to help journalists and other media professionals cover a complex, multicultural world with accuracy, authority and sensitivity. This guide, a project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University, brings together definitions and information from more than two dozen style guides, journalism organizations and other resources.

The guide contains more than 700 terms related to race/ethnicity, disability, immigration, sexuality and gender identity, drugs and alcohol, and geography. You can browse the stylebook by letter or by category using one of the topic glossaries in the drop-down menu above. Or you can look up a term in the search box below.

Each entry refers back to the original source. Material in brackets [ ] was added to the original source’s definition. Terms without a reference source were written by the editor, with help or advice from experts in the field.

At the bottom of each entry is an icon, linking to a topic glossary of related terms.

SDX-Foundation_SPJ_Logo2The Diversity Style Guide is supported by grants from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists and the College of Liberal and Creative Arts at San Francisco State University. It is edited by Rachele Kanigel, an associate professor of journalism at San Francisco State University.

If there’s a term we’re missing or a resource you’d like to share, drop us a line on our Contact page.

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  • "bathroom bill"
    An inaccurate phrase created and used by far-right extremists to oppose nondiscrimination laws that protect transgender people. The term is meant to incite fear and panic at the thought of encountering transgender people in public restrooms. Simply refer to the nondiscrimination law/ordinance instead. For more information about covering nondiscrimination and anti-LGBT bills see Debunking the "Bathroom Bill" Myth -- Accurate Reporting on Nondiscrimination: A Guide for Journalists, a publication by GLAAD.
  • "Don’t ask, don’t tell"
    horthand for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue, Don’t Harass,” the military’s former policy on gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. Under the policy, instituted in 1993 and lifted in 2011, the military was not to ask service members about their sexual orientation, service members were not to tell others about their orientation, and the military was not to pursue rumors about members’ sexual orientation.
  • "ex-gay"
    Describes the movement, mostly rooted in conservative religions, that aims to change lesbian or gay individuals’ sexual orientation. Widely discredited in scientific circles. [For more information, see GLAAD Media Reference Guide - In Focus:"Ex-Gays" & "Conversion Therapy."]  
  • "school-to-prison pipeline"
    According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the "school-to-prison pipeline" refers to "the policies and practices that push our nation's schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.  This pipeline reflects the prioritization of incarceration over education."
  • "separate but equal"
    The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, called for equal treatment under the law. In 1892, a Black man named Homer Plessy was arrested for sitting in a train car designated for Whites. His case, Plessy v. Ferguson, went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled that as long as facilities were equal, segregation was constitutional. Jim Crow laws, named after a derogatory minstrel show character, began when Reconstruction ended in 1877. While the laws maintained separate services, they were often not equal.
  • "White Man's Burden"
    An 1899 poem written by Rudyard Kipling about the American role in the Philippines, which became an American colony following the Spanish-American War (1898). The poem begins: Take up the White Man's burden-- Send forth the best ye breed-- Go bind your sons to exile To serve your captives' need; To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild-- Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child. See full text of the poem.  
  • (partial) hearing loss/partially deaf
    Hard of hearing is the most common term for those who have a mild to moderate hearing loss that may or may not be corrected with amplification. Ask the individual what term he or she prefers. Otherwise, hard of hearing is almost always acceptable. See hard of hearing.  
  • #BlackoutDay, #TheBlackout
    #BlackoutDay is a social media campaign to celebrate Black history and the beauty of Black people. People who identify as Black, (including people from Africa or from the African diaspora and mixed-race or part-Black people) are encouraged to post photos of themselves on social media with the hashtags #TheBlackout, #Blackoutday and/or #Blackout, according to the group's tumblr. The first Blackout occurred on March 6, 2015 and it was repeated on April 3, June 21, Sept. 21 and Dec. 21 that year. In 2016, organizers decided to hold the 24-hour online event every three months on the 6th of the month -- March 6, June 6, Sept. 6 and Dec. 6. The concept was started by Marissa Rei (formerly known as blkoutqueen, now @marissarei), who has since taken on leadership of the movement; T'von (expect-the-greatest) who contributed the original selfie day idea; and nukirk, the curator behind the blog whatwhiteswillneverknow, who promotes the events on social media, according group's tumblr. The movement's FAQ page says the founders were inspired to create #BlackOutDay because of "the lack of representation and celebration of everyday Black people in mainstream spaces such as movies and television, and the need to create a positive space in which Black people could feel welcomed and beautiful."
  • A.D.
    Abbreviation of the Latin phrase anno Domini, translated as “the year of the Lord.” Traditionally, it is used to date years after the birth of Jesus. Scholars and textbooks are increasingly using the abbreviations B.C.E. for “before the common era” and C.E. for “common era” to avoid using terms defined by their relation to Christianity. AP style, however, remains A.D. and B.C. Use A.D. preceding the year, as in A.D. 77. Do not say the seventh century A.D. If A.D. is not specified, it is assumed to be A.D. Use B.C. afterward, as in 255 B.C.
  • abaya
    A robelike garment worn by some women who are Muslims. It is often black and may be a caftan or fabric draped over the shoulders or head. It is sometimes worn with a hijab and/or a niqab.  
  • ABC
    Slang for American-Born Chinese. Usually refers to a person born in the United States of Chinese ethnic descent. Many are second-generation with parents who immigrated from mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. Although not necessarily a pejorative term, ABC may imply a lack of connection to Chinese identity or a sense of cultural confusion.
  • ABCD
    Short for “American Born Confused Desi” and many consider it a slur. It refers to children of Indian immigrants in the United States. The expression comes from the cultural adjustment that the second generation might experience when dealing with an Indian culture at home and American culture outside the home. The term can echo derogatory terms applied to other immigrants and should not be used loosely or carelessly.  
  • able-bodied
    This term is used to describe someone who does not identify as having a disability. Some members of the disability community oppose its use because it implies that all people with disabilities lack “able bodies” or the ability to use their bodies well. They prefer non-disabled or enabled as more accurate terms. The term non-disabled or the phrase does not have a disability are more neutral choices. Able-bodied is an appropriate term to use in some cases, such as government reports on the proportion of able-bodied members in the work force.  
  • ableism
    Prejudiced thoughts, attitudes and/or discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental and/or emotional ability. Ableism may take the form of improper treatment of people with disabilities, denial of access, or rejection of disabled applicants for housing and jobs. It may also be referred to as disability discrimination, ablecentrism or disability oppression.
  • abnormal/abnormality
    Abnormality is a term used to describe something deviating from what is normal. The term can be appropriate when used in a medical context, such as abnormal curvature of the spine or an abnormal test result. However, when used to describe an individual, abnormal is widely viewed as a derogative term. The phrase abnormal behavior reflects social-cultural standards and is open to different interpretations. The words abnormal or abnormality are acceptable when describing scientific phenomena, such as abnormalities in brain function. However, avoid using abnormal to describe a person. Avoid referring to someone who does not have a disability as a normal person as it implies that people with disabilities are deviant or strange. Typical is a better choice. Be cautious when using the term abnormal behavior. Explain what it means in the context in which it is being used.  
  • abolition
    Major American reform movement that sought to end slavery in America using a wide range of tactics and organizations. While abolitionists are commonly portrayed as white people deeply concerned about the plight of enslaved blacks, and epitomized by William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe, many were African American, including Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. Free blacks in the North also were stalwart in their dedication to the cause and provided financial support.
  • abortion
    When choosing terms to describe a person’s stance on abortion, journalists should remember that abortion is a nuanced issue, with many people supporting or opposing abortion in some, but not all, circumstances. Take care to describe a person’s view rather than relying on terms popularized in the heated public debate. For example, journalists should use pro-abortion rights or a similar description instead of pro-choice, and opposed to abortion or against abortion rights instead of pro-life. The AP Stylebook advises using anti-abortion instead of pro-life and abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice.
  • accents and direct quotation of
    See dialect.  
  • accessibility, accessible
    The opportunity to access programs, services and facilities for people with disabilities. The extent to which a facility is usable and approachable for people with disabilities.
  • acting, appearing (gay, straight)
    Judgment that assumes a subject’s sexual orientation or gender identity is deceptive or not genuine. Example: He was straight-acting. In general, avoid.
  • activist, advocate
    An activist is someone who actively advocates for political or social change. Often used to describe black leaders engaged in activism. Others who also push for causes, however, often are called advocates. Advocate is more neutral and a better choice for news copy, unless a subject describes himself or herself as an activist.
  • addict, addiction
    Addiction is a neurobiological disease, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. Its development is influenced by environmental, cognitive and genetic factors. Addiction can be characterized by “impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm and/or craving.” Addiction often implies dependence on substances other than alcohol, although alcoholism is essentially alcohol addiction. The American Psychiatric Association recommends avoiding the term addict, suggesting instead the phrase “someone experiencing a drug/alcohol problem.” The association also discourages using the term junkie, which specifically refers to someone who misuses heroin. According to Substance Use Disorders: A Guide to the Use of Language by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, the term addiction is acceptable for uncontrollable, compulsive use of substances as well as acts such as gambling, sex, working, etc., in the face of negative health and social consequences. The center states that addiction differs from dependence in that dependence only accounts for health problems, whereas addiction denotes use, despite health and social problems (this same distinction applies to alcohol dependence and alcoholism). The center also recommends using the word misuse in place of abuse when describing harmful drug usage. Avoid the terms clean and dirty concerning drug test results, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. The terms are considered derogatory because they equate symptoms of illness to filth. When referring to a drug test, state that the person tested positive for (drug). It is preferable to refer to someone who harmfully uses drugs as someone with a drug addiction. Use recovering or in recovery from to refer to someone trying to overcome active addiction, i.e. someone recovering from a methamphetamine addiction.  
  • adhan
    The Islamic call to prayer. It is chanted in Arabic by a person called a mu’adin or a muezzin. In Muslim neighborhoods, it might be broadcast over speakers. This is a general translation of the call, though there are differences among countries and branches of Islam: God is great. (Four times) I bear witness that there is no god except the One God. (Twice) I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God. (Twice) Hurry to the prayer. (Twice) Hurry to success. (Twice) God is great. (Twice) There is no god except the One God.
  • Adi Granth
    Pronounced “Aad granth.” Holy book of the Sikh religion, considered the 11th and lasting guru. It is a compilation of the devotional poetry of Guru Nanak, other Sikh gurus, and saints of other religions. Sikhs consider it the supreme spiritual authority and living guide of the Sikh religion. It is installed under a canopy in every Sikh gurdwara (house of worship) where Sikhs sing, recite and meditate on the scripture. It is also called the Guru Granth Sahib. See Sikhism.
  • adoption
    The language of adoption has evolved dramatically over the past few decades. Many terms commonly used a generation ago are now considered not only offensive but inaccurate. Some years ago a group of adoption advocates calling themselves the Accurate Adoption Reporting Group prepared a Suggested Adoption Stylebook in an attempt to educate journalists and other media writers to write or talk about adoption in a more sensitive and informed way. The guide is not available on the Internet, but is quoted widely, as in this article from Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia. Here are some tips from the guide: As with race or gender, the fact that a person was adopted should be mentioned only if it’s essential to the story. If it is used, its relevance should be made clear. A daughter who joined the family through adoption is—and should be described as—simply a daughter. If it is relevant to mention adoption, use past-tense phrasing such as: She was adopted in 1997, rather than She is adopted. Adoption is one of many events in a person’s past, not an immutable personal trait. An adopted person’s parents should be referred to simply as father, mother, or parents. The man and woman who shared in the child’s conception can be referred to as the birth or genetic or biological parents (not real or natural parents). Writers should avoid terms such as abandoned or given up. It is usually inaccurate to refer to children available for adoption as orphans. Often, their birth parents are alive. Nor should children be referred to as unwanted. It is better to say that birth parents placed the child for adoption, made an adoption plan, or transferred parental rights. The reasons that people adopt are rarely relevant. To suggest or say that parents couldn’t have a baby of their own is inaccurate. Adoption is not second best. Children who join families through adoption are their parents “own” by law and by love. Stories should not portray adoptive parents as unusually selfless or saintly. In most cases, families adopt because they want to be parents and are no more saintly or selfless than other parents. The National Council for Adoption and Adoptive Families, a resource and community for adoptive families, each have guides to adoption language. This chart brings together accurate and less-accurate language from these two guides.
  • adultism
    According to the National Youth Rights Association, adultism "refers to behaviors and attitudes based on the assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without their agreement. This mistreatment is reinforced by social institutions, laws, customs, and attitudes."
  • affirmative action
    In the United States, affirmative action began under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was a way to address discrimination based on gender and race. Other countries also have affirmative action policies. Rulings expanded the U.S. law to include disability, ethnic origin and age. Affirmative action is used in employment, education, government contracts and more. Since 2000, several suits have been brought challenging the racial dimensions of U.S. affirmative action . One myth is that African Americans are the chief beneficiaries of affirmative action. That is not true. The U.S. Department of Labor has said that white women have been the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action policies.
  • afflicted with/stricken with/suffers from/victim of
    These terms carry the assumption that a person with a disability is suffering or has a reduced quality of life. Not every person with a disability suffers, is a victim or is stricken. It is preferable to use neutral language when describing a person who has a disability, simply stating the facts about the nature of the disability. Example: He has muscular dystrophy.  
  • Africa
    The second largest continent in area and population after Asia. It is in the eastern hemisphere, south of the Mediterranean and adjoining Asia on the northeast. The area is 11,677,240 square miles (30,244,050 square kilometers). Sub-Saharan Africa (sometimes called Black Africa)—Region south of the Sahara Desert and used to describe those countries not part of North Africa, the region north of the Sahara. Avoid using Black Africa because it is considered to be politically incorrect or insensitive to some. North Africa—Predominantly Arab or Berber in ethnicity or culture and is mostly associated with the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The sub-Saharan Africa is predominantly black in ethnicity or culture and with few exceptions, such as Mauritius and South Africa, is one of the poorest regions in the world. The exact dividing line between the two regions is not clear. However, according to one classification, sub-Saharan Africa includes 48 nations, 42 of which are on the African mainland. Also, four island nations in the southwest Indian Ocean (Madagascar, The Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles) and two in the Atlantic (Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe) are considered part of Africa. Central Africa Central African Republic Chad Democratic Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo Eastern Africa Burundi Comoros Djibouti Eritrea Ethiopia Kenya Seychelles Rwanda Somalia Tanzania Uganda Northern Africa Algeria Ceuta Egypt Libya Melilla Morocco Sudan Tunisia Western Sahara Southern Africa Angola Botswana Lesotho Madagascar Malawi Mauritius Mozambique Namibia Reunion Swaziland South Africa Zambia Zimbabwe Western Africa Benin Burkina Faso Cameroon Cape Verde Cote d'Ivoire Equatorial Guinea Gabon The Gambia Ghana Guinea-Bissau Liberia Mali Niger Nigeria São Tomé and Príncipe Senegal Sierra Leone Togo
  • African American Language
    See Ebonics.
  • African American, African-American, Black, black
    People in the United States who share a lineage that can be traced directly or indirectly to Africa. Black and African American do not necessarily mean the same thing and individuals may prefer one term over the other. It’s best to ask. Gallup has found since 1991 that half to two-thirds of African-American and Black respondents have not had a preference. Some Black people do not identify as African American. This lineage, while collective, contains a diverse array of histories, cultures and experiences. This includes, but is not limited to, Black, African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino and African immigrants living in the United States. Jesse Jackson popularized the term African American, which had already existed, in the 1980s. It mirrors hyphenated names for other American groups. Some people may identify themselves as African American to resist Black as a socially constructed category. Others may identify this way to assert their American identity. There are many reasons one might identify as African American. Some people may identify as Black because they do not feel connected to the American state. Others may identify as Black because they do not identify with the African continent. There are various historical, social and political reasons why one might prefer to identify as Black. The term has historically connected people of African descent around the world and was revived during the Black Power Movement. Black and then African American replaced older terms such as Colored and Negro imposed by others. Self-identification might reflect feelings about origin, affiliation, colonialism, enslavement and cultural dispossession. Hyphenate when using African American as an adjective, as in African-American churches. [The National Association of Black Journalists advises that for a story in which race is relevant and there is no stated preference for an individual or individuals, media writers should use Black because it is an accurate description of race. The NABJ Style Guide also says, ”Do not use race in a police description unless the report is highly detailed and gives more than just the person’s skin color. In news copy, aim to use Black as an adjective, not a noun. Also, when describing a group, use Black people instead of just Blacks. In headlines, however, Blacks is acceptable.” ] [A NOTE ABOUT CAPITALIZATION OF THE WORD BLACK: There has been much discussion about whether the b in Black should be capitalized. Most journalism style guides, like those of the Associated Press and The New York Times, call for putting both “white” and “black” in all lowercase letters. Others, like The Chicago Manual of Style, allow capitalization if an author or publication prefers. Essence and Ebony magazines, The Chicago Defender  and many other publications serving African-American communities capitalize Black. The National Association of Black Journalists does not capitalize Black in its publications, including the NABJ Style Guide. After much discussion the team that put together 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans decided to capitalize Black, according to editor Joe Grimm. Many of the terms related to Black and African-American people in The Diversity Style Guide come from these two guides. After much research and consideration, the editor of The Diversity Style Guide elected to capitalize Black and White when used in a racial context. For more discussion about whether to capitalize the B in Black see: "Black and White: Why Capitalization Matters" by Merrill Perlman Columbia Journalism Review, 2015 "The Case for Black With a Capital B" by Lori Tharps The New York Times, 2014 "Why the ‘B’ in ‘Black’ Is Capitalized at DiversityInc" by Luke Visconti Diversityinc, 2009 "Black, black, or African American?" by Aly Colón Poynter, 2003]
  • African diaspora
    [Black people of African descent who are scattered throughout the world; refers to Blacks whose ancestors were removed from the African continent through slavery and colonization, and dispersed worldwide, according to the National Association of Black Journalists Style Guide.] The African diaspora is a byproduct of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, which dispersed millions of people. The TransAtlantic Slave Trade Database estimates that 12.5 million Africans were taken to the Americas and the Caribbean. About 1.8 million died en route. This forced move imposed a negative legacy. Overlaying new locations on African origins changed identities. [In the 20th and 21st centuries many Africans migrated from the continent to other parts of the world for religious, political and economic reasons, continuing the African diaspora. For more about the history of the African diaspora, including the different phases of migration and where Africans settled, read the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy's web page about The African Diaspora.]
  • African Methodist Episcopal Zion
    Black members within the John Street Church in New York City and within American Methodism in general were denied ordination, forced to sit in segregated pews and limited in their access to the Methodist itinerant clergy and the Communion Table. Frustrated by this treatment, two black John Street members, Peter Williams and William Miller, in 1796 founded the African Chapel. The chapel was later renamed Zion Church and its members became known as Zionites. In 1801, with the help of the Rev. John McClaskey a white minister who had opposed the independence efforts of Richard Allen’s African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Philadelphia, the Zion Church was incorporated as the African Methodist Episcopal Church of the City of New York. James Varick was its first pastor, later becoming the first black African Methodist Episcopal Zion bishop. [According to the Religionbook, AME Zion Church is acceptable on second reference.]
  • African Methodist Episocopal (AME) Church
    Independent Methodist organization dedicated to black self-improvement and Pan-Africanist ideals. In 1794, Richard Allen, the first AME bishop, established Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. About 2,000 black Methodists facing persistent discrimination met at Bethel to discuss legal independence from the Methodist church's main body. They voted to organize under the name African Methodist Episcopal Church and the group successfully sued for independence before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. AME is acceptable on second reference and in headlines. See Methodist Episcopal Church.    
  • Afro-American
    Archaic term to describe a black person. Popular in the 1960s and '70s, the name was overtaken by black and later African American in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Do not use. See African American, African-American, black.
  • Afrocentric, Afrocentrism
    The study of Africa, its history and culture from a non-European perspective. The term Afrocentrism was first coined in 1976 by Molefi Kete Asante and can be defined as rediscovering African and African-American achievement, restoring Africa's rightful place in history, and establishing its importance on par with European history, culture and accomplishment.
  • ageism
    Stereotyping and prejudice against individuals or groups because of their age. The term was coined in 1969 by gerontologist Robert N. Butler, M.D., founder, president and CEO of the International Longevity Center at Columbia University, to describe discrimination against seniors and patterned on sexism and racism. Dr. Butler defined ageism as a combination of three connected elements: prejudicial attitudes towards older people, old age and the aging process; discriminatory practices against older people; and institutional practices and policies that perpetuate stereotypes about older people.
  • agender
    A person who identifies as neither male nor female. It is best to ask people who identify as agender which pronouns they prefer. See androgyne, genderqueer, non-binary.  
  • aging
    An ongoing, all-inclusive process rather than a label placed on older, frail adults.
  • agnostic
    Someone who is unsure whether there is a God or who believes it is unknowable whether God exists. Sometimes, the former is referred to as weak agnosticism and the latter is called strong agnosticism. Do not confuse with atheist. See atheist.
  • Alaska Native
    An umbrella term that includes Eskimo (Inupait and Yupik), Alaskan Indians (Athabascan, Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian) and Aleut. They are culturally distinct and most prefer to be called Alaska Native instead of being grouped as American Indian. [In 2016, President Barack Obama signed legislation (HR 4238) that replaced the term Eskimo with Alaska Native in federal laws. "Although the name Eskimo is commonly used in Alaska to refer to all Inuit and Yupik people of the world, this name is considered derogatory in many other places because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean 'eater of raw meat,' according to Lawrence Kaplan of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Alaska Native Language Center.  "Linguists now believe that Eskimo is derived from an Ojibwa word meaning 'to net snowshoes.' However, the people of Canada and Greenland prefer other names. Inuit, meaning "people," is used in most of Canada, and the language is called Inuktitut in eastern Canada although other local designations are used also. The Inuit people of Greenland refer to themselves as Greenlanders or Kalaallit in their language, which they call Greenlandic or Kalaallisut.]
  • alcoholic, alcoholism
    An alcoholic is someone who has the disease of alcoholism. Alcoholism is characterized by a loss of control in alcohol use, according to the American Psychological Association. The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment recommends using people-first language such as someone with alcoholism or someone with an alcohol problem. Refer to someone who harmfully uses alcohol as someone with an alcohol problem or someone with alcoholism. Use recovering to refer to someone with the disease of addiction, as in someone recovering from alcoholism.  
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
    Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by Bill W. and Dr. Bob S. in Akron, Ohio, according to the AA General Service Office. AA is “a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism,” according to the group’s preamble. AA members do not pay dues or fees; rather, it is supported through contributions. AA is unaffiliated with any outside organizations or institutions and does not endorse, finance or oppose any causes. The AA program is focused on 12 steps people take to achieve sobriety. Because anonymity is central to the organization, disclose that someone is a member of Alcoholics Anonymous only if it is essential to the story. When covering AA, consider referring to members by their first name only unless official references or context requires otherwise. These same considerations apply when covering other 12-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous. See alcohol, alcoholic.  
  • alien
    A word used by the U.S. government to describe a foreign-born person who is not a citizen by naturalization or parentage. People who enter the United States legally are called resident aliens and they carry alien registration cards also known as green cards, because they used to be green. While Webster's first definition of the term alien is in accordance with the government's interpretation, the dictionary also includes other, darker, meanings for the word, such as “a non-terrestrial being," "strange," "not belonging to one," "adverse," "hostile." And the Encyclopedia Britannica points out that "in early times, the tendency was to look upon the alien as an enemy and to treat him as a criminal or an outlaw." It is not surprising then that in 1798, in anticipation of a possible war with France, the U.S. Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which restricted "aliens" and curtailed press freedoms. By 1800 the laws had been repealed or had expired but they still cast a negative shadow over the word. In modern times, with science-fiction growing in popularity, alien has come to mean a creature from outer space, and is considered pejorative by most immigrants.  
  • Alien Land Laws
    Enacted by many Western states in the early 1900s, these laws prevented Asians from owning land. Most of these laws were repealed in the late 1950s and 1960s.
  • All-American
    Caution. Not a synonym for white. Refers to the best high school and college athletes of the year.
  • Allah
    Arabic word for God. Some Muslims say they generally say or write God instead of Allah when addressing a non-Muslim to avoid any suggestion that the two are not the same. However, always use Allah when quoting a person or text that uses Allah.  
  • Allahu akbar
    In Arabic it means “God is great” or “God is the greatest.” Muslims say it several times a day, such as during the call for prayer, during prayer, when they are happy and when they wish to express their approval of what they hear.
  • ally
    Term for a person who is not lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and who actively supports the LGBT community. Can clarify when campaigns, groups or other LGBT-related activities may include non-LGBT participants.
  • Alzheimer's disease
    The Cleveland Clinic defines Alzheimer’s disease as “a progressive and fatal disease in which nerve cells in the brain degenerate and brain matter shrinks, resulting in impaired thinking, behavior and memory.” The Alzheimer’s Association identifies it as the most common form of dementia. Symptoms include disorientation, mood and behavior changes, and confusion. The disease is named after German neurologist Alois Alzheimer, who first identified the disease. The proper term is Alzheimer’s disease, never Alzheimer’s. Disclose that an individual has Alzheimer’s disease only if it is relevant to the story and if the person has been formally diagnosed by a licensed medical professional. Refer to the subject as someone who has Alzheimer’s disease rather than using suffers from or afflicted with. For more information about Alzheimer's Disease click on the Alzheimer's Association's "What is Alzheimer's?" page.      
  • America
    Refers to the entire Western hemisphere and does not apply solely to the United States. North America and South America together are often referred to as the Americas. When referring to the United States of America, use United States, U.S., U.S.A. or the States.
  • American Indian
    Native American and American Indian are both generally acceptable, although individuals may have a preference. It is usually best to refer to Native people by their specific tribe or nation, such as Navajo, Hopi or Cherokee. Indigenous people in the United States were first referred to as Indians because Christopher Columbus believed he had reached the East Indies when he touched the shores of North America. Today, many Native people prefer to call themselves American Indian to avoid stereotypes associated with Indian. Native American and Native are also acceptable terms and preferred by some. There are millions of people who identify as American Indian or who have Native ancestry. That does not make them all American Indians in the eyes of tribes or the federal government. The federal government considers someone American Indian if he or she belongs to a federally recognized tribe. Individual tribes have the exclusive right to determine their own membership. Tribal governments formally list their members, who must meet specific criteria for enrollment. Some require a person to trace half or a quarter of his or her lineage, for instance, to the tribe, while others require only proof of descent. Native Americans represent roughly 1 percent of the overall population in the United States. [Use native-born to describe someone who is born in the United States but isn't American Indian. In 2016, President Barack Obama signed legislation (HR 4238) that replaced the term American Indian with Native American in federal laws.]
  • American Indian Movement
    Activist organization known as AIM. Founded in 1968 to promote civil rights for Native Americans. AIM has sought recognition of treaty rights through sit-ins and highly visible protests. In 1972, AIM organized the "Trail of Broken Treaties," converging on Washington, D.C., before the presidential election. AIM has branches across the United States.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native, U.S. Census definition of
    The U.S. Census Bureau, which adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, defines American Indian or Alaska Native as "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment." The Census Bureau notes: "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or sociocultural groups."
  • American Sign Language
    A complete language that utilizes “signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body,” according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Many people in North America who are deaf or hard of hearing use it as a primary means of communication. Specify American Sign Language on first reference, capitalizing all three words. ASL is acceptable on second reference.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    Federal civil rights legislation that was created in 1990 to address discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications as well as state and local government services. Use Americans with Disabilities Act on first reference; ADA is acceptable on second reference. For more information go to ADA.gov.
  • Amish
    The Amish, descendants of the Swiss Anabaptists, are known for their distinctive, plain clothes as well as their commitment to rejecting modern technology, including in some cases cars and electricity. They base their morals and way of life on the Bible, which they interpret literally, and on unwritten rules known as the Ordnung. Amish pastors are called bishops.
  • amputation, amputee
    Amputation refers to the removal of a bodily extremity, usually during a surgical operation, for a variety of reasons. Amputee is the acceptable term for someone who has undergone an amputation. Some people have a physical deformity that is not a result of an amputation. Someone with an amputation or amputee are both acceptable.
  • anchor baby, anchor child
    A child born to a non-citizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially if parents plan the birth to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and other members of their family. The term is pejorative; avoid except in quotations.
  • androgyne
    A person whose biological sex is not readily apparent or who is between two genders. It is best to ask people who identify as androgyne which pronouns they prefer. See agender, genderqueer, non-binary gender.  
  • androphilic, gynephilic
    An attraction to males or masculinity (andro) or females or femininity (gyne). Alternative terms used in place of homosexual or heterosexual so as to avoid gendering the person while expressing their attraction to a particular gender.
  • Angel Island
    The West Coast counterpart to Ellis Island, N.Y. From 1910 to 1940, the U.S. Immigration Station processed hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the majority from China, at Angel Island. During World War II, Japanese, and German POWs were detained at the station before being sent to facilities farther inland. Angel Island is now a state park run by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. A virtual tour of the island, produced by the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, is available here.
  • annul, annulment
    A divorced person who wishes to remarry in the Catholic Church can apply to a church court for an annulment or “declaration of nullity.” This means that the sacramental bond of matrimony never existed in the earlier marriage because at least one of the parties was unwilling or unable to make and keep a promise of permanent, faithful, self-sacrificial marriage in which he or she modeled the love of Christ toward a spouse. A declaration that the sacrament did not exist does not mean that a loving marriage relationship never existed, and it does not make children illegitimate in the eyes of the church or civil law.
  • anti-Semitism
    A prejudice against people of Jewish heritage. It has inspired the Holocaust, physical abuse, slander, economic and social discrimination, vandalism and other crimes. Religious anti-Semitism is based on the idea that all Jews are eternally and collectively responsible for killing Jesus (known as deicide). It has been formally renounced by most major churches, led by the Catholic Church. Although Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, they do not make the anti-Semitic claim against Jews because they do not believe that Jesus was crucified. Economic and political anti-Semitism is rooted in widespread 19th- and 20th-century claims that Jews were engaged in a plot to rule the world.
  • apartheid
    Racial segregation, specifically a policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination enforced by the white minority government against non-white residents in South Africa from 1948 to 1994.
  • apocalypse, apocalyptic
    A final, cosmic battle between forces of good and evil that encompasses the Earth; for religious believers, it ushers in the reign of God and results in the righteous being raised to everlasting life. Apocalyptic thought dates to ancient times and is present in Judaism, Christianity and other belief systems. The New Testament Book of Revelation and the Book of Daniel, found in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, are the best-known Scriptures involving apocalyptic prophecies, but other examples exist. Apocalyptic beliefs are most closely associated with Christians who read the Bible literally and with fringe religious movements. Other Christians are more likely to read Revelation as an allegory. Lowercase apocalypse when referring to the battle ending the world, but uppercase when using the traditional Catholic name for the New Testament Book of Revelation, which in Greek means “Apocalypse.” The Catholic News Service advises using the New American Bible name Revelation instead of Apocalypse except in direct quotations.
  • Arab
    Refers to nation or people from an Arabic-speaking country. Not synonymous with Muslim. When referring to events in a specific country, name the country, rather than generalizing Arab. Arab is a noun for a person and it can be used as an adjective, as in Arab country. Do not imply in headlines or text that Arab equals Muslim, holy war or terrorist. Note: Iran is not an Arab country. The majority of Iranian people are Persian and the language is Farsi.
  • Arab American, American Arab
    A U.S. citizen or permanent resident who traces his or her ancestry to, or who immigrated from, Arabic-speaking places in the Middle East (southwestern Asia and northern Africa). Not all people who live in this region are Arabs. The U.S. government does not classify Arabs as a minority group for the purposes of employment and housing. Arab American is preferred over American Arab.
  • Arab League
    Formally the League of Arab States, this umbrella organization has 22 members in North Africa, the horn of Africa and Southwest Asia: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros Island, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria (suspended in 2011 because of ongoing uprising and civil war), Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.   The Arab League 22 Countries of the Arab League (year of the country's admittance) Egypt (1945) Iraq (1945) Jordan (1945) Lebanon (1945) Saudi Arabia (1945) Syria (1945) Yemen (1945) Libya (1953) Sudan (1956) Morocco (1958) Tunisia (1958) Kuwait (1961) Algeria (1962) Bahrain (1971) U.A.E. (1971) Oman (1971) Qatar (1971) Mauritania (1973) Somalia (1974) Palestine (1976) Djibouti (1977) Comoros (1993)
  • Arabian
    An adjective that refers to Saudi Arabia, the Arabian Peninsula, or for things, such as an Arabian horse. When ethnicity or nationality is relevant, it is more precise and accurate to specify the country by using Lebanese, Yemeni, or whatever is appropriate.
  • Arabic
    The name of the language spoken in Arab countries; it is generally not used as an adjective.
  • argilah, argeelah
    A water pipe that filters and cools tobacco smoke. The smoke is usually flavored with apple, honey, strawberry, mint, mango or apricot. Such pipes are smoked in many parts of the world and go by several names, including sheesha and hookah.  
  • aromantic
    A person who does not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic people may or may not be asexual and they may still feel aesthetic or sensual attraction. See asexual.
  • articulate
    When someone remarks that a black person is articulate, it can imply that this is surprising behavior. This can be insulting for the individual or toward African Americans generally. So, this apparent compliment can meet a negative reaction. Because Standard American English is often seen as “proper” and spoken by white people, noting that someone speaks well can challenge black identity. Authenticity issues arise when someone says that a black person “talks white." This can happen among black people, as well.
  • Aryan
    Derived from the Sanskrit “arya,” or “noble.” In scholarly usage, a member of a people speaking one of a family of Indo-European languages, the presumed predecessor of much later languages spoken in Europe and the Indian subcontinent. In the late 19th century, the term became part of the anti-Semitic ideology that led to Nazism. In the modern usage of white supremacists, an Aryan is a non-Jewish white person, especially of Scandinavian heritage.
  • asexual
    A person who does not experience sexual attraction. Asexuals can and do experience other forms of attraction and intimacy, such as aesthetic, emotional, platonic, or romantic, and they can describe their romantic attraction in terms of hetero/homo/bi/pan, etc.
  • Ash Wednesday
    In the Western Christian church, the seventh Wednesday before Easter marks the beginning of the Lenten season. The name is taken from a practice of putting ashes on the foreheads of penitent believers as a reminder of their physical return to dust (“ashes to ashes”). The practice is common among Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Episcopalians, and many Lutherans. It is also becoming more popular among other Protestant churches.
  • Ashkenazi
    Pronounced “osh-ken-AH-zee.” A Jew of German, Polish, Austrian or Eastern European descent. From the Middle Ages through the mid-20th century, Ashkenazic Jews developed a distinct culture and spoke predominantly Yiddish (a combination of German and Hebrew) or Slavic languages. During the 19th and 20th centuries, as they faced increasing persecution in Eastern Europe, many Ashkenazic Jews migrated to Western Europe and the United States. Since the mid-18th century, Ashkenazic Jews have made up the majority of Jews in the U.S. After the Holocaust, their numbers were drastically reduced in Europe. Many of the surviving Ashkenazic Jews immigrated to France, the U.S. and current-day Israel. They are estimated to make up 80 percent of the world’s Jewish population. Ashkenazic Jews are also referred to as Ashkenazim. See Sephardi.
  • Asia
    About 60 percent of the world’s population, about 4.3 billion people (2015 estimate), live in Asia. Traditionally, East Asia consists of China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia and, occasionally, the Philippines. South Asia traditionally consists of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Southeast Asia (which is occasionally combined with East Asia) includes Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In American usage, Asian is generally used to refer to the entire continent of Asia; often, however, Asian is used as shorthand for East Asians, or East and Southeast Asians. British usage generally treats the term Asian as referring to South Asia.
  • Asia, Central
    Caution, vague. It includes Mongolia, but what else the term includes has varied over time. Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), a German naturalist, helped popularize the term and included large parts of Russia, Iran and Afghanistan.  Others disputed his methodology. A more modern definition would include Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
  • Asia, use and abuse of images from
    The AAJA Handbook to Covering Asian America urges caution. The Taj Mahal; the Ganges River; the Great Wall of China; pagodas; the cheongsam (traditional Chinese dress); the conical hat worn in Vietnam and elsewhere; rice paddies; rickshaws; samurais; geishas; Kabuki characters; as well as classical art, such as Hokusai’s “Great Wave” are emblematic of Asia. When used in context, such images are as essential as any other detail of reporting. When they are altered, however, problems can arise. When, for example, white political figures are dressed in a conical hat or depicted in a rickshaw in, say, an editorial cartoon criticizing U.S. dependence on China, they can suggest racial stereotypes.
  • Asian
    Caution. A term as broad as European. In some usage, chiefly British, Asian refers to Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and others. In the United States, such ethnic groups would be known as South Asians, while Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and others would be known as East Asians.  
  • Asian American, Asian-American
    Form the noun without the hyphen, as in French Canadian. In compound phrases, where the term is used as an adjective, a hyphen may be used, as in French-Canadian folklore. So, too, with Japanese American and Pakistani American. A few Asian Americans see a pejorative connotation to Asian-American with a hyphen, in part because of Theodore Roosevelt’s denunciation early in the 20th century of “hyphenated Americans” who do not join the American mainstream.
  • Asian Exclusion Acts
    Laws in which Congress barred or sharply restricted the immigration of Asians to the United States. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred Chinese laborers and prohibited Chinese from applying for citizenship; it was repealed in 1943. The 1924 Oriental Exclusion Act banned immigration from Asia. The 1934 Tydings-McDuffie Act imposed an annual quota of 50 Filipino immigrants. Only after 1965, with immigration laws designed to encourage European immigration, did Asian immigration also expand.
  • Asian names
    More complex than European names. Clarify family and surname, as well as use of second reference, with the interview subject will help avoid error. When in doubt, ask the news subject, especially on rules for second reference (such as Mr. Mao, but not Mr. Zedong). Asian pronunciation and transliteration rules are also complex. For example, in Mandarin, Chen is pronounced “chuhn” (rhymes with “one”), Li is “lee” and Yang “yong” (rhymes with “song,” not “sang”). However, many second-generation or later Chinese Americans pronounce their names in an Americanized fashion. Consider including pronunciation explainers in the text, broadcast or graphic. See Vietnamese names, Southeast Asian names.
  • Asian religions
    Caution. Religion is an imprecise term. Faith in Asia can differ sharply from that of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. Temples, for instance, are typically not used for “worship” but for meditation; meditation is not necessarily “prayer;” and to most, but not all, Buddhists, Buddha is not a god. Confucianism and Taoism, much practiced in East Asia, are ways of and guides to living. They are informal combinations of practical philosophies, values, and folk beliefs. See Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Shintoism, Taoism.        
  • Asian, U.S. Census definition of
    The U.S. Census Bureau, which adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, defines Asian as "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam." Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander refers to: "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands." The Census Bureau notes: "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or sociocultural groups."    
  • Asiatic
    Avoid. A vestige of European colonialism and imperialism. A 19th-century adjective used at the time in “scientific” European treatises assuming the superiority of the white race.
  • ASL
    See American Sign Language.
  • Asperger's syndrome
    An autism spectrum disorder. It is on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. According to Autism Speaks, common behaviors include difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, obsession with specific and often unusual topics, and an inability to understand emotional and non-literal issues. The syndrome is named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger. Refer to someone as having Asperger’s syndrome only if the information is relevant to the story and if a licensed medical professional has formally diagnosed the person. If the individual has received a specific diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, refer to him or her as a person diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome or a person with Asperger’s syndrome. Note the S in syndrome is not capitalized. [Asperger’s Disorder was added to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) in 1994 as a separate disorder from autism. However, there are still many professionals who consider Asperger’s Disorder a less severe form of autism, according to the Autism Society. In 2013, the DSM-5 replaced Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders with the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.]
  • atheist
    A person who does not believe in God or other supernatural forces. Some people make a distinction between “weak atheism” (the idea that evidence doesn’t support a belief in God) and “strong atheism” (being convinced that God does not exist). See agnostic.
  • attention-deficit disorder (ADD)/attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
    ADD and ADHD refer to attention-deficit disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, respectively. Both are common mental disorders that manifest primarily in children, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Common symptoms for both disorders include restlessness, difficulty in focusing or staying organized, and impulsivity. Those with an ADHD diagnosis also exhibit a difficulty in sitting still or engaging in quiet activities. Some debate exists as to the accuracy of an ADHD or ADD diagnosis as an actual disorder. Refer to someone as having attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder only if the information is relevant to the story and if a licensed medical professional has formally diagnosed the person. Use attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder upon first reference; ADD and ADHD are acceptable for each disorder on second reference, respectively.
  • Aunt Jemima
    Born a slave in 1834, Nancy Green became the advertising world’s first living trademark as Aunt Jemima. Working as a domestic in Chicago, Green was contracted at age 59 to portray a happy cook to promote a pancake recipe by Pearl Milling Co. She died in 1923, but her image as the pancake queen lives on today. Some view the icon as a painful reminder of slavery, and her character as the apron-clad cook with a bandanna tied on her head as a negative stereotype of black women.
  • aunt, uncle
    When not referring to a family relationship, the terms may be insensitive or offensive depending on its context. Historically, whites used the names often for any black person in servitude. Today, the names are used in the black community as terms of endearment or respect for non-family members or close family friends. Traditionally in the South, children are expected to address an adult by an honorific, Miss, Maam, Aunt, Mister, Uncle or Sir. See Aunt Jemima and Uncle Tom.
  • auntie
    In many cultures, this is a term of respect, not necessarily family relationship. An Arab American, for example, might call an older Arab female or male “auntie” (“amty”) or “uncle” (“ammo”). See aunt, uncle.  
  • autism/autism spectrum disorders
    A group of complex disorders related to brain development. Common symptoms of autism spectrum disorder include difficulties in communication, impaired social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. However, symptoms vary across the spectrum. Some experts classify autism as a developmental disorder rather than a mental illness. Prior to 2013, subtypes of autism such as Asperger’s syndrome, autism disorder and childhood disintegrative disorder were classified as distinct disorders. The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders consolidates all autism disorders under the larger autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. Opinions vary on how to refer to someone with autism. Some people with autism prefer being referred to as an autistic person; others object to using autistic as an adjective. The Autism Self Advocacy Network details this debate here. Refer to someone as having autistic spectrum disorder only if the information is relevant to the story and if a licensed medical professional has formally diagnosed the person. Ask individuals how they prefer to be described. If in doubt, use people-first language, referring to someone as a person with autism spectrum disorder rather than an autistic person. See Asperger’s syndrome.
  • ayatollah
    A Shiite term for senior clergyman. Capitalize when used as a title before a name, but lowercase otherwise.
  • B.C.
    Literally, before Christ or the Christian era. Scholars and textbooks are increasingly using the abbreviations B.C.E. for “before the common era” and C.E. for “common era” to avoid using terms defined by their relation to Christianity. See A.D.
  • baby boom
    U.S. Births: 1940-1980 (Baby Boomer Generation in Red) Data from U.S. Census Bureau Infographic by Arash Malekzadeh using Infogr.am A baby boom is any period marked by a greatly increased birth rate, but the term is most often applied to the dramatic increase in births after World War II. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 76 million Americans were born during the post-war baby boom (1946–1964). For more about the baby boom, see The Baby Boom Cohort in the United States: 2012 to 2060, a report by the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Bahá’í, the Bahá’í Faith
    The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion. Its founder, Bahá’u’lláh, taught that all religions represent progressive stages in the revelation of God’s will. There are no clergy; the faith’s affairs are administered by a network of democratically elected councils. The terms Bahaism and Bahaist are incorrect; use the Bahá’í Faith to refer to the religion and Bahá’í to refer to an adherent. For more about Bahá’í Faith go to bahai.org, the website of the worldwide Bahá’í community.
  • banana
    A slang term and pejorative reference used by Asian Americans when referring to Asian Americans who identify more with whites than with other Asian Americans. Use only in direct quotes.
  • Baptist
    When capitalized, the term generally refers to a member of an evangelical Christian grouping marked by baptism by immersion of individuals who profess faith in Jesus Christ. Baptists commonly call this practice believer’s baptism. This distinguishes them from groups that practice infant baptism, such as Catholics and Episcopalians.
  • bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah
    Often translated as “son of the commandment” in Hebrew and Aramaic since "bar" is "son" in Aramaic and "mitzvah" is "commandment" in both Hebrew and Aramaic. ["Bat" is daughter in Hebrew and Aramaic.] [However, a more accurate translation of bar/bat mitzvah is “subject to the commandments.”] This is a milestone in Judaism in which a person is no longer a child in the eyes of Jewish law and is now responsible for his or her own actions spiritually, ethically and morally. A boy automatically reaches the milestone at age 13, while a girl reaches it at age 12 (bat mitzvah). No ceremony is required to mark the passage, although religious ceremonies and receptions are commonplace. [Technically, the term refers to the child who is coming of age, and it is strictly correct to refer to someone as "becoming a bar (or bat) mitzvah." However, the term is commonly used to refer to the coming-of-age ceremony itself, and people often talk about "having a bar mitzvah" or "going to a bar mitzvah."]
  • Bible Belt
    Areas of the United States that are noted for a prevalence of strict evangelical Christian teachings, particularly in the South and Midwest. Writer H.L. Mencken coined the phrase in 1925 while reporting on the Scopes Trial in Tennessee. It can be considered offensive in some contexts so the term should be used carefully.
  • Bible-believing
    A term used by some Christians to describe their emphasis on the authority and primacy of Scripture, as in Bible-believing Christians. By definition, however, all Christians believe the Bible. Thus, journalists should avoid using this term except when it is clear people are using it to describe themselves.  
  • bindi, or bindhi
    Pronounced “BIN-dhee.” The decoration worn on the forehead by many Hindu women. There are various explanations for the bindi: It can be a blessed symbol that signifies female energy and is believed to protect women and their husbands; a traditional symbol of marriage; a third eye, the eye of inner vision or spiritual wisdom; or simply a decoration like jewelry. It is worn by Indians of all religions.  
  • biological/anatomical sex
    The physical structure of one’s reproductive organs that is used to assign sex at birth. Biological sex is determined by chromosomes (XX for females; XY for males); hormones (estrogen/progesterone for females, testosterone for males); and internal and external genitalia (vulva, clitoris, vagina for assigned females, penis and testicles for assigned males). Given the potential variation in all of these, biological sex must be seen as a spectrum or range of possibilities rather than a binary set of two options.
  • biphobia
    Fear of bisexuals, often based on stereotypes, including inaccurate associations with infidelity, promiscuity, and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Intolerance or prejudice is usually a more accurate description of antipathy toward bisexual people. See bisexual.
  • bipolar disorder
    Formerly known as manic depression, this mental illness is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic factors and neurological functioning, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It is characterized by unusually intense shifts in emotion, energy, behavior and activity levels in what are called “mood episodes.” Such episodes are usually classified as manic, hypomanic, depressive or mixed episodes. Bipolar disorder often develops during late adolescence or early adulthood. Refer to someone as having bipolar disorder only if the information is central to the story and a licensed medical professional has formally diagnosed the person. Do not use bipolar as an adjective for something that rapidly or drastically changes.
  • biracial
    Combination of two races. May be used to describe people or things. Not all biracial individuals self-identify in this manner. Do not used mixed as an alternative.
  • birth defect
    See defect/birth defect.
  • bisexual, bi
    A person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attractions to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. People may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime. Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be bisexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.
  • Black Africa
    See Africa.
  • Black church
    Collective noun that refers to the more than 65,000 Christian churches that have a predominance of Black members and clerical leadership. The Black Church has served as a major institutional foundation in the Black community. It generally refers to Protestants, who themselves represent a variety of denominations and sects. It does not generally encompass Catholics, Muslims or others. In some cases the term b\Black churches may be more accurate, but also be mindful that many Black people worldwide belong to churches and to denominations that may not be predominantly Black. [According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, the Black Church “has been composed of seven major denominations.” They are the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Church of God in Christ, the National Baptist Convention of America, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.]  
  • Black Codes
    Statutes curtailing the rights of African Americans during the early years of Reconstruction and instituted by Southern legislative bodies in 1865 and 1866. Also known as Negro Codes, the statutes aimed to restore the political powers and economic structure of slavery by, for example, forbidding Black people from owning or renting farmland.
  • Black diaspora
    See African diaspora.
  • Black English, African American English
    See Ebonics.
  • Black leader
    Avoid using the term. It implies that one person is the spokesperson for all Black people. When referring to a local Black person in a leadership position, state the organization that he or she belongs to.
  • Black Lives Matter, #BlackLivesMatter
    [A civil rights movement that started after the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Florida shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. The Black Lives Matter movement, also written #BlackLivesMatter, was started as a Twitter hashtag by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi as "a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society," according to the Black Lives Matter website. It gained momentum in 2014 after several other young African-American men—Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY; Freddie Gray in Baltimore—were killed by police in cities around the country.] According to its website, #BlackLivesMatter does not believe Black lives are more important than other lives. In fact, it says it stands with other oppressed peoples and views all lives as important. The campaign opposes police violence against Black people. While the group says all lives matter, not all lives face the same threats. According to Black Lives Matter, once Black people are free from oppression, the benefits will be wide reaching and transformative to society as a whole.
  • Black Muslim
    Black Muslim is a term that became associated with the Nation of Islam but is now considered derogatory and should be avoided. The preferred term is simply member of the Nation of Islam. Also, because of that association, do not use Black Muslim to describe African-Americans who practice traditional Islam, whose tenets differ markedly from the Nation’s. Instead, say African-American Muslims.
  • Black or African American, U.S. Census definition of
    The U.S. Census Bureau, which adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, defines Black or African American as "a person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa." The Census Bureau notes: "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or sociocultural groups."  
  • Black Twitter
    A virtual community on the Twitter social network that focuses on issues of interest to the Black community, particularly in the United States. Black Twitter has been used as a tool for social activism, such as organizing protest rallies and boycotts.
  • black, Black
    See African American, African-American, black, Black.
  • blind/limited vision/low vision/partially sighted/visually impaired
    According to the American Foundation for the Blind, the term legally blind denotes a person with 20/200 visual acuity or less. Therefore, blind or legally blind is acceptable for people with almost complete vision loss. Many people with vision loss are not considered blind. The foundation recommends that unless the person refers to himself or herself as legally blind, the terms low vision, limited vision or visually impaired should be used. Use the term blind only when the person has complete loss of sight and the term legally blind when the person has almost complete loss of sight. Other terms also may be acceptable. It is best to ask the person which term he or she prefers and take that into consideration. Commonly used terms include: Limited vision: Acceptable when a person is not legally or completely blind Low vision: Acceptable when a person is not legally or completely blind Partially sighted: Used most often in British publications but acceptable if a person is not legally or completely blind Visually impaired: This general term describes a wide range of visual functions, from low vision to total blindness. It is generally considered acceptable, although, as with the term hearing impaired, some may object to it because it describes the condition in terms of a deficiency.
  • Bollywood
    The Indian movie industry’s equivalent of Hollywood. The name is a combination of Bombay, the city now called Mumbai, and Hollywood. It is a popular term for Hindi cinema and is a vast pop culture industry. It is the largest producer of movies in the world, ahead of Hollywood and France. Bollywood is not the only source of Indian cinema and movies are made in other languages, but Bollywood is the largest. Bollywood movies include several genres, but they are often musicals with singing and dancing.
  • Bombay
    See Mumbai.
  • boomer
    Describes a person who was born during the post-World War II baby boom between 1946 and 1964. Boomers and boomer generation are preferred over baby boomers, which is perceived as condescending. As it captures an entire and diversified generation of 76 million people, they should not be lumped together unless compared to other generations.
  • Boricua
    Puerto Rico was formerly known as Borikén, a self-governed island inhabited by the Taino people. The arrival of Spanish settlers during the 16th century decimated the Taino population and many were forced into assimilation. The term Boricua is a derivative of Borikén and connotes pride in Puerto Rican origins.
  • born-again
    Theologically, all Christians claim to be born-again through the saving work of Jesus Christ; they just disagree over how it occurs. Catholics and Orthodox, for instance, say it occurs in the sacrament of baptism, which frequently takes place when the baptized person is too young to recall it. Evangelical Protestants emphasize being born-again as a personal, transformational experience that involves a deliberate commitment to follow Christ. Because the term tends to associate someone with a particular religious tradition, do not label someone a born-again Christian. Let the person label themselves, as in, who calls herself a born-again Christian.
  • Borscht Belt
    An informal term for the summer resorts of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York that primarily catered to Ashkenazic Jewish families in the mid-20th century. These resorts, now mostly closed or under new management, were a popular vacation spot for New York City Jews between the 1920s and 1970s. The name, a play on the Bible Belt, came from borscht, a beet soup popular with Eastern European Jewish immigrants. This collection of bungalow colonies and hotels developed in part to accommodate Jewish families who were sometimes denied admission to other resorts because of anti-Semitism. Many Jewish comedians and performers got their start in the Borscht Belt. The 1987 movie "Dirty Dancing" immortalized Borscht Belt culture, which included lavish meals, afternoon dance lessons and evening entertainment.
  • Buddha
    Pronounced “BUD-dah” (first syllable “u” as in “put,” not a long “oo” sound). The Buddha, meaning “the awakened one,” refers to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. A Buddha is anyone who has attained enlightenment. There are human Buddhas of the past, present and future as well as celestial Buddhas who are venerated in some Buddhist schools for their ability to help those on the path to liberation.
  • Buddhism
    The fourth-largest organized religion in the world, Buddhism was founded in India sometime between the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, or the “awakened one.” Buddhism teaches that meditation and the practice of moral behavior (and, according to some schools, rituals) can lead to the elimination of personal craving and hence the release of suffering and the attainment of absolute peace (nirvana). This is gradually achieved through successive cycles of rebirth (although some schools say such liberation may be obtained as quickly as within one lifetime). Although Buddhism is frequently described as a nontheistic tradition since the historical Buddha did not claim to be divine and there is no concept of a divine absolute God — the vast and complex tradition of Buddhism includes an intricate cosmology of beneficent and wrathful deities as well as transcendent Buddhas and bodhisattvas who can be propitiated to help Buddhist practitioners on the path to enlightenment. There are three major forms or “vehicles” of Buddhism: Theravada, found in most of Southeast Asia, focuses on individual realization, with practices particularly directed to monastic life; Mahayana stresses the universality of Buddha-nature and the possibility of enlightenment for all beings. It developed into many variant schools in China, Japan and Korea; Vajrayana, or Tibetan Buddhism, is found in Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia. Vajrayana developed from the Mahayana tradition but is often considered separately as a third “vehicle.”
  • burkini
    A type of swimming suit that covers the arms, legs and hair and is worn by some Muslim women. Burkini is a mix of the words burqa and bikini. Some Muslim women choose to cover these parts of the body to demonstrate modesty and faith. In the summer of 2016, after a series of terrorist attacks on French communities, some towns in France banned women from wearing a burkini on public beaches or in the sea.
  • Burmese names
    Naming rules are complex. Names typically consist of two one-syllable names, but often with another word as an honorific, such as Daw for older women, Maa for younger women; and Naw, Saw, Maung and U (pronounced “oo” as in two) for men.
  • burqa
    A form of covering for women who are Muslims, most frequently found in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is an all-enveloping outer garment with a net-covered opening for the eyes or face to allow the woman to see. See abaya, hijab and niqab.
  • C.E.
    See A.D.
  • Cajun, Creole
    Cajun is a native of Louisiana originally descended from the Acadian French immigrants. Creole is a person of European parentage born in the West Indies, Central America, tropical South America or the Gulf States.
  • Cambodian names
    Typically family name first, personal name second. Middle names are rare.
  • Cantonese
    Not spoken by all Chinese, it is dialect mainly spoken in the environs of Canton, now known as Guangzhou, near the South China Sea. The dialect of many of the early Chinese immigrants to the United States in the 1840s to 1870s. Also the principal dialect of Hong Kong. Still widely spoken in U.S. Chinatowns. See Mandarin.      
  • caste
    For hundreds of years India had a caste system of social hierarchy. At its root, it was a system referred to in Hindu scriptures that aimed to classify people based on their nature, aptitude and conduct and put them to work in functions that suited their classification. Later interpretations resulted in a hereditary and hierarchical structure that was the basis for centuries of segregation and discrimination in traditional communities. It sharply limited socio-economic mobility. Changes in the law since independence have removed many vestiges of caste-based discrimination. However, it persists in many traditional villages and communities. Caste also forms the basis for a range of quotas and affirmative-action policies enacted by the Indian government aimed at erasing the legacy of discrimination in higher education and government employment. In many instances, these quotas and preferences have exacerbated tensions and resentments between caste groups and deepened caste-based identity and prejudice. Communities or castes can discourage marrying, associating or even dining with people of other groups. Indians in the United States do not use a caste system and freedom from it may encourage immigration.
  • caste system
    The traditional social, economic and religious structure of Indian society, which divided people into four broad groups, or castes (varna in Sanskrit), and multiple smaller groups, or subcastes (jati). While it is believed that the system was once simply a division of labor and guild system, determined by skills and aptitude, it became a rigid hereditary hierarchy in which restrictions were placed on one’s social mobility, job opportunities, marriage prospects and even whom one could eat with. Although caste discrimination is illegal in India and most Hindu leaders stress that it is not sanctioned in Hinduism, it is still practiced among followers of all religions throughout South Asia. An additional group, the untouchables, was created from the lowest caste for people who performed tasks considered “polluting” in a physical or spiritual sense. Since the early 20th century, the Indian government has called this group the “Scheduled Castes.”      
  • Catholic, catholic
    When capitalized, the word refers specifically to that branch of Christianity headed by the pope, the Roman Catholic Church. In lowercase, the word is a synonym for universal or worldwide, [as in he has catholic tastes in art.] Most Roman Catholics are Western or Latin Catholics, meaning they follow church practice as it was formulated in Rome. But the Roman Catholic Church also includes 22 Eastern Catholic churches, whose practices closely resemble those of the Eastern Orthodox, including venerating icons, allowing a married priesthood and giving the three sacraments of initiation – baptism, First Communion and confirmation – to infants. Never refer to Eastern Catholics as Orthodox or vice versa. Use Roman Catholic if a distinction is being made between the church and members of other denominations who often describe themselves as Catholic, such as some High-Church Episcopalians and members of some national Catholic churches that have broken with Rome (for example, the Polish National Catholic Church and the Lithuanian National Catholic Church).
  • Caucasian
    Caution, not a synonym for American. Term for white, or relatively light-skinned, people originally from Europe and adjacent regions of Africa and Asia. Named after Caucasus mountain range between Russia and Georgia. The paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould traced the term to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), a German naturalist, who concluded that the Georgian people of the Caucasus region were the most beautiful and therefore most likely the first human beings created by God. See all-American, Aryan, white.
  • Central America
    A tropical isthmus that connects North America to South America. Central America is bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.
  • cerebral palsy
    A number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. It is not caused by problems in the muscles or nerves but by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movement. People with cerebral palsy can exhibit a variety of symptoms. It is acceptable to describe a person as someone with cerebral palsy, followed by a short explanation of what the condition entails. When describing specific symptoms, it is always best to ask the person what terms he or she prefers. Spastic/spaz: Spastic cerebral palsy is a common type of cerebral palsy in which the movements of people with the disorder appear stiff and jerky. It is acceptable to refer to someone as having spastic cerebral palsy, but it is derogatory to refer to someone as spastic or a spaz.
  • Chabad
    The official organization of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Judaism, which is based in Crown Heights, N.Y. Chabad-Lubavitch is a branch of Hasidism, a movement within Orthodox Judaism founded by 18th-century mystics. Chabad emphasizes reaching out to nonpracticing Jews. The term Chabad comes from an acronym of the Hebrew words for wisdom, understanding and knowledge.
  • Chaldeans
    Catholics from Iraq. A religious and ethnic minority there, Chaldeans have some large communities in the United States, the largest in the Detroit and San Diego areas. The Chaldean Catholic Church has had connections with the Roman Catholic Church since 1551 and has been affiliated since 1830. Chaldeans and Assyrians, along with Arabs, are Semite people. Their cultural foundation is similar, but the religious affiliation is different.  
  • Charlie Chan
    Caution. Stereotype. Created by Earl Derr Biggers, a mystery novelist, in 1925. Charlie Chan became the protagonist in many popular Hollywood films from 1926 to 1981. Chan was played by white actors, including Warner Oland, who also played the evil Dr. Fu Manchu. While a skilled detective, Chan spoke “inscrutable” dialogue that often began, “Confucius say…” In “Behind That Curtain,” Chan said, “I fear I am victim of crude philosophy from Orient. Man — what is he? Merely one link in great chain binding past with future. All times I remember I am link.”
  • Chican@
    This post-internet construction simplifies “Chicano/Chicana” or “Chicano and/or Chicana.” Some academic studies departments have put this in their names. According to the University of Wisconsin at Madison Department of Chican@ and Latin@ Studies, “The @ ending (‘a’ at the center of ‘o’) offers a simultaneous presentation of both the feminine and masculine word endings of Chicana, Chicano, Latina, and Latino and allows the reader/speaker to choose the form she or he prefers.” See Latin@.
  • Chicana, Chicano
    People of Mexican descent; Chicano refers to men and Chicana to women. The terms were originally considered derogatory. However the Chicano movement during the 1960s adopted these names in response to discrimination against Mexican Americans working under unfair labor and social conditions. These terms announce pride in indigenous ancestry, which was a significant ideological element of the Chicano movement. See Latina, Latino.  
  • china doll
    Caution. A figurine, usually porcelain. When used metaphorically, the image demeans women of Chinese or Asian heritage because it implies submission, sometimes of a sexual nature. See reverse image of sexual dominance in Dragon Lady. Both images are pejorative.
  • Chinaman
    Avoid. A slur, often applied to anyone of Asian heritage. A term from 19th-century America, specifically for Chinese workers who worked for small wages building the transcontinental railroad. “Chinaman’s chance’’ means no chance at all, and implies injury or death.
  • Chinese laundries
    Caution. Can be racially charged. Legend has it that the first Chinese laundry was opened in 1851 in California by a failed Chinese miner. Inexpensive to open and posing no competition to white-owned businesses, Chinese hand laundries proliferated, peaking in 1940, with more than 5,000 laundries in New York City alone. In California, Chinese were once permitted to own only restaurants and laundries. The Chinese laundry declined sharply with the introduction of coin-operated laundromats.
  • Chinese names
    Typically family name first (as in “Smith”), personal name second (as in “John”). Many Chinese Americans, however, change the word order to conform to Western practice. They also often adopt Western names in addition to traditional names. Personal names consisting of two words (one word is typically a generational name) are sometimes hyphenated. Check to see if the interview subject prefers a hyphen. Rules for married women adopting their husbands’ names are often elaborate. (Taiwan, consisting mainly of ethnic Chinese from the mainland, follows Chinese naming rules.) See South Asian names.
  • ching-chong
    Avoid. A slur. Similar to chink. See chink.
  • chink
    Avoid. A slur. Similar to Chinaman. Avoid phrases such as “chink in the armor” — despite its original non-racial connotation — that call to mind the slur. See Chinaman, ching-chong.
  • Chitlin' Circuit
    The “Chitlin’ Circuit” was a touring route Black entertainers used in the early 20th century. It provided safe venues and reliable lodging for traveling performers during Jim Crow discrimination. From the 1930s into the 1950s, new types of music developed along the circuit. Some emerged from string bands. New genres included the blues and rock ’n’ roll. Performers included Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Ruth Brow, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, James Brown and Lena Horne. The circuit also featured dance and comedy. Besides giving performers a stage, the circuit also helped support Black businesses. The circuit was named after boiled pig intestines, a soul-food staple. The name plays off Jewish entertainers’ Borscht Belt. Listen to rock historian Ed Ward discuss two books about the "Chitlin' Circuit" and play some music from that era on NPR's "Fresh Air."
  • chopsticks
    Chopsticks originated in China around 1200 B.C. when cooks used them to retrieve food from the bottom of pots. Chopsticks moved from stove to table and became popular in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. People in Indonesia, Thailand and India don’t traditionally use chopsticks. Some Southeast Asian restaurants run by people who don’t generally use chopsticks offer them to Americans who believe this will help them eat more authentically.
  • Christianity
    The world’s largest religion is based on the life and teachings of Jesus as described in the New Testament. Believers, called Christians, consider Jesus the Son of God, whose Crucifixion served as atonement for all human sins and whose Resurrection assures believers of life after death. The original Christians were Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Hebrew Bible; other Jews disagreed, however, and eventually Christianity became distinct from Judaism as the Apostle Paul and others spread the faith to gentiles.
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
    Members of the church are called Mormons or Latter-day Saints; either is acceptable. It is preferable to use the church’s entire name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on first reference. The LDS church has asked not to be referred to as the Mormon Church but does not object to adherents being referred to as Mormons. Mormon, LDS and Latter-day Saint can all be used as adjectives, as in Mormon beliefs or LDS practices. The church was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, a farm boy in upstate New York. Smith said he was directed to a set of golden plates that contained a record of ancient inhabitants of the Americas who had migrated from Jerusalem. Smith said he translated this record with divine help and published it as the Book of Mormon. The book tells of a visit by the resurrected Jesus to these inhabitants in the Western Hemisphere, which is why its subtitle reads “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” Mormons believe that Smith had a vision of God and Jesus Christ and that the church he founded is the restoration of true Christianity. In the 19th century, Mormons were persecuted for their beliefs and eventually fled to Utah, where they could practice their faith in peace. Because of their extra-biblical scriptures and beliefs about God and Jesus (they reject the Nicene Creed, for example), Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches do not regard Mormons as Christian. In stories where that is relevant, journalists should explain why Mormons regard themselves as Christian and why other groups say their beliefs do not accord with traditional Christianity. In stories where different faith groups are mentioned, journalists should avoid judging which groups are Christian. For example, say: Baptists, Mormons, Presbyterians, Seventh-day Adventists and Jewish groups took part in relief efforts rather than Baptists, Presbyterians, Seventh-day Adventists and non-Christians, including Mormons and Jews, took part in relief efforts. The church has headquarters in Salt Lake City and is highly structured. All worthy males, 12 and older, can be ordained to the priesthood; women are not ordained but can serve in leadership and other positions in the all-volunteer clergy. The top authority is the "prophet, seer and revelator," a position held by the most senior apostle, who has the title of church president. He is joined by two counselors, who constitute the governing First Presidency. When the president dies, the First Presidency is dissolved and the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles becomes the new president. Under the First Presidency is the three-member Presiding Bishopric, which governs in temporal affairs. There is also the First Quorum of Seventy, which oversees missionary work and other aspects of church governance. The church is divided into territories called stakes, and each stake is headed by a president, two counselors and a stake high council. Individual congregations are called wards. The leader of a ward holds the title of bishop. The only formal titles in the LDS church are president for the head of the First Presidency, apostle, bishop and elder. Female leaders are called sisters. Capitalize all formal titles before a name on first reference, and only use the person’s last name on second reference. The terms minister and the Rev. are not used.
  • Cinco de Mayo
    Cinco de Mayo, which means May 5, is a Mexican holiday recalling victory over France in the 1862 Battle of Puebla, which occurred during the Franco-Mexican War. Cinco de Mayo festivities include parades, street festivals, mariachi music and special foods in both Mexico and the United States. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is considered a celebration of Mexican culture. Cinco de Mayo is not equivalent to the Fourth of July. Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain on Sept. 16.
  • cisgender, cis
    A term used by some to describe people who are not transgender. "Cis-" is a Latin prefix meaning "on the same side as," and is therefore an antonym of "trans-." A more widely understood way to describe people who are not transgender is simply to say non-transgender people. [According to the NLGJA Stylebook Supplement on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Terminology, cisgender "may be shortened to cis or combined as ciswoman or cisman. The word cisgender distinguishes without assuming that cisgender is the neutral or normal state."]
  • civil rights movement, Civil Rights Act
    Often used to describe the struggles of black Americans between 1945 and 1970 to end discrimination and racial segregation. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to guarantee basic civil rights for all Americans, regardless of race, after nearly a decade of nonviolent protests and marches, ranging from the 1955-1956 Montgomery bus boycott to the student-led sit-ins of the 1960s to the March on Washington in 1963.
  • civil union
    Legal status that provides same-sex couples some rights available to married couples in areas such as state taxes, medical decisions and estate planning. Civil unions have been recognized by some states but not the U.S. government. [On June 26, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the Constitution guarantees every American the right to marry the person they love, making marriage equality the law of the land.] See commitment ceremony, domestic partner.  
  • classism
    Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on difference in socioeconomic status, income or class, usually by upper classes against people of lower socioeconomic status.
  • closeted, in the closet
    Describes a person who is not open about his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. Better to simply refer to someone as not out about being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. See coming out, outing.
  • cochlear implant
    An electronic device that can help a person who is deaf or hard of hearing. The device does not fully restore hearing, but it gives a representation of sounds to help a person understand speech. The device has been criticized by some in the Deaf community who are concerned the device could threaten Deaf culture. However, advocates support the device for suitable candidates. When referring to a cochlear implant, avoid describing it as a corrective device or one that would restore a deaf person to mainstream society.  Instead, define it as an electronic device that can assist a person who is deaf or hard of hearing in understanding speech. See Deaf/deaf.
  • code switching
    Changing the way one speaks depending on the situation at hand. Within the Black community, some people speak differently with their friends than they do with their family. Some African Americans may use Standard English at work and the vernacular in familiar Black spaces. When Black people code switch, they are adjusting their speaking style to fit into a social context and to accommodate the speakers in that space. Code switching is a learned skill. It does not happen automatically. Youth from families where African American Language is the dominant language will enter school speaking African American Language. By the same token, youth from families where Standard English is the dominant language will enter school speaking Standard English. For either group, to master code switching requires dedicated, well-trained teachers and long-term experience and exposure to linguistic varieties other than the home language.
  • codger
    Ageist terminology. Avoid.
  • colonialism
    The European Age of Exploration that began in the 16th century led, for good and ill, to the subjugation of less technologically advanced peoples as European colonies. Many, but not all, of the countries of Asia have been part of European empires, often Dutch and British. (France played a similar role in the Middle East; Belgium in Africa; Portugal and Spain in North and South America.) One consequence of World War II was the rapid shedding of empire in the late 1940s, climaxing globally in the 1960s. See Imperialism, Third World.
  • colored
    An archaic term for Black. In some African countries, colored denotes those of mixed racial ancestry. Do not use unless referring to official names, historical events or in quotes. See African, African American, Black, black.
  • colorism
    Colorism occurs when someone with lighter skin is favored over someone with darker skin. Colorism occurs within all races, as all have varieties of skin tone and hair color. Although no longer common, the “brown paper bag test” was an example of this among African Americans. With that test, some lighter-skinned or “high yellow” African Americans would exclude people if their skin was darker than a brown paper bag.
  • coming out
    Short for “coming out of the closet.” Accepting and letting others know of one’s previously hidden sexual orientation or gender identity. See closeted/in the closet, outing.  
  • commitment ceremony
    A formal, marriage-like ceremony in which two people declare their commitment to each other; individuals can be of the same or different sexes. Ceremonies may be religiously recognized but are not legally binding. See civil union, domestic partner.
  • community
    Caution. A synonym for a neighborhood or town, but a cliché, as in “intelligence community.’’ By definition, community implies a shared like-mindedness that no reporter can possibly confirm. Avoid such phrases as the Korean community. In any group there is a diversity of opinion. It would be absurd to quote “white community leaders.” Better to identify leaders and ethnically based groups by name, with possible reference to the size of their membership. Also, while many ethnic groups identify with the majority culture and faith of their home countries, some do not. In the United States, for example, many Arab Americans are Christian, not Muslim.
  • Confucianism
    A philosophy developed by Confucius, an influential Chinese teacher and scholar who lived in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. His teachings, collected in the Analects, emphasize social harmony and moral obligation. Confucianism is a philosophy, not a religion.
  • congenital disability
    A person who has a congenital disability has had a disability since birth. Common congenital disabilities include Down syndrome and heart-related medical conditions. It is preferable to state that someone is a person with a congenital disability, has had a disability since birth, or was born with a disability. Name the specific disability only when it’s pertinent to the story. Avoid the terms defect, birth or defective when describing a disability because they imply the person is somehow incomplete or sub-par. See defect, birth.
  • Copts, Coptics, Coptic Christians
    The word Copt is derived from the Greek word for Egyptian, and Coptic was the native language of Egypt before Arabic prevailed. Today the word refers to Coptic Christians. Although linguistically and culturally classified as Arabs, many Copts consider themselves to be ethnically distinct from other Egyptians.        
  • crazy/crazed, psycho, nuts, lunatic, deranged, wacko
    Derogatory language that contributes to the negative attitudes about mental illness that keep people from seeking treatment. If the word is essential to the story, such as when used in a quotation, context is critical to avoid reinforcing stereotypes. For instance, rather than crazy or deranged, use people living with a mental illness.     
  • creationism
    In the United States, creationism usually refers to the belief that the Bible’s account of creation is literally true and accurate. That generally means Genesis 1-2:4a, where God creates the Earth and all its life forms in six consecutive 24-hour days less than 10,000 years ago. (Genesis also tells a second creation story, in 2:4b-24, in which man is created before the Earth’s vegetation, and specific days are not described.) See intelligent design.
  • Creole
    See Cajun, Creole.  
  • cross-dresser
    While anyone may wear clothes associated with a different sex, the term cross-dresser is typically used to refer to heterosexual men who occasionally wear clothes, makeup and accessories culturally associated with women. This activity is a form of gender expression, and not done for entertainment purposes. Cross-dressers do not wish to permanently change their sex or live full-time as women. Replaces the term transvestite.
  • cruising
    Visiting places where opportunities exist to meet potential sex partners. Not exclusively a gay phenomenon.
  • cultural misappropriation
    Cultural appropriation occurs in TV and movies, music, cartoons, Halloween costumes and language. It is when people use another group’s cultural elements or artifacts in ways that can ridicule or be negative. Some see appropriation as an assault on culture. Cultural collaboration can lead to respectful sharing and fusion.
  • DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
    DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This program provides temporary relief from deportation and employment authorization for individuals who would be eligible for the DREAM Act were it to become law. DACA was created under the president’s executive authority to grant certain classes of people “deferred action” on their immigration cases. It was announced by President Obama in June of 2012 and can be renewed. It could be terminated at any time by executive action. See DREAM Act.
  • Deaf and dumb/deaf-mute
    Dumb was once widely used to describe a person who could not speak and implied the person was incapable of expressing himself or herself. Deaf-mute was used to refer to people who could neither speak nor hear. People living with speech and hearing disabilities are capable of expressing themselves in writing, through sign language and in other ways. Additionally, a person who does not use speech may be able to hear. Avoid these terms as they are often used inaccurately and can be offensive.
  • Deaf-blind, deaf-blind
    Indicates a person has some loss of vision and hearing. Use the terms and capitalization the person prefers.
  • Deaf, deaf
    Lowercase when referring to a hearing-loss condition or to a deaf person who prefers lowercase. Capitalize for those who identify as members of the Deaf community or when they capitalize Deaf when describing themselves. Deaf should be used as an adjective, not as a noun; it describes a person with profound or complete hearing loss. Other acceptable phrases include woman who is deaf or boy who is hard of hearing. Deaf and hard of hearing became the official terms recommended by the World Federation of the Deaf in 1991. Many people in the Deaf community prefer use of a lowercase “d” to refer to audiological status and the use of a capital “D” when referring to the culture and community of Deaf people. The National Association of the Deaf has not taken a definitive stand on this issue. Some people living with mild or moderate hearing loss may affiliate themselves with the Deaf community and prefer the term deaf instead of hard of hearing.  Alternatively, some who are deaf and don’t have a cultural affiliation to the Deaf community may prefer the term hard of hearing. See (partial) hearing loss/partially deaf, pre-lingually deaf/postlingually deaf/late-deafened, and hearing impaired/hearing impairment.    
  • defect, birth defect
    A defect is defined as an imperfection or shortcoming. A birth defect is a physical or biochemical abnormality that is present at birth. Many people consider such terms offensive when describing a disability as they imply the person is deficient or inferior to others. Avoid using defect or defective when describing a disability. Instead, state the nature of the disability or injury.
  • dementia/senility
    Dementia is “a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Dementia is not a specific illness; it is a term that refers to a wide range of symptoms. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Other types of dementia include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (previously known as “wet brain”). Common symptoms across forms of dementia include memory loss, difficulty in performing complex tasks, communication difficulties, personality changes and paranoia, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition to their cognitive component, many types of dementia include physical symptoms as well, such as the abnormal eye movements of Huntington’s disease or the tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease. FightDementia.org recommends avoiding the terms demented, dementing, dements, senile, or senility to refer to someone with dementia. The terms senility and senile denote conditions brought on by aging and often are used incorrectly to denote dementia. Refer to someone as having dementia only if the information is relevant to the story and a licensed medical professional has formally diagnosed the person. Use people-first language when describing someone with dementia, such as a person with dementia. Avoid describing someone as being demented or senile. When possible, reference the specific disease, such as someone with Huntington’s disease. When referencing Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, do not shorten to Huntington’s or Parkinson’s.      
  • dependence (drug)
    A physiological state that can occur with regular drug use and results in withdrawal symptoms when drug use is abruptly discontinued.
  • Desi
    Pronounced “THEY-see” or “DAY-see,” it comes from Sanskrit and means "from the country" or "of the country." [It refers to a person of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi birth or descent who lives abroad] and implies shared values or bonds.
  • detoxification, detox
    A process that enables the body to rid itself of a drug. Medically assisted detoxification may be needed to help manage an individual’s withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification alone is not treatment but is often the first step in a drug treatment program.
  • developed countries, developed world
    Terms that describe nations of the world that are considered more economically and technologically advanced. The Central Intelligence Agency's 2013-14 World Factbook lists the following as "developed countries": Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holy See, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States. The terms developed countries and developed world are generally considered to be more current and accurate than First World. In an alternative classification system, the World Health Organization divides countries into four income groups (low, lower-middle, upper-middle and high) based on the World Bank list of analytical income classification of economies.  
  • developing countries, developing world
    Terms that describe nations of the world that are considered less economically and technologically advanced. The Central Intelligence Agency's 2013-14 World Factbook lists the following as "developing countries": Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Federated States of Micronesia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, Uganda, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe. In addition this category covers the following 46 countries that are traditionally included in the more comprehensive group of "less developed countries": American Samoa, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, Cook Islands, Cuba, Eritrea, Falkland Islands, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Gaza Strip, Gibraltar, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, North Korea, Macau, Martinique, Mayotte, Montserrat, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Pitcairn Islands, Puerto Rico, Reunion, Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Tokelau, Tonga, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Virgin Islands, Wallis and Futuna, West Bank, Western Sahara. The terms developing countries and developing world are generally considered to be more current and accurate than Third World. The International Monetary Fund divides the world into two major groups: advanced economies and emerging and developing economies. See the World Economic Outlook for how it categorizes countries around the world. See developed countries, developed world.
  • dharma
    Pronounced “DAHR-muh.” The mode of conduct for an individual that is most conducive to spiritual advancement. It includes universal human values as well as values that are specific to persons in various stages of life. In Hinduism it also refers to individual obligations in terms of law and social law. In Buddhism it is the teachings of Buddha from which an adherent molds his conduct on the path toward enlightenment.
  • diagnosis, mental health
    Unless you have a determination by a psychiatrist or psychologist that the subject of a story has been clinically diagnosed with a mental disorder, avoid speculating about the issue. A mental illness should be described specifically, like any other illness. When a diagnosis is confirmed, specify the condition rather than referring to general “mental illness.”
  • dialect
    Language forms, particularly oddities of pronunciation and syntax, that are peculiar to a region or a group. Avoid using dialect if it renders the speaker as ignorant or makes the person a subject of ridicule, even in quoted material. In rare stories, use of dialect may be approved as bringing a sense of atmosphere that could not otherwise be achieved. Such approval should come from the department-head level. Obviously, further exception is made when dialect itself is news, such as in a story in which it is pertinent to the identification of a crime suspect. If dialect is to be used, words are spelled phonetically and apostrophes indicate missing sounds. Be accurate and avoid exaggeration.
  • diaspora
    Diaspora means “to scatter” in Greek, and the term is commonly used "to describe a community of people who live outside their shared country of origin or ancestry but maintain active connections with it," according to the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance. "A diaspora includes both emigrants and their descendants. While some people lose their attachment to their ancestral homeland, others maintain a strong connection to a place which their ancestors may have left generations ago. Many Americans come from mixed heritage and therefore can claim membership in multiple diaspora communities." The term is commonly used to describe the African diaspora or Black diaspora, the Jewish diaspora (the dispersion of Israelites, Judahites, and later Jews out of their ancestral homeland in the Land of Israel) and the Indian diaspora, the migration of people from India. Diasporas are often linked to an historic event, such as the expulsion of Jews from Judea, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Irish Famine, etc. migrated from territories that are currently within the borders of the Republic of India
  • different sex
    An alternative to "opposite sex" that recognizes gender as a continuum, rather than a binary construct. A person who is non-binary, for example, and identifies as neither male nor female, can have a relationship with a person of a different sex, but might not relate to the term opposite sex.
  • disability discrimination
    According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, disability discrimination "occurs when a covered employer or other entity treats an applicant or employee less favorably because she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is controlled or in remission) or because she is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if she does not have such an impairment). The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer ('undue hardship')."  
  • Diwali
    Pronounced “dee-VAH-lee.” The Hindu “festival of lights” is one of the most celebrated in the Hindu diaspora. It symbolizes the victory of dharma, and good over evil. The word is a variation of the Sanskrit word “Deepavali” and refers to the rows of earthen lamps celebrants place around their homes. Hindus believe that the light from these lamps symbolizes the illumination within the individual that overwhelms ignorance, represented by darkness. Diwali commemorates the return of the avatar Lord Ram (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu), his wife Sita and brother Lakshman to their capital, Ayodhya, after 14 years of exile. The residents of Ayodhya, overjoyed at the return of their beloved king, lit lamps in his honor. Thus, the entire city looked like a row of lights. Diwali is also observed by Sikhs, who celebrate the release of the Sixth Guru, Hargobind, from captivity by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, and Jains, who commemorate the day Lord Mahavira attained nirvana, or liberation, after his death in 527 B.C.
  • domestic partner
    Unmarried partners who live together. Domestic partners may be of different sexes or the same sex. They may register in some jurisdictions and receive some of the benefits accorded to married couples. Domestic partner and domestic partnership are terms typically used in connection with legal and insurance matters. See civil union.
  • down low
    Men who secretly have sex with men. Men “on the down low” may be in relationships with women and not identify as gay or bisexual. The term originated among Black men but has attained wider use. Use only in quotations or broad references because individuals generally do not identify themselves with this term. See MSM.
  • Down syndrome
     Down syndrome is a congenital condition (i.e. a condition existing at or before birth that may have a genetic or environmental cause). Down syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21 in an individual’s cell nuclei. It was first reported in 1866 by Dr. John Langdon Down and is characterized by a number of physical and cognitive symptoms, which the National Institutes of Health details here. Other terms commonly used to refer to people with Down syndrome are intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled or a person who has a cognitive disability or intellectual disability. The Global Down Syndrome Foundation considers all of these terms acceptable, while the National Down Syndrome Society suggests using cognitive disability or intellectual disability. The proper term for the disorder is Down syndrome, not Down’s syndrome or Down’s Syndrome. Use people-first language, stating that someone is a person with Down syndrome or has Down syndrome. Avoid using terms such as suffers from or afflicted with in association with the condition. The terms intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled, cognitive disability and intellectual disability are acceptable when used in a people-first context to describe someone with Down syndrome, such as the person has a developmental disability. However, it is more accurate to refer specifically to Down syndrome when that is the medically diagnosed condition.
  • drag
    Dressing or acting in a style typically associated with another gender, typically through costume and/or performance. Not synonymous with transgender or cross-dressing.
  • drag performer
    Entertainers who dress and act in styles typically associated with another gender (drag queen for those portraying women, drag king for those portraying men). Drag is more strongly determined by the nature of the costume and performance than the performer’s gender identity or assigned sex at birth. Some drag performers are transgender. Not synonymous with transgender or cross-dresser.
  • drag queen
    See drag performer.  
  • Dragon Lady
    Caution. A cartoon character from the 1930s comic strip “Terry and the Pirates.” Variations of the Dragon Lady were popularized in adventure movies of the 1940s and later. She was portrayed as sexy and evil in Chinese silk gowns with long sleeves, a cigarette holder in her hand. See china doll, a reverse image.
  • dreadlocks, locks, locs
    See hair, African American or Black.
  • DREAM Act
    The DREAM Act stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. It is a proposal first introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2001 to provide legal residency to undocumented youth who meet several criteria. Those include arrival in the United States as a minor, completing a high school diploma and completing two years in the military or at a four-year institution of higher learning. Supporters say the DREAM Act would help people and benefit the country economically. Opponents say it rewards people for breaking the law and encourages illegal immigration. See DACA.
  • dressed as
    Avoid using as a judgment that assumes a subject’s gender identity. Avoid using to sensationalize. See transgender, drag, cross-dresser.
  • driving while Black, DWB
    Phrase or acronym describing racial profiling of Black motorists by police, especially while driving expensive cars or in upscale neighborhoods without reason. If used in quotes or copy, define what it means.
  • drug abuse, substance abuse
    According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, use of drugs becomes abuse "when people use illegal drugs or use legal drugs inappropriately. This includes the repeated use of drugs to produce pleasure, alleviate stress, and/or alter or avoid reality. It also includes using prescription drugs in ways other than prescribed or using someone else’s prescription. Addiction occurs when a person cannot control the impulse to use drugs even when there are negative consequences—the defining characteristic of addiction. These behavioral changes are also accompanied by changes in brain functioning, especially in the brain’s natural inhibition and reward centers."
  • dwarf, little person, midget, short stature
    Dwarfism is a medical or genetic condition that results in a stature below 4’10,” according to Little People of America. The average height of a dwarf is 4’0.” When used in a non-medical sense, it can be considered offensive, but many view it as the acceptable term for the condition. The term midget was used in the past to describe an unusually short and proportionate person. It is now widely considered derogatory. The terms little people and little person refer to people of short stature and have come into common use since the founding of the Little People of America organization in 1957. The appropriateness of the terms is disputed by those within and outside of the organization. Little People of America recommends using the descriptors short stature, little person or someone with dwarfism. Only refer to a person’s short stature if it is relevant to the story. It is best to ask people which term they prefer to describe them. Avoid the term dwarf unless it is being used in a quote or in a medical diagnosis. Avoid using the terms vertically challenged and midget.
  • dyke
    Originally a pejorative term for a lesbian, it is now being reclaimed by some lesbians. Offensive when used as an epithet. Use only if there is a compelling reason. See lesbian.  
  • dyslexia, dyslexic
    A learning disability characterized by problems identifying speech sounds and learning how to connect them to letters and words, according to the Mayo Clinic. Its chief symptoms include difficulties with spelling, reading, pronunciation of words and processing auditory information. It is a common learning disability among children, although adolescents and adults with dyslexia often exhibit symptoms as well. The term dyslexic is used by some organizations as a noun and adjective in a non-pejorative way; however, using the word as a noun (describing a person as a dyslexic) appears to be falling out of use. Refer to someone as having dyslexia only if the information is relevant to the story and if the person has been formally diagnosed by a licensed medical professional. Use people-first language, stating that someone has dyslexia rather than referring to him or her as a dyslexic person. Avoid using dyslexic as a noun (i.e. She is a dyslexic.).
  • Easter
    The major Christian holy day. It marks Jesus Christ’s Resurrection from the dead three days after his Crucifixion. Western Christian churches and Orthodox Christian churches usually celebrate Easter on different dates, sometimes as much as five weeks apart. Both observe Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the March equinox. However, the Western church uses the Gregorian calendar and the Orthodox church and many Eastern Catholic churches use the Julian calendar. They also use different definitions of a full moon and an equinox. The two Easters are observed on the same day about a quarter of the time. Orthodox Christians refer to Easter as Pascha, derived from the Hebrew word for Passover.
  • Eastern Orthodox
    A group of Christian churches that do not recognize the authority of the pope in Rome, but, like the Roman Catholic Church, have roots in the earliest days of Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox churches split from the Western church in the Great Schism of 1054, primarily over papal authority and whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (as the Orthodox believe) or from the Father and Son (as the Catholics believe). Included in the Eastern Orthodox churches are the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox, as well as other, smaller churches based on the nationalities of various ethnic groups such as Bulgarians, Romanians and Syrians. Eastern Orthodox clergy comparable to Catholic archbishops are known as patriarchs or metropolitans. They recognize the patriarch of Constantinople, now Istanbul, as their leader. He has the power to convene councils, but he does not have authority over the activities of the other archbishops. The patriarch of Constantinople is known as the ecumenical patriarch. Working with the archbishop are other archbishops, bishops, priests and deacons. Archbishops and bishops frequently follow a monastic tradition in which they are known only by a first name. When no last name is used, repeat the title before the name in subsequent references. Archbishop may be replaced by the Most Rev. on first reference. Use the Rev. before the name of a priest on first reference. On second reference use only the cleric’s last name. The churches have their own traditions on matters such as married clergy; for example, a married man may be ordained, but a priest may not marry after ordination. In the United States, the largest Eastern Orthodox church is the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, followed by the Orthodox Church in America.
  • Ebonics
    Slang or nonstandard form of the English language that is used by some in the Black community. The National Association of Black Journalists Style Guide advises journalists to avoid using the form in news copy. [Dr. Geneva Smitherman, a sociolinguist and Black studies scholar at Michigan State University, identifies African American Language, or Ebonics, as a system of “Africanized semantic, grammatical, pronunciation, and rhetorical patterns” unique to the Black community, according to 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans. Universally embraced words, phrases, and actions such as the “high five" come from Black language and cultural practices. Other names: Black English, African American English, African American Vernacular English. For more about Ebonics, read "What is Ebonics (African American English)?" by John R. Rickford on the website of the Linguistics Society of America.]  
  • Eid al-Adha
    Pronounced “EED-uhl-ad-ha.” Known as the Feast of Sacrifice, it concludes the annual observance of the pilgrimage to Mecca known as hajj. Muslims everywhere observe Eid al-Adha with community prayers and a feast, whether or not they are on hajj. Eid al-Adha shifts dates every year because Muslims use a lunar calendar that only includes about 354 days. Eid al-Adha commences with the sighting of the new moon. See hajj.  
  • Eid al-Fitr
    Pronounced “EED-uhl-FIT-uhr.” A joyous Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. It is observed with communal prayers, donations to charity and special meals. Fasting is forbidden on this day. Eid al-Fitr shifts dates every year because Muslims use a lunar calendar that only includes about 354 days. Eid al-Fitr commences with the sighting of the new moon. See Ramadan.  
  • elderly
    Use this word carefully and sparingly. The term is appropriate only in generic phrases that do not refer to specific individuals: concern for the elderly, a home for the elderly, etc. In other words, describing a person as elderly is bad form, although the generalized category elderly might not be offensive. If the intent is to show that an individual’s faculties have deteriorated, the Associated Press Stylebook recommends citing a graphic example and attributing it to someone.
  • Emancipation Proclamation
    In 1863, Lincoln issued a proclamation and executive order encouraging slaves in the South to become contrabands behind Union lines. It applied only in areas of the 10 Southern states that had seceded from the union. Those areas did not recognize his authority. States that had seceded in all or in part were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Lincoln’s proclamation did not address slavery in Union border states. Lincoln’s action tied slavery to preserving the union, the major issue in the Civil War. The proclamation set the stage for the 13th Amendment, but it did not end slavery. Some celebrate the end of slavery on Juneteenth, short for June 19th. On that day in 1865, two months after the Civil War, Union troops arrived in Galveston to take control of Texas and enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • eñe, ñ
    In the Spanish alphabet, ñ is an additional letter, not just an n with an accent mark, which is called a tilde. It is called an eñe and is pronounced “enye.” It is used in many words. Substituting a plain n, a whole different letter, can change the word. In speech, this letter sounds like the middle sound in canyon and, in fact, the Spanish word for canyon is cañon.
  • English-only movement
    An effort to make English the official language of the United States. About half the states have adopted English-only laws. Opponents say such laws are unnecessary, divisive and even racist.
  • epicanthic fold
    See eye shape.
  • epilepsy/epileptic fit
    A chronic neurological and developmental disorder characterized by “recurrent, unprovoked seizures,” according to the Epilepsy Foundation, which also states that it is the fourth most common neurological disorder. Epilepsy manifests differently in individuals: The severity of epileptic seizures, their occurrence rates and the emergence of other health problems differ from person to person. Epilepsy is most commonly treated with medication but treatment also can include use of medical devices, surgery, diet and emerging therapy methods. Refer to someone as having epilepsy only if the information is relevant to the story and if the person has been formally diagnosed by a licensed medical professional. Use people-first language, stating that someone has epilepsy or has been diagnosed with epilepsy rather than referring to him or her as an epileptic. The term seizure is the preferred term when referring to the brief manifestation of symptoms common among those with epilepsy. Avoid stating that the person had a fit or an epileptic fit.
  • Episcopal Church
    The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion. Officially called the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Episcopal Church is acceptable in all references. Two bodies govern the church nationally — the permanent Executive Council and the General Convention, which meets every three years. One bishop holds the title of presiding bishop. The General Convention determines national policies, and all acts must pass its House of Bishops and House of Deputies. Under the council are provinces, dioceses or missionary districts, local parishes and local missions. A province is composed of several dioceses and has a synod made up of a house of bishops and a house of deputies. Within a diocese, a bishop is the principal official and is helped by the Diocesan Convention, which is made up of all clergy in the diocese and lay representatives from each parish. A vestry, composed of the rector and lay members elected by the congregation, governs the parish or local church. Among Protestant churches, the Episcopal Church has titles that are particularly challenging. Capitalize titles before a name but lowercase otherwise. Note that some positions have more than one title or honorific. Because some U.S. congregations have broken ties with the Episcopal Church and affiliated with Anglican bishops, be sure to make clear in stories about such disputes whether a bishop is Anglican or Episcopal. The presiding bishop is the chief pastor and primate who leads the national Episcopal Church. She is addressed as the Most Rev. All other bishops use the title the Rt. Rev. before their name. Priests and deacons use the title the Rev. Priests who head a chapter, or governing body of a cathedral, are called deans and are addressed as the Very Rev. Archdeacons are addressed with the honorific the Venerable, as in the Venerable Jill Smith. Women and men in religious communities are called brother or sister and may be ordained.
  • ethnic group
    Caution, vague. A group of people who self-identify with one another because of geographical, linguistic, cultural, religious and other ties. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it was common to refer to ethnic groups as races, e.g. the Hungarian race.  
  • ethnicity, mention of
    A person’s [ethnicity] should not be mentioned unless relevant. This also applies to references to ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. Derogatory terms or slurs aimed at members of a racial or ethnic group may not be used unless having a direct bearing on the news, and then only with the approval of the senior editor in charge. Avoid stereotypes. Race and ethnicity may be relevant in some stories, including the following: Crime stories – A highly detailed description of a suspect sought by police can contain [skin color]. Be sure the description is properly attributed. Do not use descriptions that include only a few items or are vague, such as tall, dark clothes. [A detailed description might include a person's complexion, facial features, distinguishing marks or tattoos, etc.] Biographical or announcement stories – Be careful about using race or ethnicity to describe a person as the first to accomplish a specific feat. Firsts are important, but race and ethnicity shouldn't be overemphasized. Reserve race or ethnicity for significant, groundbreaking or historic events such as winning a Nobel Prize, being named chief justice or becoming mayor. By overplaying race or ethnicity, one’s achievement may seem dependent on that instead of ability. See race.
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    The largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. ELCA is acceptable on second reference. Do not confuse it with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which is smaller and more conservative. See Lutheran.
  • Executive Order 9066
    A war measure following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Signed Feb. 19, 1942, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it led to the internment in camps of [117,000 people] of Japanese heritage, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens. A divided cabinet recommended the measure to Roosevelt, despite an affirmation by the Office of Naval Intelligence of the loyalty of Japanese Americans. The order was designed to combat sabotage, but Americans of German and Italian heritage were largely exempt. Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and imperial Japan formed the Axis. The United States Supreme Court repeatedly affirmed the constitutionality of the order, but Congress, in 1983, called it “a grave injustice.” Text of Executive Order 9066 See Angel Island; internment, Japanese.
  • exotic
    Avoid.  When describing women of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage, it often implies a departure from a white norm. Swedes, for example, are not described in the United States as exotic.
  • eye shape, reference to
    Misnomer (all human eyeballs have the same shape). The distinctive “Asian” feature is known as an “epicanthic fold” of the eyelid but is found in all races. Not all Asians have the fold. It is unclear what evolutionary advantage is conferred by such a feature. Eyes aren’t “slanted” or “slitty” and such terms are racially derogatory. The relevance of discussing the fold, which might call to mind racial stereotypes, must be explained to the reader or viewer. A discussion of why some Asian women seek plastic surgery to change the shape of their eyelids, for example, is relevant. Whether an Asian basketball player has a reduced field of vision is not.
  • fag, faggot
    A pejorative term for a gay male. Extremely offensive when used as an epithet. Use only in a quotation if there is a compelling reason.
  • family
    Proper term for identifying a family led by LGBT parents. Identify parents’ sexual orientation only when germane. Do not use gay families. Mention genetic relationships or conception techniques only when germane. See parent.  
  • fatwa
    A legal pronouncement issued by an Islamic scholar. There is no central authority for fatwas. The expert must have rigorously studied the Quran and can issue a fatwa only when aware of all elements of the case. It pertains only to Muslims and is not binding in secular settings. While a fatwa against author Salman Rushdie became one of the most well-known, fatwas calling for the death of an individual are rare. Fatwas usually give religious guidance.
  • Filipino/Pilipino
    Refers to an inhabitant of the Philippines, the former Spanish possession and American colony. Filipino American refers to those who share its heritage and culture. Some Filipino Americans, often younger, prefer Pilipino because Tagalog (pronounced tuh-GAW-lug), the leading dialect of the Philippines, lacks an “F” sound. The Philippines, claimed by Spanish explorers, was named after King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598). See Tagalog.
  • First Nations
    First Nations is a term used to describe Aboriginal peoples of Canada who are ethnically neither Métis nor Inuit, according to a list of terms compiled by the First Nations Studies Program at the University of British Columbia. "This term came into common usage in the 1970s and ‘80s and generally replaced the term Indian, although unlike Indian, the term First Nation does not have a legal definition. While First Nations refers to the ethnicity of First Nations peoples, the singular First Nation can refer to a band, a reserve-based community, or a larger tribal grouping and the status Indians who live in them. For example, the Stó:lō Nation (which consists of several bands), or the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (formerly the Burrard Band)."
  • First World
    Outdated term that refers to the developed, capitalist, industrial countries with more or less common political and economic interests in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia. The term was first coined in the 1940s and was used during the Cold War, with the Second World referring to communist countries of China and the Soviet block. Third World referred to the less developed countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia. With the end of the Cold War, globalization and changing geopolitics, the “Three World” model is no longer relevant. Instead, some use developed world countries and developing world countries. See Third World.
  • flip
    Avoid. Pejorative for Filipino.  
  • fortune cookie
    Origin almost certainly Japanese. There are references to the cookies in Japanese literature and history, including an 1878 image of a man making them in a bakery. China and Japan do not have a tradition of dessert following a meal.
  • FTM / MTF / FTN / MTN / FT* / MT*
    Acronyms to describe a transgender or transsexual individual. The first letter is the assigned birth sex; the second letter T is for “to,” signifying transition; and the third letter is the destination gender, the person’s affirmed gender. The * indicates inclusivity of all variations of transpeople, as not all identify with a particular gender.
  • Fu Manchu
    Caution. Stereotype. Created by mystery writer Sax Rohmer in 1913 and popularized in 1930s and 1940s films. Fu Manchu was an evil genius. He was portrayed by many actors, including Warner Oland, who also played Charlie Chan. Rohmer described him this way: “Imagine a person, tall, lean, and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green.” He is also “the yellow peril incarnate in one man.” Later Asian and pseudo-Asian villains — like Flash Gordon’s nemesis, Emperor Ming the Merciless, and James Bond’s Dr. No — were variations of Fu Manchu.
  • fundamentalism, fundamentalist
    A Christian religious movement that began in the U.S. in the late 19th century and early 20th century to counter liberalism and secularism. It emphasized the inerrancy of the Bible. In recent years, fundamentalist and fundamentalism have become associated with any religious reactionary movement, such as Islamic fundamentalism. The words also have been used as pejoratives. Journalists often, and erroneously, label all conservative Christians, including conservative evangelicals, as fundamentalists. It is best to avoid the words unless a group applies the terms to itself.
  • gay
    Refers to men who are attracted to other men; preferred over homosexual, which connotes clinical context or references to sexual activity. Avoid using as a singular noun. For women, lesbian is generally used, but when possible ask the subject which term she prefers. To include both, use gays and lesbians. In headlines where space is limited, gay is acceptable to describe both. See homosexual, lesbian.
  • geezer
    Ageist terminology. Avoid.
  • gender assigned at birth (GAAB), MAAB, FAAB
    The gender a person is born as. This is referred to as gender assigned at birth because it is not and/or never was the person’s true gender – they were born as Z, but were assigned X/Y, due to bio-typical or closely matching genitalia of one of the pre-existing binary genders: male (MAAB) or female (FAAB). See transgender.
  • gender binary
    The assumption that sex and gender is a binary – that is, that there are two and only two genders – male and female – which are distinct and disconnected. Many have come to see this as a false dichotomy, given the existence of intersex, transgender people and agender people. See agender, intersex, transgender.
  • gender dysphoria
    In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association released the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), which replaced the outdated entry Gender Identity Disorder with Gender Dysphoria, and changed the criteria for diagnosis. The necessity of a psychiatric diagnosis remains controversial, as both psychiatric and medical authorities recommend individualized medical treatment through hormones and/or surgeries to treat gender dysphoria. Some transgender advocates believe the inclusion of Gender Dysphoria in the DSM is necessary in order to advocate for health insurance that covers the medically necessary treatment recommended for transgender people. It is best to ask people who have gender dysphoria which pronouns they prefer.
  • gender expansive
    An umbrella term used for individuals that broaden commonly held definitions of gender, including its expression, associated identities, and/or other perceived gender norms, in one or more aspects of their life. These individuals expand the definition of gender through their own identity and/or expression. Some individuals do not identify with being either male or female; others identify as a blend of both, while still others identify with a gender, but express their gender in ways that differ from stereotypical presentations. See agender, genderqueer, transgender.
  • gender expression
    External manifestations of gender, expressed through one's name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice, or body characteristics. Society identifies these cues as masculine and feminine, although what is considered masculine and feminine changes over time and varies by culture. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression align with their gender identity, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth. See gender-expansive, transgender.
  • gender fluidity
    Gender fluidity conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender expression, with interests and behaviors that may even change from day to day. Gender fluid children do not feel confined by restrictive boundaries of stereotypical expectations of girls or boys. In other words, a child may feel they are a girl some days and a boy on others, or possibly feel that neither term describes them accurately. It is best to ask people who are gender fluid which pronouns they prefer. See gender-expansive.
  • gender identity
    One's internal, deeply held sense of one's gender. For transgender people, their own internal gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Most people have a gender identity of man or woman (or boy or girl). For some people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into one of those two choices. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others. See gender expression.
  • Gender Identity Disorder
    Outdated, avoid. See gender dysphoria.
  • gender nonconforming
    A term used to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity. Please note that not all gender non-conforming people identify as transgender; nor are all transgender people gender non-conforming. Many people have gender expressions that are not entirely conventional – that fact alone does not make them transgender. Many transgender men and women have gender expressions that are conventionally masculine or feminine. Simply being transgender does not make someone gender non-conforming. The term is not a synonym for transgender or transsexual and should only be used if someone self-identifies as gender non-conforming. It is best to ask gender non-conforming people which pronouns they prefer.
  • gender normative
    Refers to people whose sex assignment at birth corresponds to their gender identity and expression. See cisgender, cis.  
  • gender role
    This is the set of roles, activities, expectations and behaviors assigned to females and males by society. Our culture recognizes two basic gender roles: Masculine (having the qualities attributed to males) and feminine (having the qualities attributed to females). People who step out of their socially assigned gender roles are sometimes referred to as transgender. Other cultures have three or more gender roles.
  • gender spectrum
    A model of gender that breaks the gender binary and takes into account the infinite variations of gender.
  • gender transition
    The process by which transgender people change their physical, sexual characteristics from those associated with their sex at birth. This process occurs over time and may include adopting the aesthetic markers of the new gender; telling one’s family, friends and/or co-workers; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and sometimes, but not always, surgery or other body modification procedures. Not synonymous with sexual reassignment. Avoid the outdated term sex change.  
  • gender variant
    Avoid unless used in academic writing.
  • gender-bender, gender-bending
    An individual who intentionally does not conform to predominant binary gender roles or expression. Use only if self-referential or in a quotation where there is a compelling reason. As an adjective, gender-bending.
  • gender-neutral pronouns
    Some people don’t feel that traditional gender pronouns, such as she/her and he/him, reflect their gender identities. Transgender, genderqueer and other people who step outside the  male-female gender paradigm often adopt new pronouns for themselves. If a person doesn't identify as male or female, it's best to ask which pronouns they prefer. Here are some alternatives to traditional pronouns: For more information, consult the Gender Pronouns Guide published by the LGBT Campus Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • genderqueer
    A term used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman, or they may define it as wholly different from these terms. The term is not a synonym for transgender or transsexual and should only be used if someone self-identifies as genderqueer. [People who identify as genderqueer sometimes don't feel comfortable being referred to by standard pronouns like he and she; when possible, ask which pronouns they prefer. See gender-neutral pronouns for alternatives to standard gendered pronouns.] See agender, transgender, gender non-conforming.  
  • genocide
    [The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic, religious, linguistic, racial or cultural group or nation. Examples of genocide include the Armenian Genocide, the Assyrian genocide, the Greek genocide, the Holocaust, the 1971 Bangladesh genocide, the Cambodian Genocide, the Kurdish Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, and the Rwandan Genocide.] The term "genocide" did not exist before 1944. It is a very specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to destroy the existence of the group. Human rights, as laid out in the US Bill of Rights or the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, concern the rights of individuals. In 1944, a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) sought to describe Nazi policies of systematic murder, including the destruction of the European Jews. He formed the word "genocide" by combining geno-, from the Greek word for race or tribe, with -cide, derived from the Latin word for killing. In proposing this new term, Lemkin had in mind "a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves." The next year, the International Military Tribunal held at Nuremberg, Germany, charged top Nazis with "crimes against humanity." The word “genocide” was included in the indictment, but as a descriptive, not legal, term. On December 9, 1948, in the shadow of the Holocaust and in no small part due to the tireless efforts of Lemkin himself, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This convention establishes "genocide” as an international crime, which signatory nations “undertake to prevent and punish.” It defines genocide as: [G]enocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
  • gentile
    In Judaism, anyone who is not a Jew. It is usually a reference to Christians. Some Mormons use the term to describe non-Mormons.
  • gerontology/geriatrics
    Gerontology is the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging; distinguished from geriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that studies the diseases, disabilities and health of older people.
  • ghetto, inner city
    Terms used as synonyms for sections of cities inhabited by poor people or minorities. Avoid these descriptions because of their negative connotations. Often the name of the neighborhood is the best choice. Section, district or quarter may also be used. Urban is also acceptable.  
  • God
    Capitalize in reference to all monotheistic religions. Also capitalize such references as God the Father, Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit. However, lowercase personal pronouns, such as him and he. Many Christians consider God to be beyond gender, so be sensitive to the context of the story and avoid gender-defining pronouns when appropriate. Orthodox Jews write G-d to avert the sin of erasing or defacing God’s name. Journalists should respect these Jews’ practice by using G-d in quotes of written material, but otherwise should refer to God.
  • Good Friday
    In Christianity, Good Friday commemorates the day on which Jesus Christ is traditionally believed to have been crucified. It falls just before Easter Sunday, on which Christians celebrate his Resurrection. Part of the Christian Holy Week.
  • good name
    Foreigners in India are often confused when asked, "What is your good name?" The questioner is just asking for the person's name. It is a literal translation of the Hindi usage "Aap ka shubhnam?" ("shubh" means "auspicious").
  • Gospel, gospel
    The word derives from the Old English word Godspell, or “good news.” It is a translation of the Greek word evangelion. This refers to the “good news” that Jesus Christ came as the Messiah, was crucified for the sins of humanity, died and then rose from the grave to triumph over death. Of the many gospels written in antiquity, four came to be accepted as part of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Capitalize when referring to each or all of the first four books of the New Testament. Lowercase in all other references.
  • Great Migration, the
    This was a post-Reconstruction move within the United States from the South to the North. From about 1916 to 1970, some 6 million African Americans moved out of the rural South to cities in the Northeast, Midwest and West. People fled lynchings and other forms of violence and segregation. They sought opportunity. After moving, they faced some of the same issues and met new forms of segregation in housing, education, employment and more.
  • green card
    A United States Permanent Resident Card. Actually pink, this identification card allows an immigrant to reside and live permanently in the United States. Green-card holders are also able to work in the U.S., to travel and to receive some government benefits. A green-card holder is not a U.S. citizen but can live in the United States permanently. It can be insulting to ask Latinos born in the United States and Puerto Ricans whether they have a green card, as they are U.S. citizens by birth. See immigrant.
  • Gullah
    Creole blend of Elizabethan English and African languages, born of necessity on Africa's slave coast and developed in slave communities of isolated plantations of the coastal South. Even after the Sea Islands were freed in1861, the Gullah speech flourished because of the islands’ separation from the mainland. Access to the islands was by water until the 1950s. See Creole.
  • gurdwara
    A Sikh place of worship that houses the Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib.  
  • guru
    Teacher, particularly used in the major Indian religions of Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. In popular English, it means any sort of knowledgeable guide or mentor.  
  • Gypsy, gypsy, gipsy
    A word used to indicate Romani (also spelled Romany) or Roma people, a traditionally itinerant ethnic group that lives in Europe and has branches in the Americas, Asia and North Africa. The word Gypsy (sometimes capitalized as a proper noun when referring to the ethnic group and sometimes spelled Gipsy) has negative connotations and many Romani people see it as a racial slur. In general, it's best to use Romani or Roma people when referring to the ethnic group unless people self-identify as Gypsies. The term gyp, which means to cheat or swindle, likely comes from Gypsy and is seen as a negative stereotype of Roma as swindlers and thieves.  
  • hadith
    Pronounced “ha-DEETH.” A report or reports about a saying, action or tradition of Muhammad and his closest companions. Can be used as both a singular and a plural noun. Hadith are viewed by Muslims as explanations of the Quran and are second only to Islam’s holy book in terms of guidance and as a source of Shariah (Islamic law). The two most reliable collections are by Bukhari and his student Muslim, both ninth-century Islamic scholars.
  • hair, African American or Black
    When describing a person’s hair in news stories, ask what style the hair is, don't assume. Black hair comes in a variety of styles and textures. A few include: afro – Characterized by or being a style of tight curls in a full evenly rounded shape. bald, shaved – Not synonymous. A bald person has naturally lost some or all of his or hair. A person with a shaved head chose to have his or her hair close to the scalp or completely off, replicating the bald look. braids – Traditional style worn by many African-American girls in which hair is sectioned into parts and then, in each part, three or more strands of hair are intertwined. Also known as plaits. cornrows – Braiding technique close to the head and also known as French braids. dreadlocks, dreds or locks [sometimes spelled locs or loks] – Long, uncombed, twisted or matted locks of hair, a style worn originally by Rastafarians. extensions – Human or synthetic hair used to make a person’s existing hair longer. Often used with braiding. Jheri curl – Chemically treated curly hair resembling Shirley Temple-like tresses. Other names were California curl, S-curl, carefree curl and luster curl. Jheri Redding, a Chicago-based entrepreneur and stylist, created the style in the late 1970s, then produced his own line of hair-care products. twists – Style in which hair is sectioned into parts and then, in each part, strands of hair are twirled. weave – Synthetic or human hair added to existing hair or scalp to give one the appearance of a fuller head of hair. [According to 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans, at certain times in history, Black hairstyles "have been very political. People might wear their hair to suit their style sense, personality, history, comfort or convenience. Some people change their hair often. Black hairstyles have creative varieties from natural to straightened to curled and different kinds of braids. Black hair can be long or short, elaborate or shaved, and worn up or down. It can incorporate weaves, extensions and beads. Some people use questions about hair to open up larger conversations and get to know more about the person." For more information see the video "Five Questions About Black Hair."]
  • hajj
    Pronounced “hahj.” In Islam, a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. It is the fifth of the Five Pillars of Islam. Every Muslim who is physically capable and financially able is expected to make the hajj at least once. Hajj takes place during the 12th month of the Islamic year, and specific rites take place during a five-day period. Because Muslims follow a lunar calendar, the dates move each year. The festival of Eid al-Adha occurs at the end of hajj. The word hajj is typically not capitalized. A hajji is a person who has undertaken the pilgrimage.
  • halakhah
    Pronounced “ha-la-KHAH.” Jewish law, or the set of rules and practices that govern every aspect of life. They are defined by Jewish scripture and teachings. Jews believe that the law was given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai and that it has been interpreted for each generation by respected and learned rabbis.
  • halal
    In Arabic, something that is lawful and permitted in Islam. Halal means lawful foods, objects and activities sanctioned by Islamic teaching. Halal also refers to foods that are permissible for Muslims to eat and drink. The halal process for slaughter requires that a Muslim invoke God’s name and cut the throat with a sharp knife so as to drain the blood. Pork is not sanctioned, no matter how it is processed. Blood, intoxicants and alcohol are not halal, either. Forbidden objects and activities are called haram.
  • hamesh hand
    Hamesh is the Hebrew word for hamsa in Arabic. It means five or "five fingers of the hand." In Jewish and Israeli culture the hamsa is often adorned with a star of David or Hebrew letters.
  • hamsa
    Often worn as jewelry, the hamsa is a non-religious, palm-shaped symbol for good luck or protection that pre-dates Islam. It is seen in many cultures, including Latin American, Greek, Ethiopian and Turkish. People from many traditions and religions have adopted it. Some Muslims call it the “hand of Fatima,” referring to the daughter of the prophet Muhammad. [The Arabic word hamsa means "five" and refers to the digits on the hand.]
  • handicapped
    The Oxford English dictionary defines a handicap as “a condition that restricts a person’s ability to function physically, mentally or socially.” Do not describe a person as handicapped unless it is central to the story. Avoid using handicap and handicapped when describing a person. Instead, refer to the person’s specific condition. The terms are still widely used when citing laws, regulations, places or things, such as handicapped parking, although many prefer the term accessible parking.
  • Hanukkah
    The Jewish Festival of Lights. It usually falls in early or mid-December. The eight-day holiday celebrates the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrians in the second century B.C. The Maccabees were a first- and second-century B.C. Jewish family that brought about the restoration of Jewish religious and political life. They also made several unsuccessful attempts to overthrow Roman rule in Judea. Hanukkah is the preferred spelling. To find the date for Jewish holidays in the current or an upcoming year consult the Jewish holidays page on Hebcal.
  • Hapa
    Once considered derogatory, hapa comes from the Hawaiian phrase hapa haole (pronounced “hah-puh how-lee”) meaning “half white/foreigner.” It now describes anyone whose heritage is white plus another racial or ethnic group, but especially Asians and Pacific Islanders. The term is now considered by many to be one of positive self-identification.
  • haraam
    Pronounced “ha-RAHM.” In Arabic, something that is forbidden or prohibited in Islam.  
  • haram
    Pronounced “HAR-em.” In Arabic, a sanctuary or sacred territory in which all things are considered inviolable. Mecca and Medina both have this designation.
  • hard of hearing
    he term may be used to refer to people who have a mild to moderate hearing loss that may or may not be corrected with amplification. Those who are hard of hearing usually use speech to communicate. Deaf and hard of hearing became the official terms recommended by the World Federation of the Deaf in 1991. Many people in the Deaf community and organizations, including the National Association of the Deaf, support these terms. Some people with mild or moderate hearing loss may affiliate themselves with the Deaf community and prefer the term Deaf.  Alternatively, some who are deaf and don't have a cultural affiliation to the Deaf community may prefer the term hard of hearing. Hard of hearing is almost always acceptable. However, use the term the person prefers.
  • Haredi, Haredim
    A Hebrew term (Haredim in the plural) that literally means “fear” or “anxiety” and is used in the context of a devout believer who “trembles in awe of God.” The label can be applied to strictly observant Orthodox Jews instead of the term ultra-Orthodox, but Haredi is not widely used outside of Israel and Jewish media outlets.
  • HaShem
    The word some Jews use in the place of the word God, which is considered to be too holy to utter. It literally means “The Name.”
  • Hasidism
    A social and religious movement in Judaism founded in 18th-century Poland. It stresses the importance of devotion in prayer and serving God in ecstasy amid day-to-day life. Hasidic Judaism is usually structured around a “rebbe,” or revered spiritual teacher whose interpretations of Jewish law govern the community. Its followers, called Hasidim, are among the most traditional of U.S. Orthodox Jews. Hasidic is the adjectival form.
  • hate crime
    According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a hate crime is "a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a 'criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.' Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties."
  • Hawaiian
    Caution. An ethnic group. Refers to a person who is of Polynesian descent. Unlike a term like Californian, Hawaiian should not be used for everyone living in Hawaii. The distinction is not trivial. If Wales were the 51st state, not everyone living in Wales would be Welsh. [Possible alternative: Hawaiʻi resident.] See Pacific Islander.
  • HBCUs
    Acronym for historically black colleges and universities. There are 105 institutions founded primarily for the education of African Americans, although their charters are not exclusionary. Most HBCUs are 50 to 100 years old. HBCU is acceptable on second reference and in headlines.  
  • hearing impaired/hearing impairment
    The terms hearing impaired and hearing impairment are general terms used to describe people with a range of hearing loss from impairment partial to complete. The terms are disliked by many because, like the word handicap, hearing impaired describes a person in terms of a deficiency or what they cannot do. The World Federation of the Deaf has taken the stance that hearing impaired is no longer an acceptable term. For those with total hearing loss, deaf is acceptable. For others, partial hearing loss or partially deaf is preferred. It is best to ask the person which term he or she prefers.
  • henna
    A plant used to make ink or hair dye. To make the ink, leaves are ground to powder and mixed with water and lemon juice or oil. The ceremonial application of henna to make designs on the body, usually hands or feet, is called mehndi. Indian women wear mehndi for special occasions such as weddings. The designs start to fade after about a week.  
  • hermaphrodite
    Avoid. Derogatory term for intersex individuals. See intersex.
  • heteronormative, heternormativity
    These terms refer to the assumption that heterosexuality is the norm, which plays out in interpersonal interactions and society and furthers the marginalization of queer people.
  • heterosexism
    The attitude that heterosexuality is the only valid sexual orientation. Often takes the form of ignoring lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. For example: a feature on numerous Valentine’s Day couples that omit same-sex couples.  
  • heterosexual
    An adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to people of the opposite sex. See straight.
  • High Holy Days
    The High Holy Days are the 10-day period beginning with Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year, and ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. To find the date for Jewish holidays in the current or an upcoming year consult the Jewish holidays page on Hebcal.
  • hijab
    Generally used to describe the scarf many women who are Muslims use to cover their head, but it can also refer to the modest dress, in general, that women wear because of the Quran’s instruction on modesty. Shiites are more likely to wear hijabs than Sunni Muslims, but women decide whether to wear one based on the dictates of their mosque, community and conscience. [According to 100 Questions & Answers About Arab Americans, this practice of veiling varies by region and class. While some say that it denigrates women, many women who dress this way say it liberates them. In fact, some say it is more oppressive to be expected to dress in revealing ways. Some governments have, at times, banned veiling and at other times required it. In American families, a mother, a daughter or a sister might decide to cover her head while the other does not. Most Arab Americans dress like other Americans.]  
  • Hindi
    The primary language of about 30 percent of India’s citizens, and one of almost two dozen major languages spoken around that country. It is derived primarily from Sanskrit, using the Devanagari script. Do not confuse Hindi with Hindu, which is a religious designation. See Hindu.
  • Hindu, Hinduism
    India’s most popular religious and cultural system and the world’s third-largest religion (after Christianity and Islam). Most followers live in India, but there are large populations in many other countries. Its oldest scriptures are the Vedas. Hinduism, also known as Sanatana Dharma (“the eternal natural law”), is one of the world’s most ancient religious and spiritual systems and encompasses a broad spectrum of philosophies, ranging from pluralistic theism to absolute monism. Followers believe that God (Brahman), the ultimate reality or truth, can be understood in various ways and often use the two terms interchangeably. This not only reflects the diversity of practice and perspective in Hinduism, but also the belief that this infinite reality is beyond the comprehension of undisciplined minds. Therefore, Hindus celebrate God’s various attributes through different representations. Most Hindus believe in one God, who is all-pervasive, though he or she may be worshipped in different forms, in different ways and by different names. As such, Hinduism can be described as monotheistic and henotheistic: monotheistic in its belief in one God and henotheistic in that any one God can be worshipped without denying the existence of other forms or manifestations of God. A basic belief in Hinduism is that the soul does not die but is reborn into another life form when the body dies. Under Hinduism’s rule of karma, every act and thought affects how the soul will be reborn. This cycle of birth and rebirth continues until the soul achieves spiritual perfection and is united with the Supreme Being. Hindus believe that all living beings have souls, and some are revered as manifestations of God. These beliefs have evolved over several thousand years and are embedded in ritual, mystical and ascetic practices. There are many regional variations in Hindu practice. Hindus have no formal clergy but do have spiritual teachers, or gurus. Capitalize guru before a name on first reference, and use only the last name on second reference. Swami is a title of respect and reverence conferred on a religious teacher and, in particular, one who has taken vows of celibacy and renunciation; it, too, should be capitalized before a name.
  • Hindustan
    This term once referred to a particular empire in northern India, but is sometimes used to refer generally to the Indian subcontinent or the Republic of India.
  • Hindustani
    An unofficial language spoken in northern India, a mixture of Urdu and Hindi. See Indian languages.
  • hip-hop, hip hop
    Hip-hop [sometimes spelled hip hop, without the hyphen] is often identified as just a music form, but it goes well beyond music. Originating in New York’s South Bronx in the 1970s, hip-hop includes four elements: deejaying (also known as DJing or turntabling), MCing (emceeing or rapping), graffiti painting and breakdancing (B-boying). Hip-hop has been adapted by cultures around the world.
  • Hispanic
    An umbrella term referring to a person whose ethnic origin is in a Spanish-speaking country, as well as residents or citizens of the United States with Latin American ancestry, except for those from Brazil, which is not a Spanish-speaking country. Federal policy defines “Hispanic” not as a race, but as an ethnicity; it notes that Hispanics can be of any race. The term Hispanic is more commonly used in the Eastern United States and is generally favored by those of Caribbean and South American ancestry or origin. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey of Hispanic adults, 50 of respondents said they had no preference for either term. But among those who did express a preference, “Hispanic” was preferred over “Latino” by a ratio of about 2-1. Among Hispanic Texans, however, 46 percent said they preferred the term Hispanic, while just 8 percent said they prefer the term “Latino." The U.S. Census Bureau uses terms such as "Hispanic or Latino" and "non-Hispanic or Latino" in its survey questions on ethnicity and race. For more about the Hispanic or Latino question read: "Hispanic Or Latino? A Guide For The U.S. Presidential Campaign," NPR, Aug. 27, 2015 "Which is it, Hispanic or Latino?" CNN, May 3, 2014 "You say Latino," a mini comic by Terry Blas, Aug. 19, 2015 See Chicana/Chicano, Chican@, Hispanic, Latin@, Latina/Latino and Latinx.
  • Hispanic paradox
    The Hispanic paradox refers to studies showing that although Hispanic communities in the United States tend to have a higher risk factor for illnesses, they tend to have a longer life expectancy than non-Hispanics with the same health problems. Several studies have attributed this to family cohesion.
  • Hispaniola
    The large Caribbean Island where Christopher Columbus made his first settlement. The name means “Isle of Spain.” It contains two countries: The Dominican Republic on the east, where Columbus landed, and Haiti on the west.
  • Hmong (also Mong or Muong)
    An ethnic group living in southern China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Laotian civil war in mid-1970s led to an exodus to the United States.  
  • Hmong names
    Typically family name first, personal name second, often one-syllable names.
  • Holocaust
    Always capitalize when referring to the murder of 6 million Jews and others during World War II. Lowercase in other uses. For more about the Holocaust, see the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  
  • Holy See
    A term of reverence for the Diocese of Rome, it is used to refer to the pope and his Curia, the Roman Catholic Church’s administrative offices, when official church actions are taken. The Holy See refers to an entity that is distinct from the city-state of the Vatican, although the two terms are often used interchangeably. For more about the Holy See, see the Vatican's website.
  • Holy Spirit
    The third entity of the Christian Trinity of God, Son and Holy Spirit. Christians believe the Holy Spirit leads people to belief in Jesus and dwells in each Christian. The Holy Spirit is depicted in Christian art as an ascending dove bathed in light or as a flame. Once called the Holy Ghost, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the term Holy Spirit came into use. It is now the preferred term.  
  • Holy Thursday
    The day before Good Friday, when Jesus had his Last Supper with his disciples, washed their feet and instituted Holy Communion. In the Catholic Church, Lent ends whenever the Holy Thursday service begins in any given parish. Also called Maundy Thursday.  
  • Holy Week
    In Christianity, the week that begins with Palm Sunday and concludes with Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and Easter commemorates his rising from the dead. Also includes Holy Thursday, which commemorates the Last Supper (Jesus’ final meal with his disciples), and Good Friday, the day of Christ’s Crucifixion. The Roman Catholic Church has redesignated the period as Passion Week, but Holy Week is still the generally used and preferred term.
  • homo
    Pejorative term for homosexual. Use only if there is a compelling reason.
  • homophobia
    Fear, hatred or dislike of homosexuality, gay men and lesbians. Restrict to germane usage, such as in quotations or opinions. Use LGBT right opponents or a similar phrase instead of homophobes when describing people who disagree with LGBT rights activism. See biphobia
  • homosexual
    As a noun, a person who is attracted to members of the same sex. As an adjective, of or relating to sexual and affectional attraction to a member of the same sex. Use only in medical contexts or in reference to sexual activity. For other usages, see gay, lesbian.
  • Hong Kong
    Former British colony. Independent of Britain in 1997 and now one of China’s two “special administrative regions” (the other is Macau). Capitalist after many years of British rule, Hong Kong’s character was preserved by agreement with the British under China’s “One Country, Two Systems” policy. There is continuing tension over what that policy means.
  • hookah
    See argilah.
  • hujjaj
    Travelers on a hajj pilgrimage.
  • humanist
    A rationalist who believes that humanity is capable of morality and self-fulfillment without reliance on supernaturalism.
  • husband
    Acceptable term for a male, legally married partner of a man. Ask which term the subject prefers, if possible. See lover, partner, husband.
  • idol
    Be cautious in using this word because it can imply that something is a false god. For example, do not use idol to refer to the representations Hindus use in worshipping. The correct term to use is murti. For similar reasons, idol worship is also inaccurate.
  • illegal alien
    Avoid. Alternative terms are undocumented worker or undocumented immigrant. The pertinent federal agencies use this term for individuals who do not have documents to show they can legally visit, work or live here. Many find the term offensive and dehumanizing because it criminalizes the person rather than the actual act of illegally entering or residing in the United States. The term does not give an accurate description of a person's conditional U.S. status, but rather demeans an individual by describing them as an alien. At the 1994 Unity convention, the four minority journalism groups – NAHJ, Asian American Journalists Association, Native American Journalists Association and National Association of Black Journalists – issued the following statement on this term: "Except in direct quotations, do not use the phrase illegal alien or the word alien, in copy or in headlines, to refer to citizens of a foreign country who have come to the U.S. with no documents to show that they are legally entitled to visit, work or live here. Such terms are considered pejorative not only by those to whom they are applied but by many people of the same ethnic and national backgrounds who are in the U.S. legally."
  • illegal immigrant
    Avoid. Illegal immigrant is a term used to describe the immigration status of people who do not have the federal documentation to show they are legally entitled to work, visit or live here. People who are undocumented according to federal authorities do not have the proper visas to be in the United States legally. Many enter the country illegally, but a large number of this group initially had valid visas, but did not return to their native countries when their visas expired. Some former students fall into the latter category. The term criminalizes the person rather than the actual act of illegally entering or residing in the United States without federal documents. Terms such as illegal alien or illegal immigrant can often be used pejoratively in common parlance and can pack a powerful emotional wallop for those on the receiving end. Instead, use undocumented immigrant or undocumented worker, both of which are terms that convey the same descriptive information without carrying the psychological baggage. Avoid using illegal(s) as a noun.  
  • illegal, illegals
    Avoid. Alternative terms are undocumented immigrant or undocumented worker. This term has been used to describe the immigration status of people who do not have the federal documentation to show they are legally entitled to work, visit or live here. The term criminalizes the person rather than the actual act of illegally entering, residing in the U.S. without documents.  
  • imam
    Pronounced “ee-MAHM.” In everyday use, any person [in the Muslim community] who leads a congregational prayer. Traditionally, only men have been imams, although women are allowed to serve as imams for other women. To lead prayers, one does not have to be a cleric. In a more formal sense, an imam is a religious leader, but can also be a political leader. Many Shiites believe imams are intercessors with God; many also believe in the Twelve Imams, descendants of Prophet Muhammad whom they consider his rightful successors. The Twelfth Imam disappeared from the world in 873, but followers of Twelve Imams Shiism believe that he is still alive and will return as the Mahdi, or “the guided one,” who will restore righteousness before the end of the world. On first reference, uppercase imam when preceding a proper name. On second reference, use only the person’s last name. Uppercase imam when referencing the Twelve Imams.
  • immigrant
    Similar to reporting about a person's race, mentioning that a person is a first-generation immigrant could be used to provide readers or viewers with background information, but the relevancy of using the term should be made apparent in the story. Also, the status of undocumented workers should be discussed between source, reporter and editors because of the risk of deportation.
  • implicit bias, unconscious bias
    Attitudes that unconsciously affect [people's] decisions and actions. People often think of bias as intentional, i.e. someone wanted to say something racist. However, brain science has shown that people are often unaware of their bias, and the concept of implicit bias helps describe a lot of contemporary racist acts that may not be overt or intentional. Implicit bias is just as harmful, so it is important to talk about race explicitly and to take steps to address it. Institutions are composed of individuals whose biases are replicated and then produce systemic inequities. It is possible to interrupt implicit bias by adding steps to decision-making processes that thoughtfully consider and address racial impacts.
  • Indian Country
    Indian Country is a legal term used in Title 18 of the U.S. Code. It broadly defines federally and tribal jurisdiction in crimes affecting Indians on reservations. It also has popular usage, describing reservations and areas with Native American populations.
  • Indian languages
    India has 14 officially recognized languages. In addition there are many more fully developed languages. They are distinct and are not merely separate dialects of the same language, there there are many dialects, too. India’s 2001 census found 29 languages with 1 million or more native speakers. The most prevalent, Hindi, was spoken by more than 40 percent of Indians. The next seven languages by popularity were Bengali, Telegu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Guajarathi and Kanada. Combined, those languages were used by another 40 percent of Indians.
  • Indian, Indian American
    Use Indian or person from India to refer to a person with ancestral ties to India. Use Indian American to refer to a U.S. permanent resident or citizen with ancestral ties to India. Do not confuse with American Indian. Do not use to refer to indigenous peoples of the United States. REFERENCE: 100 Questions & Answers About Indian Americans  
  • Indigenous
    Indigenous is a term used to encompass a variety of Aboriginal groups, according to a list of terms compiled by the First Nations Studies Program at the University of British Columbia. "It is most frequently used in an international, transnational, or global context. This term came into wide usage during the 1970s when Aboriginal groups organized transnationally and pushed for greater presence in the United Nations. In the U.N., Indigenous is used to refer broadly to peoples of long settlement and connection to specific lands who have been adversely affected by incursions by industrial economies, displacement, and settlement of their traditional territories by others." "Under international law, there is no official definition of Indigenous, although the United Nations generally identifies Indigenous groups as autonomous and self-sustaining societies that have faced discrimination, marginalization and assimilation of their cultures and peoples due to the arrival of a larger or more dominant settler population" There are an estimated 370 million Indigenous peoples worldwide, living in 70 different countries, according to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
  • indigenous religion
    Refers to the myriad religious traditions of local and regional societies where language, kinship systems, mythologies and rituals shape religious practices that may borrow from traditional religion but are unique to the local culture.
  • Indo
    A modifier used to denote something of Indian origin or with an India connection; similar to "Sino" for China. eg: "Indo-U.S. relations" or "Indo-Americans" (preferred term: Indian-Americans).Also increasingly used to refer to the South Asian diaspora and not just India the country. eg: "Indo-American art" may refer to art by South Asians of all backgrounds, not just India.
  • Indochina
    Caution: Refers to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, but not nearby Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). Some say term has a colonialist connotation.
  • Indonesian names
    Many have two names, but having only one name is also common. Muslims have complex name rules.
  • infantile paralysis
    Infantile paralysis is short for poliomyelitis and was commonly used in the past to describe polio. Its symptoms include muscle weakness and paralysis. Jonas Salk introduced the polio vaccine in the 1950s and drastically reduced cases of polio in the U.S.Use the term polio rather than infantile paralysis. It is preferable to say “He had polio as a child” or “She contracted polio as an adult” rather than “He suffers from polio” or “He is a victim of polio.”
  • injury/injuries
    The word injury is commonly used to describe any harm, damage or impairment to an individual as the result of an accident or other event. Refer to injuries as being sustained or received, not suffered, unless the person in question prefers “suffered.”
  • insane asylum/mental health hospital/psychiatric hospital
    Hospitals that cared for people with various mental illnesses, often for long periods of time, were once commonly referred to as insane asylums. The term has largely gone out of use as objectionable and inaccurate. Mental health hospital or psychiatric hospital are the preferred terms to describe medical facilities specifically devoted to treating people with mental disabilities.
  • insane, incompetent
    The terms insane, insanity and mentally deranged are commonly used informally to denote mental instability or mental illness but can be considered offensive. The medical profession favors use of the terms mental disorder or psychopathology. In U.S. criminal law, insanity is a legal question, not a medical one. Use mental illness or mental disorder instead of insane or mentally deranged, except in a quote or when referring to a criminal defense.
  • inscrutable
    Caution. Synonym for mysterious, but considered a racially charged adjective, particularly when used to describe Asians or Asian Americans.
  • institutional racism
    When policies and practices put people who are not of the dominant race at a disadvantage. This happens in government, business, education at all levels, news and entertainment media and other systems. Housing policies that turn away single parents, parents with more children or people with lower incomes can be forms of institutional racism. Hiring and promotion patterns can reflect institutional racism. It was a factor in a wave of protests on college campuses that began in 2015. School discipline systems that disproportionately send Black students into the criminal justice system have been called “the school-to-prison pipeline.” When people say an institution is racist, they may not be referring to intent, but to the structures and policies of the institution. See systemic racism, White privilege.
  • intellectual disability
    A disability that involves “significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behavior, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills,” according to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Those with IQ test scores of 75 or lower are considered intellectually disabled. Intellectual disabilities typically develop in individuals before the age of 18. This contrasts with congenital disorders such as Down syndrome, which develop before or at birth. Use people-first language, stating that someone is a person with an intellectual disability rather than referring to the person as intellectually disabled.
  • intelligent design
    The belief that some aspects of life forms are so complex that they must reflect the design of a conscious, rational intelligence. Proponents do not identify the designer, but most people involved in the debate assume that intelligent design refers to God. Many supporters of intelligent design reject the theory of evolution and support the idea of creationism. Most intelligent design supporters do not believe that life forms share a common ancestor, although some do.
  • interdenominational
    A congregation or organization that is formally approved or under the jurisdiction of more than one denomination. It is not a synonym for nondenominational.
  • interfaith
    This refers to activities or events that draw people from entirely different religious traditions, such as Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims. It is not a synonym for ecumenical, which refers to a multiplicity of Christian traditions, or interdenominational.
  • internment, Japanese
    During World War II, the incarceration of 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of them U.S. citizens. They were ordered to sell their homes and businesses, usually at a steep discount, to whites and then move to “relocation centers.” The last internees were released in 1946. Some advocates urge the use of “incarceration” instead of internment as a more accurate depiction. For more information about Japanese American incarceration, see the website of the Japanese American National Museum.  
  • interpreters
    Caution. An interview subject may speak limited or otherwise inadequate English. Use of another member of the family as an interpreter can yield flawed translations. A daughter, for example, may hesitate to completely translate her mother’s words or the daughter’s vocabulary (in English or the parent’s native language) may itself be limited. If deadline permits, have an independent native speaker listen to a recording of the original interview.
  • intersex (adj.)
    People born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia or an internal reproductive system that is not considered standard for either males or females. Parents and physicians usually will determine the sex of the child, resulting in surgery or hormone treatment. Many intersex adults seek an end to this practice. Avoid the outdated term hermaphrodite.
  • intifada
    This Islamic term for shaking, uprising and insurrection generally is used to refer to the Palestinian resistance of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Specific events mark the beginnings of different intifadas.
  • invalid
    The Oxford English dictionary defines invalid as “a person made weak or disabled by illness or injury.” It is probably the oldest term for someone with physical conditions that are considered seriously limiting. However, it is such a general term that it fails to accurately describe a person’s condition and is now widely viewed as offensive in that it implies that a person lacks abilities. Avoid using invalid to describe a person with a disability except when quoting someone.
  • Iranian names
    A Persian or Iranian name consists of a given name, sometimes more than one, followed by a family name. Many of the names in the Alf Layla wa-Layla, or “The Thousand Nights and One Night” are Persian, including Scheherazade (various spellings).
  • Islam
    Religion founded in seventh-century Mecca by the Prophet Muhammad, who said Allah (God), through the Angel Gabriel, revealed the Quran to him between 610 and 632, the year of his death. Followers of Islam are called Muslims. They worship in a mosque, and their weekly holy day is Friday. Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, after Christianity. After Muhammad’s death, Islam split into two distinct branches — Sunni and Shiite — in an argument over who would succeed him. Sunnis make up an estimated 85 percent of all Muslims. Shiites are the majority in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain, while Sunnis are the majority in other Islamic countries. In Sunni and Shiite Islam, there are various madhhabs, or schools of thought, and other theological traditions. There is no central religious authority, so theological and legal interpretations can vary from region to region, country to country and even mosque to mosque. Capitalize all Islamic titles when used before a name and lowercase otherwise. Use the title and name on first reference and only the person’s last name after that. Shiites and Sunnis use a few of the same religious titles but differ on others. Shiites have a more-defined hierarchy than Sunnis. For example, Sunnis call people who lead congregational prayers imams, while Shiites almost exclusively reserve imam to refer to any of the 12 descendants of the Prophet Muhammad who Shiites believe were his rightful successors. Sheikh, on the other hand, is used in both communities, but can be used either as term of respect — to address older men, for example — or for a formally trained scholar. Among Sufi Muslims, sheikh holds a more exclusive status that is reserved for highly trained scholars and heads of Sufi orders. Among Shiites, mullahs are lower-level clergy who generally have only rudimentary religious education. A hujjat al-Islam is more learned than a mullah but does not have the authority to issue legal rulings. Mujtahids and faqihs are jurists with the authority to issue rulings. A higher-level mujtahid is a marja, the most educated of whom are called ayatollahs. In addition to imam and sheikh, Sunni titles include mufti and grand mufti, which indicate a higher status usually conferred by an institution. Grand muftis are usually the top religious scholar in a country. Because the Quran is in Arabic, it is a common misconception that all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are Arab; neither is true.  
  • Islamic
    An adjective used to describe the religion of Islam. It is not synonymous with Islamist. Muslim is a noun and is the proper term for individual believers.
  • Islamic fundamentalist
    The term fundamentalist, whether applied to Muslims or Christians, is a largely American construct that implies politically conservatism and, sometimes, extremism. Some groups make no distinction between their cause and their interpretation of the religion. Careful reporting doesn't assume that religion is the sole basis for political actions. The term Islamic fundamentalist has been used to refer to people who cite Islam to justify political actions. Fairness and accuracy mean attributing political actions to the group, government or party responsible, and not just to the religion, which may have millions of followers with different beliefs. Avoid constructions like Muslim bomb.
  • Islamist
    Follow AP style, which defines the term as an “advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam” and gives this guidance: "Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists. Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.”  
  • Islamophobia
    Fear and prejudice against Muslims based on the idea that Islam is inferior and barbaric and cannot adapt to new realities. It also encompasses the belief that Western and Eastern civilizations have irreconcilable differences in political, economic and social beliefs. Islamophobia existed before Sept. 11, 2001, although attacks on Muslims have grown since then. A 2010 Gallup report found that 48 percent of Muslim Americans said they had been discriminated against in the previous year, and that anti-Islam sentiments had been increasing. Read more about Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment in the West in this Gallup report.
  • Issei, issei
    Term for Japanese immigrants originating from the Japanese language term for "first generation." In the American context, the term is generally understood to apply to those who migrated prior to the cessation of Japanese immigration to the U.S. under the dictates of the Immigration Act of 1924, the bulk arriving after 1885. The vast majority of Issei were thus middle-aged or older during World War II. Other generational terms include Nisei (second generation) for the American born children of the Issei, Sansei (third generation) for the grandchildren of the Issei and Yonsei (fourth generation) for their great-grandchildren. Postwar immigrants from Japan are understood to be a distinct group sometimes referred to as Shin-Issei, the prefex "shin" being "new" in Japanese. [Some Japanese-American institutions, such as Densho Encyclopedia, the digital educational resource on Japanese American internment and Japanese incarceration,  capitalize the first letter of Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei, etc. Others capitalize the words when they are used in a generational context, but lowercase those same words when referring to an individual. For example, “Nisei soldiers of World War II” has a generational context. However, you might say, “My uncle, a nisei, served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.” Some institutions lowercase the words unless they are part of a proper noun, such as Nisei Farmers League.] See Nisei/nisei, Sansei/sansei, Yonsei/yonsei.
  • Jainism
    A sect established in India in the sixth century B.C. as a revolt against Hinduism. It teaches that the way to bliss and liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth is to live a life of harmlessness and renunciation. Jains do not believe in a creator god; God is any soul who has been liberated from the cycle of birth and rebirth. The supreme principle is nonviolence; Jains believe plants and animals have souls, just as people do, and should be treated with respect and compassion.
  • Jap
    Avoid, a slur. A legacy of World War II.
  • Japanese names
    In Japan, typically family name first, personal name second. But in the United States, Western word order is common. Women’s names often end in -ko, or “child,” as in Michiko.
  • Jehovah's Witness
    A religious group that believes in one God, referred to by the Hebrew name Jehovah. Jesus is considered to be Lord and Savior but inferior to God. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not recognized as Christian by the Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant traditions, primarily because they do not believe in the Trinity. Adherents do not salute the flag, bear arms or participate in politics. They also refuse blood transfusions. Jehovah’s Witnesses have no formal clergy titles and do not use honorifics such as the Rev. They refer to baptized members who evangelize as publishers and those who devote greater time to ministry activities as regular pioneers. Full-time workers are called special pioneers. Their gathering places are called Kingdom Halls, not churches.
  • Jew
    Follower of the Jewish faith. Tradition holds that people are Jewish if their mothers are Jewish or if they have gone through a formal process of conversion, but some Jews argue for a more liberal definition. Many Jews consider themselves “secular Jews” whose connection to Judaism is cultural or ethnic rather than spiritual. Jews believe that God called their ancestor, Abraham, to be the father of their nation, which works toward the goal of establishing a divine kingdom on earth. Use Jew for men and women.
  • Jews for Jesus
    This is a proper name of an organization founded by Jews who converted to evangelical Christianity, but see that faith as a fulfillment of the Jewish hope in the Messiah. The organization is part of a broader group of converts who call themselves “Messianic Jews.” Jews for Jesus are known for proselytizing to Jews. They observe Jewish holidays, speak Hebrew in their services, read from the Torah and refer to Jesus by the Hebrew name Yeshua. They also call their houses of worship synagogues and their clergy rabbis. Mainstream Jewish groups consider Messianic Judaism deceptive and do not want such converts to call themselves Jews of any kind. Messianic Jews and Jews for Jesus should never be grouped together with mainstream Jews in stories or listings. When reporting on them, clearly state that they are Christian by faith, though Jewish by culture or ethnicity.
  • jihad
    An Arabic word that translates as “struggle” or “striving.” It is most commonly used to describe an inward, spiritual struggle for holiness, though traditionally it has also been used to describe defensive military action against non-Muslims. Today militant Muslims use it to call for aggressive armed strikes against non-Muslims, including civilians, and against other Muslims whom they consider impure – all acts condemned by mainstream Islam. Although many in the media translate jihad as “holy war,” it does not mean that literally, and the majority of Muslims do not use it that way.
  • Jim Crow
    Jim Crow laws enforced strict segregation between black and white people. The laws were enforced primarily in the South and were used to justify segregation for almost 80 years. They restricted African Americans’ access to businesses and public amenities including schools, transportation, housing, retail and restaurants, bathrooms, drinking fountains and more. These laws discouraged interaction between the races, and often cast black people as second-class citizens. Many resisted Jim Crow laws. One was 15-year-old Claudette Colvin, who in March, 1955, refused to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Colvin was arrested. Nine months later, Rosa Parks was arrested for doing that, too. [According to the National Association of Black Journalists Style Guide, "Jim Crow was the name of a routine performed by Daddy Rice, a white minstrel show entertainer in the 1830s. Rice covered his face with charcoal paste or burnt cork and sang and danced in caricature of a silly black person. Jim Crow became a racial epithet and synonymous with the brutal segregation and disenfranchisement of African Americans."]
  • Judaism
    The religion of the Jewish people. With its 4,000-year history, it is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. Its beliefs and history are a major foundation for other Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam. It traces a covenant between the Jewish people and God that began with Abraham and continued through Jacob, Moses, David and others to today’s modern Jews. Jews believe that the Messiah will one day establish a divine kingdom on earth, opening an era of peace and bliss. They believe that God called their ancestor, Abraham, to be the father of their nation, which works toward the goal of establishing this kingdom. Throughout history, Jews have been heavily persecuted. The Holocaust is the most high-profile example. The modern Jewish state of Israel was established in 1948. There are three major branches of Judaism. Reform Jews are the largest branch in the U.S., followed by Conservative and Orthodox Jews. Reconstructionist Judaism and Renewal Judaism are smaller branches that developed in the 20th century. Reform Judaism: Reform Jews believe that the spirit of Jewish law can be adapted to time and place, so they tend to emphasize social justice issues more than dietary laws, Sabbath rules and other particulars of traditional Jewish life. They are represented by the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, both based in New York City. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, based in Washington, D.C., is the political voice of the movement. Orthodox Judaism: Orthodox Jews practice strict adherence to traditional Jewish laws, including the rules that prohibit work on the Sabbath and kosher dietary laws that prohibit such things as eating pork products or shellfish and eating meat and dairy products together. Some Orthodox Jews might consider themselves “modern Orthodox,” meaning that the men do not keep long beards or wear traditional garb. Most Orthodox congregations are represented nationally by the [Orthodox Union,] and most of its rabbis are members of the Rabbinical Council of America. Conservative Judaism: Conservative Jews follow a middle path between Reform and Orthodox Judaism. Congregations and individuals vary in terms of how observant they are of dietary laws, and though some do not, many drive to synagogue on the Sabbath. They are represented nationally by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly. Reconstructionist Judaism: A 20th-century movement, founded by Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, that views Judaism as a social rather than a God-centered phenomenon. Reconstructionists generally do not believe the Hebrew Scriptures are divinely inspired, reject the idea of God as male or female, are less hierarchical and believe that Jewish law as a guiding principle isn’t binding. Reconstructionist rabbis are ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa. [Jewish Renewal: Jewish Renewal is a transdenominational approach to revitalizing Judaism, according to Aleph, the Alliance for Jewish Renewal. It combines “the socially progressive values of egalitarianism, the joy of Hasidism, the informed do-it-yourself spirit of the havurah movement, and the accumulated wisdom of centuries of tradition.”]
  • Juneteenth
    Oldest known celebration of slavery's ending. From its Galveston, Texas, origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as black Emancipation Day commemorates freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week and, in some areas, a month marked with celebrations, speakers, picnics and family gatherings.
  • Kaaba
    Pronounced “KAH-bah.” A black, cube-shaped building, about 40 feet tall, in Mecca. Islam’s most important mosque was built around the kaaba. Muslims believe that Abraham built the kaaba hundreds of years before the time of Muhammad, whose family belonged to the tribe that cared for the building. The stone kaaba has been rebuilt several times. The “black stone,” a relic installed in the kaaba’s eastern corner, is said to be from heaven and to date back to the time of Adam and Eve. The kaaba symbolizes the truth, and Muslims set their compass to the truth no matter where they are. This is why they face the kaaba to pray. There are normally people praying around the kaaba at all times. Pilgrims on hajj pray while circling it seven times. Also spelled Ka'bah.  
  • Kabbalah
    A doctrine of ancient Jewish mysticism that provides a path for humans to achieve an understanding of the divine mysteries of God and the universe. It teaches that such understanding can only be attained by praying and contemplating the hidden meanings of the Hebrew words and letters of the Torah. It had its greatest following in Europe during the 13th and 14th centuries. Preferred spelling is Kabbalah. Uppercase in all references.
  • kafiyyeh
    A checked scarf-like garment worn on the head by some Arab men. It is traditional, not religious; the kafiyyeh shows identity and pride in culture. Different styles and colors of the kafiyyeh can have significance. May also be spelled keffiyeh or kufiya.
  • karaoke
    Karaoke originated in Japan in the 1970s and means “empty orchestra.” In karaoke bars, patrons sing along to recordings of the instrumental parts of popular songs. Karaoke has become a popular way to socialize and relax in other Asian countries, as well. Karaoke came to the United States in the 1990s.
  • karma
    In Buddhism and Hinduism, the universal law of cause and effect; the effect (or fruits) of a person’s actions in one’s next lifetime. Lowercase in all references.
  • Kashrut
    The body of Jewish law dealing with what foods observant Jews can and cannot eat and how those foods must be prepared and eaten, according to Judaism 101. "Kashrut comes from the Hebrew root Kaf-Shin-Reish, meaning fit, proper or correct. It is the same root as the more commonly known word kosher, which describes food that meets these standards. The word kosher can also be used, and often is used, to describe ritual objects that are made in accordance with Jewish law and are fit for ritual use." See kosher.
  • keloid
    A raised scar that can develop after skin injury. During healing process, the skin cells overproduce, creating a dense, dome-shaped formation. People of African or Asian descent are more likely to get keloids than those with lighter skin.
  • kesh
    The wearing of long uncut hair by Sikhs as a symbol of respect for the natural perfection of God’s creation. It is one of the articles of faith known as the Five K’s (or kakars) — outward symbols of Sikh faith — ordered by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
  • killing fields
    Massacre of civilians in Cambodia by the Communist Khmer Rouge in mid-1970s. Broadly, any site of mass killing. Coined by Dith Pran (1942-2008), a Cambodian refugee and later a photojournalist for The New York Times. Also the title of an Academy Award-winning film (1984) chronicling Dith’s epic escape from Cambodia.
  • kippa, kippah
    See yarmulke.
  • Koran
    Quran is the preferred spelling and is capitalized in all references. The spelling Koran should only be used if it is in a specific title or name. See Quran.
  • Korean names
    Typically family name first, followed by two-part personal name. But many Korean Americans have adopted Western name order. Rules differ for men and women. In Korea, more than a third of the population comes from three historically large clans: Kim, Lee and Park. Add Choi and Chong and the proportion exceeds half.
  • kosher
    In Judaism, refers to ritually pure food prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. Lowercase in all references. Kashrut is the term for Jewish dietary laws, while kosher is the adjective.
  • Ku Klux Klan
    Official name, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan; founded in 1915, a secret organization directed against blacks, Catholics, Jews and other groups. There are 42 separate organizations known as the Klan in America. Some do not use the full name Ku Klux Klan, but all may be called that, and the KKK initials may be used for any on second reference. The two largest Klan organizations are the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Stone Mountain, Ga., and the United Klans of America, based in Tuscaloosa, Ala. An Imperial Board, composed of leaders from the various groups, meets occasionally to coordinate activities. Capitalize formal titles before a name: Imperial Wizard James R. Venable, Grand Dragon Dale Reusch. Members are Klansmen or Klanswomen.
  • kufi
    A skullcap worn by some Muslims.
  • Kwanzaa
    A celebration of African heritage and principles. It occurs Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. It grew out of the Black Nationalist Movement in the mid 1960s. Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, chairman of Black Studies at California State University. From the Swahili phrase “first fruits of the harvest,” Kwanzaa celebrates seven principles, which are also identified in the East African language. They are: umoja (unity) kujichagulia (self-determination) ujima (collective responsibility) ujamaa (cooperative economics) nia (purpose) kuumba (creativity) imani  (faith) Kwanzaa also has seven symbols. They are fruits, vegetables or nuts; a mat; a candleholder; seven candles (three red, three green and one black); corn; gifts and a communal cup signifying unity. Kwanzaa was intended to be independent of religion, though some families celebrate Kwanzaa with religious holidays. For more information about the holiday, see The Official Kwanzaa Web Site.  
  • lama
    A Tibetan Buddhist teacher or master. Capitalize when used as a title before a name, as in Lama Surya Das, or when referring to the man who holds the title Dalai Lama.
  • lame
    A word commonly used to describe difficulty walking as the result of an injury to the leg. Some people object to the use of the word lame to describe a physical condition because it is used in colloquial English as a synonym for weak, as in “That’s a lame excuse. Avoid using lame to describe a person with a disability except when quoting someone.
  • Laotian names
    Typically family name first, personal name second, often multi-syllable names.
  • Latin@
    This post-internet construction simplifies “Latino/Latina” or “Latino and/or Latina.” Some academic studies departments have put this in their names. According to the University of Wisconsin at Madison Department of Chican@ and Latin@ Studies, “The @ ending (‘a’ at the center of ‘o’) offers a simultaneous presentation of both the feminine and masculine word endings of Chicana, Chicano, Latina, and Latino and allows the reader/speaker to choose the form she or he prefers.” See Chican@.
  • Latina/Latino
    Umbrella terms referring to residents or citizens of the United States with Latin American ancestry. Latina is the feminine form of Latino and means a woman or girl. Use Latina(s) for a woman or women; use Latino(s) for a man or men. Latino is principally used west of the Mississippi, where it has displaced Chicano and Mexican American. In 2011, the Los Angeles Times amended its style guide to advise journalists to use Latino over Hispanic in virtually all circumstances "in keeping with the practices and sensibilities of residents of our region." Federal policy defines “Latino” not as a race, but as an ethnicity; it notes that Latinos can be of any race. The U.S. Census Bureau uses terms such as "Hispanic or Latino" and "non-Hispanic or Latino" in its survey questions on ethnicity. See Chicana/Chicano, Chican@, Hispanic, Latin@, and Latinx.
  • Latinx
    Pronounced "La-teen-ex." An alternative to Latino or Latina that refers to people of Latin American descent who don't necessarily identify as female or male. This could include people who identify as agender, nonbinary, gender non-conforming, genderqueer and gender fluid. Read more in this article in Latina magazine.
  • Latter-Day Saints
    See Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, LDS Church, Mormon.
  • lay person
    A member of the laity, rather than the clergy. The terms lay person and lay people are each two words. Layman and laywoman, however, are each one word.
  • LDS Church
    Acceptable on second reference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Lowercase church when using the shortened term.
  • Lent
    The period of penance and fasting preceding Easter, the Christian celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection. Lenten observances are most common in the liturgical traditions, such as Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Anglicanism. The observance of Lent developed through the centuries and sometimes varied in its focus and length. Especially for Western Christians, the currently accepted Lenten period recalls Christ’s 40-day fast in the desert and the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the desert between leaving Egypt and entering the Promised Land. Lent was originally to prepare those being initiated into the church at Easter and was then broadened to include various days of fasting and penance by all believers. In most of the Catholic Church, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday. Sundays are not counted as days of Lent. Some, still using the old liturgical calendar, count from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. Since 1969, when the document known as the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar was released, the Roman Catholic Church has said that Lent ends at the beginning of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. During Lent, Catholics over 14 and under 65 who are able are called on to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (that is, to go without a main meal during the day) and to abstain from meat on Fridays. Fish is often substituted. The observance of Lent within Protestantism varies from denomination to denomination, church to church, believer to believer. In recent years, even some nonliturgical Protestants, on their own or through their churches, have taken to observing the Lenten season through fasting and penance.
  • lesbian
    Preferred term, both as a noun and adjective, for women who are attracted to other women. Some women prefer to be called gay rather than lesbian; when possible, ask the subject which term she prefers.
  • LGBT/GLBT/LGBTQ/LGBTQQIA*
    LGBT is an abbreviation for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.” Useful in headlines and short ledes, but should be explained in the first or in an early reference. The Q in LGBTQ can stand for either questioning (still exploring one’s sexuality) or queer, or sometimes both [and it is sometimes written LGBTQQ]. LGBTQ is best used only in quotations or for formal names of organizations or events. [In recent years initials have been added to represent Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, Polyamorous. LGBTQIA and LGBTQQIA, sometimes with a * at the end, are increasingly being used to represent the community.]
  • lifestyle
    An inaccurate term sometimes used to describe the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Sexual orientation may be part of a broader lifestyle but is not one in itself, just as there is no “straight” lifestyle. Avoid. See sexual orientation, sexual preference.
  • little person
    See dwarf, midget, short stature.
  • liturgy
    Has two sets of meanings, one for Western Christians and the other for Eastern Christians. Among Roman Catholics and Protestants, lowercase liturgy means a standard set of prayers and practices for public worship. It can also be used as a synonym for the service of worship in churches that use such forms – most commonly the Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran. With reference to Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics, uppercase Liturgy; avoid the lowercase use of the word with their churches. Churches that tend to vary their services each week, such as most Baptist, Pentecostal and independent churches, are often called nonliturgical.
  • Lord
    Always capitalize when referring to God in a monotheistic faith, as in Lord Jesus or in Lord Krishna.
  • lover
    Term preferred by some individuals for a gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual person’s sexual partner. Girlfriend, boyfriend and partner are alternatives.
  • Lubavitch, Lubavitcher
    One of the largest branches of Hasidic Judaism, it originated in Russia in the 18th century. It was founded by Rabbi Schneur Zalman. In 1940, the Rebbe, or head of the movement, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, emigrated from Poland to America, where he was determined to make the Lubavitch into an American religious movement. Under his successor and son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitch used various forms of American media and institutions, such as schools and camps, to reach out to American Jews the group felt had not been exposed to “authentic” Judaism. Schneerson died in 1994, and a new leader has not been appointed. Lubavitchers still refer to him as “The Rebbe,” while they refer to his father-in-law as “The Previous Rebbe.” Some groups regard Schneerson as the Messiah and await his return, while others believe he could have been the Messiah if God had willed it. Still others believe he never died and is living in a way that ordinary people cannot perceive. The branch is also called Chabad-Lubavitch. Chabad comes from an acronym for the Hebrew words for wisdom, comprehension and knowledge. Lubavitch is the name of the town in Russia where the movement was based for more than a century. See Chabad.
  • lupus
    Chronic disease that affects immunity. Normally, the body's immune system makes proteins called antibodies to protect against viruses, bacteria and other foreign materials. Lupus causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues and organs. It can harm various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, brain and heart. Lupus most often affects black women.
  • Lutheran
    A member of a Protestant denomination that traces its roots to Martin Luther, the 16th-century Roman Catholic priest whose objections to certain practices in the Catholic Church began the Reformation. The two major Lutheran bodies in the U.S. are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA on second reference) and the smaller Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (Missouri Synod on second reference). Missouri Synod churches are far more theologically conservative than ELCA churches. There are smaller Lutheran bodies as well. In Lutheran practice, the congregation is the basic unit of government and is usually administered by a council made up of clergy and elected lay people. The council is headed either by the senior pastor or a lay person elected from the council. Some Lutheran branches, including the ELCA, have bishops. Members of the clergy are known as ministers. Pastor applies if a minister leads a congregation. On first reference, use the Rev. and the cleric’s full name. On second reference use only the cleric’s last name.
  • madman
    See crazy/crazed, psycho, nuts, lunatic, deranged, wacko.
  • madrassa
    A Muslim place of learning usually associated with a mosque.
  • Mahatma
    Sanskrit term for "great soul." Became the honorific for M.K.Gandhi during India's struggle for independence.
  • mainline Protestant
    A designation for a group of moderate-to-liberal Protestant churches. The most prominent are the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.  
  • Malaysian names
    Some Malaysians do not use family names, but, as in Burma, use honorifics. Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Muslims follow special naming rules.
  • Mandarin
    Caution: important differences from Cantonese. The official language of China and Taiwan, derived from different dialects but not itself a dialect, or regional variety of a language, like Cockney English. The term Mandarin refers to the spoken language. One speaks Mandarin but writes Chinese. While the Cantonese dialect is more prevalent in older American Chinatowns, Mandarin is increasingly spoken in newer Chinatowns. China has one written language using characters understood by anyone who is literate, but many spoken regional dialects such as Shanghainese and Fukienese, which are unintelligible to people from other regions. See Cantonese.          
  • manga
    A type of comic that developed in Japan. Manga have evolved stylistically and have become popular around the world. Today, many manga characters have big heads and large expressive eyes. With their complex story lines and some adult content, manga have a broad appeal among children, teens and adults.
  • manong (mah-nong)/manang (mah-nang)
    Manong is a term of respect that precedes the first name of older Filipino men; manang for older Filipina women.
  • mantra
    A syllable, word or phrase with spiritual power, it is chanted or held in the mind in connection with meditation or ritual. Mantras are commonly used by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains and are traditionally drawn from Sanskrit scriptures, such as the Vedas. The adherents of some vernacular texts, such as the Hindi Ramcharitmanas, believe their verses have the power of mantra as well. Some of the more powerful mantras consist of a single syllable, the most popular of which is “om.”
  • martial arts
    Armed and unarmed fighting sports or skills, mainly of East Asian origin. Unarmed martial arts emphasize striking with the feet and hands or grappling. Influenced substantially by Taoism and Buddhism. Kung fu, judo, karate, kendo and archery influenced American popular culture, including the “Star Wars” films and “The Hunger Games.” Derivatives of the unarmed forms of combat can be seen in parkour, the French sport of scaling urban settings seen in the films “District B13″ and the “Mission Impossible” series. Caution, like other Asian iconography, martial-arts imagery can be abused in contexts such as editorial cartoons. See Asia, use and abuse of images from; Buddhism; stereotypes; Taoism.
  • masjid
    Urdu word for mosque, a place of prayer and meeting for Muslims. Shot into the limelight because of a 1992 controversy in India over the Babri Masjid in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
  • mass
    A term used by Latin Catholics and some high-church Anglicans for a worship service that includes the celebration of Holy Communion. The term cannot be used for services that do not include Communion, including those in which someone distributes Communion hosts that were consecrated outside of that service. Catholic sources say a Mass is celebrated or said; however, The Associated Press accepts only celebrated. Capitalize when referring to the celebration of worship in the Roman Catholic Church. Lowercase any preceding adjectives, as in funeral Mass. Orthodox Christians call their Eucharistic service the Divine Liturgy.
  • mass incarceration
    Mass incarceration is increased rates of imprisonment resulting from tougher penalties, especially for drug offenses. Arrests and mandatory minimum sentences have fueled this since the 1970s. During this period, African Americans have been locked up in numbers out of proportion with crime rates. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “five times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites.” Sentences are also longer. In 2013, the U.S. Sentencing Commission reported that sentences of Black men were almost 20 percent longer than sentences of White men convicted of similar crimes. According to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the number of women incarcerated has increased 800 percent over the past three decades. Black and Hispanic women have been imprisoned at greater rates than other women. In 2015, some politicians and law enforcement officials began calling for reforms and releases. [For more about racial disparities in incarceration read the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.]
  • McCarran-Walter Act
    Officially known as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, it allowed Asians to apply for citizenship but set immigration quotas from each Asian country at only 100 annually. Liberalization of this law, in 1965, allowed the first large-scale migration of Asians into the United States in the 20th Century.
  • mehndi
    Refers to the traditional Indian and diaspora art of intricate hand and body decoration using dyes from the henna plant. Used mainly by brides during marriage ceremonies, it is now becoming popular as an exotic decoration and a non-permanent "tattoo." In recent years, mehndi has gained attention in the West as a result of its use by Western pop stars and actresses.  
  • mental health
    A state of well-being in which someone can cope with common stresses and live and work productively to his or her full potential. Note that cultural differences, subjective assessments and competing professional theories all affect how mental health is defined.
  • mental health professional
    Many different types of professionals may work with individuals who are experiencing mental health challenges, including psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, marriage and family therapists and others. Any of these professionals may be qualified to comment on a particular story, though HIPAA regulations may limit the information about a patient he or she can legally share. There are a number of types of mental health professionals. The following broad definitions are sourced from Psychology Today. Psychiatrist: A mental health professional able to prescribe psychotropic medications. Some provide emotional therapy as well as medication management. Psychoanalyst: A specific type of psychotherapist trained to work with both an individual’s unconscious and unconscious mind. The field was founded by Sigmund Freud. Psychologist: A mental health professional trained in the discipline of psychology and who often does psychological testing and research.Psychotherapist: An umbrella term for mental health professionals trained to treat people for their health problems. Ask the professional how he or should be identified, based on his or her formal training. Avoid using the word shrink in reference a mental health professional except in a quote.
  • mental illness, mental health disorder
    A health condition that changes a person’s thinking, feelings or behavior and that causes the person distress and difficulty in functioning. As with many diseases, mental illness is severe in some cases and mild in others, and is not always obvious. Recognize that the terms mental illness and mental health disorder cover a wide range of conditions, and, whenever possible, the specific diagnosis for an individual should be used rather than the blanket term. Mental illnesses also are known as mental disorders. The most common forms of mental illness are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and schizophrenia disorders. One in four adults experiences mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, although severity and symptoms vary widely. For more information on mental illness, see the National Institute for Mental Health. Because of perceived stigma, some people are calling for an end to the use of the term mental illness, suggesting instead terms such as person diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder or person with a mental health history. However, the term is still widely used within the medical and psychiatric professions. The American Psychiatric Association offers a useful guide to media on use of appropriate terms. The association recommends using people-first language to describe mental illness in order to avoid defining a person by his or her disability. She experiences symptoms of psychosis is preferable to she is psychotic; he is living with bipolar disorder is preferable to he is bipolar; and she has autism is preferable to she is autistic. Refer to an individual’s mental illness only when it is relevant to the story and the diagnosis comes from a proper source. Whenever possible, specify the specific illness a person has rather than mental illness in general. Always refer to someone with a mental illness as a person first. Use quotes when officials or family members use a term such as a history of mental illness to refer to an individual and indicate when appropriate that the diagnosis has not been confirmed.
  • mentally retarded, mentally disabled, intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled
    The terms mentally retarded, retard and mental retardation were once common terms that are now considered outdated and offensive. In 2010, President Barack Obama signed a measure known as “Rosa’s Law” that replaced the term mental retardation with intellectual disability in many areas of government, including federal law. Always try to specify the type of disability being referenced. Otherwise, the terms mental disability, intellectual disability and developmental disability are acceptable. Use people-first language. For example, instead of using the mentally disabled as a collective noun, use people with mental disabilities. At times, words that are considered outdated may be appropriate because of the story’s historical context.  In those cases, attribute the term or note its historic use. Example: The doctor said he was retarded, a term widely used at the time.
  • messiah, Messiah
    A Hebrew term meaning “the anointed one.” For Christians, the one and only Messiah is Jesus Christ. Jews await the coming of the Messiah. Capitalize in religious uses and lowercase in secular cases.
  • Methodist Episcopal Church
    American Protestant denomination whose initial progress in ministering to black Americans was thwarted by segregationist policies. The term Methodist originated as a nickname applied to a group of 18th- century Oxford University students known for their methodical application to Scripture study and prayer. The nation's principal Methodist body is the United Methodist Church, which was formed in 1968 by the merger of the Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren Church. It has 10 million members. The three major black denominations are African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • Mexican, Mexican-American
    Use “Mexican” when referring to anyone of Mexican citizenship, and use “Mexican American” when referring to those of Mexican ancestry who are permanent residents or citizens of the United States.  
  • microaggressions, racial microaggressions
    Slights and snubs based on racial discrimination. Some are unintentional. Microaggressions can be questions or expressions about a person’s identity or abilities. They can be behaviors. Racial microaggressions include judgments like “You don’t act like a normal Black person,” and “You probably can’t afford that.” They can be actions like locking the car door when a person perceived as a threat walks by. There is evidence these experiences pile up and can hurt mental health and performance at work or school. The term microaggression has been around since the 1970s. According to Columbia University’s Dr. Derald Wing Sue, there have been 5,500 microaggression studies since 2005. [For an interesting discussion of the term microaggression, see The Seattle Times' "Under Our Skin" project.]
  • Middle East
    A transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Southeastern Europe and Northern Africa. According to the Associated Press, the term applies to southwest Asia west of Pakistan and Afghanistan (Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the eastern part of Turkey known also as Asia Minor, United Arab Emirates and Yemen), and northeastern Africa (Egypt and Sudan). Mideast is also acceptable, but Middle East is preferred. The corresponding adjective is Middle-Eastern and the derived noun is Middle-Easterner.  
  • Middle Passage, the
    The transatlantic voyages between Africa and the Americas that claimed the lives of approximately 1.8 million African slaves over a period of about 350 years. An estimated 12 million slaves were packed into slave quarters in the belly of ships. See slavery.    
  • midget
    See dwarf, little person, short stature.
  • midlife
    References to people in midlife are more inclusive than using boomer(s), a term identifying one’s birth cohort. Midlife generally identifies the years between people’s early 40s and early 60s, but precision is somewhat slippery. Be aware that middle age traditionally was considered to begin at age 35, when 70 was regarded as a typical benchmark for very old age. Increasingly, the large and generally active baby boomer generation is likely to extend the concept of midlife well into the 60s, according to Paul Kleyman, editor of Aging Today.  
  • militant
    Commonly used to describe an aggressive activist working for a cause; a person eager to engage in a struggle to achieve his or her goal; can be used to mean any individual engaged in warfare, a fight, combat, or generally serving as a solider. A militant view sometimes constitutes an extremist position. A militant state denotes being in a physically aggressive posture supporting an ideology or cause. Should not be used in place of terrorist. Militant is deemed to be a neutral term, whereas terrorist indicates reprehensible behavior by an individual or organization regardless of the motivations. Avoid using to describe a black person who is simply hostile, belligerent or controversial.
  • Million Man March
    Washington rally held on Oct. 16, 1995, and organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and the Rev. Benjamin Chavis to draw attention to the social conditions to black men and to urge them to assume control over their lives. Some reports say approximately 900,000 black men congregated on the Washington Mall; march organizers say over a million men were there.  
  • Million Woman March
    Philadelphia march and rally held on Oct. 25, 1997, and organized by community activists Asia Coney and Phile Chionesu and seeking to build coalitions within the black community. An estimated 1.5 million black women gathered on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the event.
  • minister
    Most Protestant denominations use the term minister to describe their clergy, but it is not a formal title and is not capitalized. It is also used in Catholicism, with a strong distinction drawn between ordained ministers (priests and deacons) and lay ministers (including, for example, Eucharistic ministers, who take Communion to the sick, and youth ministers). The Nation of Islam also uses the term, and in that case it is a title and should be capitalized before the person’s name.
  • minority
    Caution. Not a synonym for people of color. Group or groups differing especially in race, religion or ethnicity from the majority of a population. Collective when used as a noun. Does not refer to an individual, so avoid such phrases as: There are three minorities on the council. Also: Women do not constitute a minority, although they may be linked with minorities in various civil-rights contexts. Avoid saying, for example, the program is designed to encourage the representation of minorities if it also encourages the representation of women. Better to say the program is designed to encourage the representation of women and minorities. A better alternative is people of color when referring to a group. See people of color, model minority.
  • mixed
    Sometimes used to describe a person who is biracial. Avoid the term in this context. See biracial.  
  • mixed-status couple, mixed-status family
    Usually refers to couples or families with members who have different immigration status. A mixed-status family, for example, might have a father who is an undocumented immigrant, a mother who is a legal resident and a child who was born in the United States and is a citizen. Mixed-status relationship and mixed-status couple are also sometimes used by health workers to describe a sexual relationship in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative, according to AIDS.gov, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
  • model minority
    The belief that a particular ethnic, racial or religious group achieves greater success than the population average. In the United States, this myth most often refers to Asians. Concerns are that the myth implies that some people get ahead because of the group they are in, or that group members who do not succeed are inferior. The myth also ignores the history and ongoing experiences of discrimination these groups face and masks socioeconomic diversity within these groups.
  • Modern Orthodox
    A movement within Orthodox Judaism that tends to integrate traditional Jewish practices and beliefs with life in the secular world while retaining a distinctive Jewish identity and presence. Modern Orthodox will keep strictly kosher and carefully observe the Sabbath, and they will often wear a yarmulke, or skullcap, for example, but not always. Former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman is a widely known example of a follower of the Modern Orthodox movement. The term Modern Orthodox is accepted among Jews, but as with any movement it can encompass a wide spectrum of beliefs and behaviors so it is advisable to clarify with the subjects of a story where they see themselves within Modern Orthodoxy.
  • Mongolian names
    Extremely complex naming rules involving patronymics, matronymics and clan names. Beware second reference.  
  • Mongoloid
    The term was used in the late 19th century to refer to people who had Down syndrome, due to the similarity of some of the physical characteristics of the disorder to Eastern Asian people who were called Mongoloid, according to the Oxford English dictionary. It is considered a highly derogatory word to describe someone with Down syndrome. Always avoid the use of mongloid to refer to someone with Down syndrome.
  • Montgomery bus boycott
    Yearlong protest in the Alabama city that galvanized the civil-rights movement and led to the 1956 Supreme Court decision declaring segregated seating on buses unconstitutional. See civil rights movement.  
  • Moonie
    A derogatory term for a member of the Unification Church. Journalists should not use it except in direct quotes. See Unification Church.
  • Mormon Church
    See Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
  • Moslem
    An outdated term for Muslims. It should not be used unless it is part of a proper name.
  • Motown
    Formerly black-owned record company that became the most commercially successful and culturally influential of the 1960s, producing a distinct musical style and many singing icons. Motown Records is now part of the Universal Music Group. Can also be used as an adjective to describe the musical style or city in which it originated, Detroit.  
  • MSM
    Abbreviation for “men who have sex with men.” It is a behavioral and public health category, used in a medical or scientific context. Does not reference sexual identity and is not synonymous with gay and bisexual men. See down low.
  • mulatto
    A person who has a white parent and a black parent. Avoid using term; considered to be insensitive. Better to use biracial. See biracial.  
  • mullah
    A Shiite term for lower-level clergy. Capitalize the title when it precedes a name.
  • multiple personality disorder
    See dissociative identity disorder.
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
    A disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. MS symptoms vary widely and may include trouble with walking or movement, numbness and vision problems. It is acceptable to describe a person as “someone with multiple sclerosis,” followed by a short explanation of how the disease is manifested in that person. Avoid saying a person suffers from or is afflicted with the disease. MS is acceptable on second reference.
  • Mumbai
    The current term for the Indian city previously known as Bombay. Mumbai comes from the local Marathi language. The renaming of some Indian cities and states began with the end of Imperial British rule in 1947. A 1956 reorganization of states, changes to local languages and differences between Indian and British English caused more and changes continue. Other Indian cities have also formally switched to the names in their native languages, including Kolkata, formerly Calcutta.
  • murti
    Pronounced “MOOR-tee.” In Hinduism, an image or icon of God used during worship. A manifestation, embodiment or personification of the divine. Do not use the word idol as a synonym.
  • muscular dystrophy
    Muscular dystrophy could refer to any of more than 30 genetic diseases characterized by progressive weakness and degeneration of the muscles that control movement, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Onset could be infancy, childhood, middle age or later. It is acceptable to describe a person as “someone with muscular dystrophy,” followed by a short explanation of what the condition entails. Avoid saying a person suffers from or is afflicted with the disease. MD is acceptable on second reference.
  • Muslim American
    Do not hyphenate. Do hyphenate, however, when the term is used as a compound modifier, as in Muslim-American community.
  • Muslim, Muslims
    A Muslim is a follower of Muhammad and the tenets and practices of Islam. The word Muslim is a noun; use the adjective Islamic when referring to the Islamic faith or the Islamic world.
  • Mx.
    Pronounced “mix,” Mx. is a gender-neutral courtesy title preferred by some transgender or genderqueer people who do not identify as either male or female and so do not want to use “Mr.” or “Ms.” The New York Times, one of the few newspapers that still uses courtesy titles, first used Mx. in an article in 2015. Shortly after, Philip B. Corbett, the associate masthead editor for standards and overseer of The Times’ newsroom style manual, wrote a Times Insider column about it.
  • Myanmar
    Pronounced MEE-YAHN-mar. See Burma.
  • NAACP
    National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded Feb. 12, 1909 by a multiracial group of activists, who called themselves the National Negro Committee. Its founders were Ida Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. DuBois, Henry Moscowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villiard and William English Walling. From its beginning, the NAACP's mission has been to improve the legal, educational and economic lives of black people. It is headquartered in Baltimore. Acronym is acceptable in all references. NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.: Founded in 1940 under leadership of Thurgood Marshall, the Legal Defense Fund provides legal assistance to poor black citizens. It was originally affiliated with the NAACP, but it has been an entirely separate organization since 1957, with a national office in New York and regional offices in Washington and Los Angeles. Its nearly two dozen staff lawyers are assisted by hundreds of cooperating attorneys across the nation. Use Legal Defense Fund on second reference.
  • nation
    Federally recognized tribes are considered self-governing – or sovereign nations – by Congress. See American Indian, Native American, tribe.
  • Nation of Islam
    A religious and political organization formed in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad with the stated aim of “resurrecting” the spiritual, mental, social and economic condition of Black people in America and the world. Its tenets differ markedly from those of traditional Islam. Elijah Muhammad took over the organization in 1934 and preached separation of Blacks and Whites, in addition to calling for a strong morality. After his death in 1975, Elijah Muhammad’s son, W. Deen Mohammed, assumed leadership. (Note the different spelling of the last name.) Mohammed began moving the Nation toward mainstream Sunni Islam and shunning Black separatist views. He essentially dismantled the Nation and created his own organization. In 1976, Louis Farrakhan left the Nation of Islam, but in 1978 he and his supporters decided to rebuild the original organization. Followers should be referred to as members of the Nation of Islam. The term Black Muslim, once associated with the organization, is now considered derogatory and should be avoided. Nation of Islam clergymen use the title minister, which should be capitalized on first reference before a name. On second reference, use only the person’s last name. See Islam.  
  • National Negro League
    Professional baseball league for blacks founded in 1920 by pitcher Andrew Rube Foster. During Jim Crow era, Major League Baseball excluded blacks so they formed their own teams with blacks in all key roles. The Negro League was widely successful and supported in black communities. Other black leagues followed, including Eastern Colored League and Southern Negro League. Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947. Last black clubs folded in the early 1960s.
  • Native American, Native
    Native American, Native and American Indian are all generally acceptable, although individuals may have a preference. It is usually best to refer to Native people by their specific tribe or nation, such as Navajo, Hopi or Cherokee, or to ask people which term they prefer. Native American gained traction in the 1960s for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Over time, Native American has been expanded to include all native peoples of the continental United States and some in Alaska. [For more about how people feel about the terms Native American, Native and American Indian read: "Blackhorse: Do You Prefer ‘Native American’ or ‘American Indian’? 6 Prominent Voices Respond," Indian Country Today Media Network "Native American vs. American Indian: Political correctness dishonors traditional chiefs of old," Native Times] 
  • Native Hawaiian
    Known as Kanaka Maoli in Hawaiian, Native Hawaiians trace their lineage and language to Polynesians, including Tahitians, Maoris and Samoans. Starting in 2000, the federal government recognized Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders as a distinct group, including in Census counts.
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, U.S. Census definition of
    The U.S. Census Bureau, which adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, defines Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander as  "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands." The Census Bureau notes: "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or sociocultural groups."
  • Negro
    Use African American or black. Do not use to describe a person of African descent. Do not use Negress. (See African American, black and race.) Term acceptable in organization names and historical references, for example, National Council of Negro Women or Negro National Anthem. The word Negro was adopted from the Spanish and Portuguese and first recorded in the mid-16th century. It remained the standard term between the 17th-19th centuries and was used by prominent black American campaigners such as W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington in the early 20th century. Since the Black Power movement of the 1960s, however, when black was favored as the term to express racial pride, Negro and related words such as Negress were dropped and now are out of date, even offensive in some cases.
  • Negro Codes
    See Black codes.  
  • Negro National Anthem
    This began as the 1899 poem Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson. Set to music by Johnson’s brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, this became known as the Negro National Anthem or Hymn. It was presented on Feb. 12, 1900, in Jacksonville, Florida, by 500 schoolchildren at a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People adopted Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing as its official song. The song represents the resilience and strength of Black people. It begins: "Lift ev’ry voice and sing, Till earth and heaven ring. Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; Let our rejoicing rise …” Listen to the Chicago Community Chorus sing Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing. Audio used courtesy of Keith Hampton, artistic director/founder, the Chicago Community Chorus.  
  • neo-paganism
    A term used to describe contemporary paganism, as opposed to ancient paganism. Some groups or individuals describe themselves as “pagan” because they trace their belief and practices back to ancient times and the emphasis on the natural world and goddess worship. Others prefer “neo-pagan” because their faith blends the old and the new.
  • Nepali
    People from Nepal are known variously as Nepalese or Nepali, the latter of which is favored in current usage -- though U.S. press uses Nepalese when referring to those in the United States.. As such,the word Nepali can be both a noun and an adjective. As a noun, it can refer to the people of Nepal as well as the official state language, Nepali. As an adjective, it can be used, for example, to refer to a Nepali hat, or a Nepali sari, or a Nepali government official.
  • New Age movement
    A spiritual movement that developed in Western society in the late 1960s. Adherents link elements of religion with psychology and parapsychology. It remains a loose network of spiritual seekers, teachers, healers and other participants. Followers construct their own spiritual journeys, which are heavily influenced by the mystical elements of many organized religions, as well as native practices such as shamanism and neo-paganism.
  • niggardly
    Means stingy or miserly. It is sometimes perceived as insulting because it sounds like the offensive word nigger. Be careful with usage.
  • nigger
    Racial slur; a contemptuous term for a black person. The word nigger was first used as an adjective denoting a black person in the 17th century and has had strong offensive connotations ever since. It remains one of the most racially charged words in the language. Ironically, it has acquired a new strand of use in recent years, being used by black people in referring to other black people. Also known as the n-word. Nigga is a variation of nigger that also has gained traction in recent years. It is used frequently in entertainment culture, especially in rap lyrics and comic stand-up routines. Some people consider it altogether different than nigger, considering it a term of affection or just neutral. Many still consider it a slur, no matter the spelling. Do not use unless there is an extremely compelling reason to do so, and a supervisor approves it.  
  • niqab
    A veil worn by some women who are Muslims; it covers all of their face except the eyes.  
  • nirvana
    This English word means bliss; a state of oblivion to care and pain. In Buddhism, attaining a state of freedom from the endless cycle of personal reincarnations. From the Sanskrit for "act of extinguishing."
  • Nisei, nisei
    Term for the children of Japanese immigrants, originating from the Japanese language term for "second generation." In the American context, the term is generally understood to apply specifically to the American-born—and thus U.S. citizen—children of Japanese immigrants who arrived prior to the cessation of Japanese immigration to the U.S. under the dictates of the Immigration Act of 1924. The bulk of Nisei were thus children or young adults during World War II. "Nisei" also implies being raised in the U.S. and speaking English as a first language, with a separate term—Kibei Nisei or just Kibei—applied to those who were born in the U.S. but mostly raised or educated in Japan. Other generational terms include "Issei" (first generation) for the immigrant generation, "Sansei" (third generation) for the children of the Nisei, and "Yonsei" (fourth generation) for the grandchildren of the Nisei. [Some Japanese-American institutions, such as Densho Encyclopedia, the digital educational resource on Japanese American internment and Japanese incarceration,  capitalize the first letter of Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei, etc. Others capitalize the words when they are used in a generational context, but lowercase those same words when referring to an individual. For example, “Nisei soldiers of World War II” has a generational context. However, you might say, “My uncle, a nisei, served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.” Some institutions lowercase the words unless they are part of a proper noun, such as Nisei Farmers League.] See Issei/issei, Sansei/sansei, Yonsei/yonsei.
  • Nollywood
    West Africa’s film industry, based  in Lagos, Nigeria. The term derives from Hollywood and Bollywood, India's center of filmmaking in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay, the source of the B in Bollywood). In a column for The New York Times' Times Insider, Norimitsu Onishi, chief of newspaper's southern Africa bureau, describes how he coined the term: Back in 2002, on a phone call to an editor, I was trying to explain that I’d been working hard, really, during a visit to Lagos, my favorite city in West Africa, the region I was covering at the time. I’d spent a few days hanging out in the district of Surulere, which had emerged as Nigeria’s moviemaking capital. It seemed filmmakers were busy shooting on every street corner, frantically churning out what were then called home videos. Young would-be actresses and actors came from all over the country, wanting to be discovered. Over hot pepper soup and Gulder beer at Winis, a hotel that served as a studio and the site of never-ending parties, producers and directors told me with typical Nigerian ambition and bravado that they were building the new Hollywood. I even flirted with the possibility of playing the role of an evil white man, a bit part in a production called “Love of My Life.” It’s like Hollywood or Bollywood but in Nigeria — Nollywood! I told my editor. A few days later, my article appeared on the front page, under a headline that christened the world’s newest movie powerhouse: “Step Aside, L.A. and Bombay, for Nollywood.” Fourteen years later, Nigeria’s movies have won fans across Africa and the African diaspora worldwide, and they are known to all as ... Nollywood. The term was quickly picked up by filmmakers, scholars and journalists. According to the website for the documentary "This is Nollywood," Nigeria's booming film industry is the world's third largest producer of feature films after Hollywood and Bollywood, but most films there are made on shoestring budgets. The average production there is shot in 10 days for about $15,000.
  • non-binary gender
    Gender identities that don't fit within the accepted binary of male and female. People can feel they are both, neither, or some mixture of the two.
  • non-disabled
    Non-disabled has come into usage as a way to refer to someone who does not have a disability. Non-disabled or does not have a disability are acceptable terms when referring to people who do not identify as having a disability. In general, avoid using able-bodied.
  • nuts
    See crazy.
  • obituaries (LGBT)
    When reporting survivors, list partners of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender deceased in an order equivalent to spouses of heterosexual deceased.
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
    An anxiety disorder characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to repetitive and often ritualized behaviors or compulsions. OCD may exhibit as a fear of contamination, disarray or intrusion, according to the Mayo Clinic. People with OCD usually exhibit both obsessions and compulsions but sometimes exhibit only one or the other. OCD is often treated by pharmaceutical drugs, psychotherapy methods or a combination of the two. Refer to someone as having OCD only if the information is relevant to the story and the person has been formally diagnosed by a reputable source. Do not use OCD as an adjective for someone who obsesses over certain things but has not been formally diagnosed as having OCD. Use obsessive-compulsive disorder on first reference; OCD is acceptable in second reference.  
  • Okies
    A pejorative term for people from Oklahoma dating from the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, when thousands of poor people left the state, many heading to California.
  • older (people, adults, individuals, Americans and so on)
    A national survey of nearly 100 age-beat journalists found that this is the top choice term, seen by reporters as the more neutral and flexible general descriptor for people in later life. (The 2007 Journalists Exchange on Aging survey was coordinated by Paul Kleyman, editor of Aging Today, and Steve Slon, editor of AARP: The Magazine).    
  • om
    In Hinduism, the mantra of the divine. The ancient Sanskrit name for the absolute. All mantras begin with om.
  • openly gay/openly lesbian
    As a modifier, openly is usually not relevant; its use should be restricted to instances in which the public awareness of an individual’s sexual orientation is germane. Examples: Harvey Milk was the first openly gay San Francisco supervisor. “Ellen” was the first sitcom to feature an openly lesbian lead character. Openly is preferred over acknowledged, avowed, admitted, confessed or practicing because of their negative connotations.
  • opposite sex
    Can be seen as offensive or inaccurate for people who don't identify as male or female or who see gender as a continuum rather than a binary construct. Consider using the phrase different sex instead, as in "The study compared children of same-sex couples with those of different-sex parents."
  • Oreo
    Disparaging term for someone deemed to have shunned his or her black culture and who acts white. Referring to the cookie, means being black on the outside, but white on the inside; latter-day version of pejorative Uncle Tom. Do not use. See Uncle Tom.
  • Oriental
    Caution. Many Asian Americans liken “Oriental” to “Negro,” a term of condescension. A vestige of European imperialism, the term, at minimum, is vague. In art, it may include countries such as China and Japan, but exclude Turkey. In rugs, it may mean India and China and include Turkey. In food, it may mean China or Japan, but not India, Vietnam or the Philippines. [In 2016, President Barack Obama signed legislation (HR 4238) that replaced the term Oriental with Asian American in federal laws.]
  • Orthodox Church
    Any of the several Eastern Christian churches that are rooted in the Middle East or Eastern Europe but that do not give allegiance to the Roman Catholic pope. The term Orthodox was adopted by the Eastern Church to signify its adherence to the original apostolic traditions, teachings and style of worship. The Orthodox Eucharistic service is called the Divine Liturgy, and worship is very sensual, involving incense, chants and the veneration of icons. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches were united until 1054, when the Great Schism occurred, mainly as a result of disputes over papal authority. The pope in Rome claimed supremacy over the four Eastern patriarchs, while the Eastern patriarchs claimed equality with the pope. Although the split was officially made in 1054, divisions began more than two centuries earlier. Today the spiritual head of Orthodoxy is the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, who has no governing authority over the other patriarchs but is called “first among equals.”
  • Orthodox Judaism
    The most conservative of the three major branches of Judaism, it strictly adheres to traditional teachings and acceptance of Jewish principles of faith and law. Capitalize in all references. Hasidism is a movement within Orthodox Judaism.
  • orthodox, orthodoxy
    A term used to denote a clear doctrine that implies correct belief according to a particular religion or philosophy. Lowercase except when referring to Judaism or the Eastern branches of Christianity or as part of a denominational name, such as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
  • out
    A person who self-identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender in their personal, public, and/or professional lives. For example: Ricky Martin is an out pop star from Puerto Rico. Preferred to openly gay.  
  • outing (from “out of the closet”)
    The act of publicly declaring (sometimes based on rumor and/or speculation) or revealing another person's sexual orientation or gender identity without that person's consent. Considered inappropriate by a large portion of the LGBT community. Publicly revealing the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual who has chosen to keep that information private. Also a verb: The magazine outed the senator in a front-page story. See coming out, closeted.  
  • Pacific Islander
    U.S. Census term, referring to one of eight groups — Fijian, Guamanian, Hawaiian, Northern Mariana Islander, Palauan, Samoan, Tahitian, and Tongan.
  • pagan
    Generally, a person who does not acknowledge the God of Judaism, Christianity or Islam and who is a worshipper of a polytheistic religion. Many pagans follow an Earth-based or nature religion. The modern religious movement known as neo-paganism has adopted the name as a badge of faith. Note: Some pagans prefer to see the term capitalized.
  • Paki
    A derogatory slang word for people of Pakistani origin. Is the South Asian equivalent of Jap or the "N word." Do not use under any circumstances. If you are quoting someone saying this, be sure totreat the word with the same caution you would treat Jap. Used often in England as a racial epithet against South Asians in general (especially by skinheads).  
  • Pakistani languages
    Urdu and English are the official languages of Pakistan. Other languages include: Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtu and Balochi. Bengali used to be an official language until East Pakistan became the country of Bangladesh in 1971 (Bengali remains the official language of Bangladesh.  
  • Palestine
    Historically, Palestine was a country east of the Mediterranean Sea. Today the region includes current-day Israel. As a distinct region, Palestine was under Ottoman control (a Turkish empire) and then British control until 1948, when the nation of Israel was created. Areas of Palestine became Israel and part of Jordan. Today, Palestine refers to the territories under Palestine National Authority control in the West Bank, which remains under Israeli occupation and in the case of the Gaza Strip, contains a variety of Israeli strictures. The United National General Assembly in 2012 upgraded Palestine to a non-voting observer state. Palestinians share a collective national identity and are moving toward independence and self-rule as a country. Negotiations continue between Palestinian authorities and the Israeli government to find a permanent agreement. The Palestinian National Council is the parliament.
  • Palm Sunday
    The sixth Sunday in Lent and the beginning of the Christian Holy Week before Easter. Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The day gets its name from the biblical reference to crowds throwing palm fronds before Jesus as he entered the city. Also known as Passion Sunday, though Palm Sunday is the preferred term.
  • Pan-Africanism
    Pan-Africanism is a combination of political ideologies. It stresses the shared origins, economic and social interests held by people of African descent. A basic goal is to unify people worldwide through their African origins and culture. Pan-African unity is seen as essential to economic, political and social progress. The movement goes back to at least the mid 19th century and has roots in Africa, Europe and the Americas. Dr. W.E.B. DuBois convened a Pan-African Congress in 1919 in Paris. According to the Pan-African Alliance, Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association is credited with creating the Pan-African flag in 1920. The flag has horizontal red, black and green stripes. Red represents the blood that links all Black people. Black represents their shared ancestral past. Green represents the unification of Africa. Pan-Africanism has also been represented by green, yellow and red.
  • pangender
    Having a fluid identity. Might be expressed as both male and female, or shift from one gender to the other. Falls under the umbrella term genderqueer.
  • pansexual, omnisexual
    One whose primary attraction is to a person, regardless of their gender. Because the labels heterosexual and homosexual imply the gender of both the person and the object of their attraction, it is often difficult or irrelevant to identify with these labels when a person’s gender is non-binary. For this reason many people opt for the label pansexual or omnisexual.
  • paraplegia/paraplegic
    The impairment or loss of movement in the lower extremities and torso. It is typically caused by a spinal cord or brain injury. Referring to someone as a paraplegic is offensive to some as it implies that their condition defines them. Avoid referring to an individual as a paraplegic. Instead, say the person has paraplegia. Sometimes people with paraplegia refer to themselves as a “para.” If so, use in quotes. See quadriplegia/quadriplegic.
  • parent
    In general, along with mother and father, the proper term for a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person, whether single or in a relationship, raising a child or children. Because of the blended nature of many families led by LGBT parents, ask the subject which term he or she prefers, when possible. Mention a parent’s sexual orientation, genetic relationship to the child or conception technique only when germane. See families.
  • Parsi, Parsis
    Pronounced “PAHR-see.” An ethnic group in India that follows Zoroastrianism.
  • partition
    The partition of 1947 refers to the division of British India upon independence into India and Pakistan. The partition, one of the largest forced migrations in history, occurred on two sides of British India--in the western Punjab region, and in the eastern Bengal region--where Muslims represented a majority of the population. Ensuing violence resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands.
  • partner
    A commonly accepted term for a people in a committed relationship. It is frequently used in gay or lesbian relationships but also for heterosexuals who are not legally married and relationships where one or both partners are gender nonconforming. See husband, lover, relationships.
  • Pashtun
    Ethnic group of approximately 18 million people who live primarily along the Durand Line, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The rulers of Afghanistan for almost three centuries, the Pashtun Taliban broke a four-year hiatus from this rule when they took over Afghanistan in 1996. Although the Pashtun of Pakistan maintain semi-autonomy from Pakistan, they continue to fight for an independent state thatwould unite the Pashtun on both sides of the Durand Line.
  • passing
    This is when someone appears to be and identifies as a member of another race. Historically, some African Americans passed as White to avoid racial injustice. In his novel Black Like Me, white journalist John Howard Griffin underwent treatments to turn his skin black. He wrote about the discrimination he experienced when he appeared to be African American.
  • Passover, Pesach
    A major Jewish holiday commemorating the freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses, who was directed by God. The account is found in Exodus, the second book of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Old Testament. Passover takes its name from God’s instruction to the Israelites to mark the upper part of their homes’ doors with lamb’s blood so the Angel of Death would “pass over” their homes as he killed the firstborn male of each family in Egypt during the 10th plague. Passover, also called by its Hebrew name Pesach (pronounced “PAY-sakh”), is celebrated in late March or early April and lasts for seven days in Israel, though most outside of Israel celebrate for eight days. On the first two nights of Passover, it is traditional for a Jewish family to gather for a special dinner called a seder in which the story of the Exodus is retold.
  • Patel motel
    Expression that comes from the true stereotype that Indians run a lot of hotels. The Asian American Hotels Owners Association reports that half the hotels in the United States are owned by Indians and 70 percent of all Indian hotels owners are named Patel, a common Indian name.
  • Pearl Harbor
    Use sparingly as metaphor or analogy because it may invite stereotypes.
  • people of color
    The National Association of Black Journalists' Style Guide says, "Acceptable use as a synonym for minorities. May also use to describe groups such as journalists of color or women of color." However, some people feel uncomfortable with the idea of lumping people of different groups together. For an interesting discussion of the term, see The Seattle Times' "Under Our Skin" project, which was published in June 2016. 
  • people-first language
    Language that avoids defining a person in term of his or her disability. In most cases, this entails placing the reference to the disability after a reference to a person, as in a person with a disability rather than the disabled person. The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention offers an easy-to-follow guide on people-first language. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association acknowledges that utilizing people-first language sometimes can result in awkward sentence structuring. As such, the organization states that “deviations from people-first language should be allowed in cases when the only alternative is awkward sentence structure.” Use people-first language whenever possible.  
  • PFLAG
    Formerly Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, this organization in 2014 changed its name to simply PFLAG to be more inclusive. "Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the nation's largest family and ally organization," according to the organization's website. "Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality and full societal affirmation of LGBTQ people through its threefold mission of support, education, and advocacy." PFLAG has over 400 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas in all 50 states.
  • Phillippine names
    Typically follows Western name order. Spanish names common as vestige of Spanish imperialism. Use of nicknames common. Muslims may follow special naming rules.
  • Pilipino
    Also Filipino, Pinoy (pee-noy)/Pinay (pee-nai). Tagalog, meaning a Filipino man; pinay means woman. The Philippines, claimed by Spanish explorers, was named after King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598).
  • pink triangle
    Now a gay pride symbol, it was the symbol gay men were required to wear in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Lesbians sometimes also use a black triangle.
  • Polock, Polack
    A derogatory word for a Pole or a person of Polish descent. The word derives from Polak, which means a Polish male or a person of Polish nationality, which has a neutral connotation. In the 1970s sitcom "All in the Family," the character Archie Bunker (played by Carroll O'Connor) frequently referred to his son-in-law, Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner), as a "dumb Polack."
  • polyamorous
    Engaging in more than one consensual intimate relationship at a time, or being non-monogamous. Not to be confused with pansexual.
  • polygamy
    The practice of having more than one spouse at a time. It was practiced by Mormons in the 1800s but was officially outlawed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1890. Members who are polygamists are excommunicated from the LDS church, but some Mormon offshoot groups still practice it. Polygamy is permitted in Islam, according to the Quran, which states that men can marry up to four women if they can be “equally just” to all of them.
  • post-racial
    A controversial term that describes a society that’s devoid of racial preference, discrimination and prejudice.  
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    An anxiety disorder that can develop after traumatic events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, traumatic brain injury, physical and sexual assault in adults or children, and any other traumatic experience. PTSD can be diagnosed a month or more after the traumatic event has occurred. An anxiety disorder generally caused by undergoing an extremely emotional traumatic event, according to the National Center for PTSD. Such events may include assault, war, sexual assault, natural disasters, car accidents or imprisonment. Symptoms may include reliving the traumatic event, avoidance of certain behaviors, negative emotions or physical symptoms such as dizziness or nausea. Refer to someone as having PTSD only if the information is relevant* to the story and the person has been formally diagnosed by a reputable source. Post-traumatic stress disorder is correct on first reference; use PTSD on second reference. The term flashback may be used to denote reliving an event that triggered the PTSD.
  • poverty violations
    Fines and fees for petty violations such as fare-hopping on public transit, playing loud music, speeding, driving with a suspended license or expired registration, zoning violations for unkempt property, wearing "saggy pants,” and failure to appear in court.  
  • powwow
    Use only when referring to the title of a specific American Indian event. Avoid if referring to a general gathering because the term evokes a stereotypical image of American Indians. Comes from the Narragansett word for shaman. It is a celebration and social gathering, honoring sacred American Indian traditions through dancing, drumming, singing and the gathering of people. A powwow may be held to honor an individual or for a special occasion. Most commonly, it is a social event.
  • practicing (LGBTQ)
    Avoid this term to describe someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Use “sexually active” as a modifier in circumstances when public awareness of an individual’s behavior is germane.
  • pre-lingually deaf/postlingually deaf/late-deafened
    Prelingually deaf refers to individuals who were born deaf or became deaf prior to learning to understand and speak a language, according to Gallaudet University, a university for the education of the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C.Postlingually deaf or late-deafened describes a person who lost hearing ability after he or she learned to speak a language. The terms are acceptable, although explanation may be required for a general audience.
  • Pride Day
    Short for gay/lesbian pride, this term is commonly used to indicate  the celebrations commemorating the Stonewall Inn riots of June 28, 1969. Pride events typically take place in June. See Stonewall.
  • primitive
    Avoid using potentially insulting term to describe a person or people.
  • pro-choice
    A term used to describe people who support abortion rights. Abortion, however, is a more nuanced issue, with many people supporting abortion in some circumstances, but not all. Journalists should instead use the term pro-abortion rights or a similar description.
  • pro-life
    A term used to describe people who oppose abortion. Abortion, however, is a more nuanced issue, with many people opposing abortion rights in most, but not all, circumstances. Journalists should instead use a description of their views, such as opposed to abortion or against abortion rights.
  • progressive
    A term that emerged as a way to refer to people of faith who are liberal-to-moderate in their political views. It is a disputed term because it implies that other groups are regressive, which carries a negative connotation.
  • projects, the
    Abbreviated slang for housing projects. Do not use either term to describe a persons dwelling. Better to say housing development.
  • pronouns
    See gender-neutral pronouns.
  • proselytize
    The act of seeking converts to a faith. However, many Christian groups – particularly the Roman Catholic Church – draw a strong distinction between proselytizing and evangelizing. Proselytizing is viewed as the use of unethical methods – such as coercion, bribery or threats – to bring conversions. Evangelizing is considered a pressure-free effort to present the faith and invite others to freely accept it. This distinction explains why Pope John Paul II frequently condemned proselytizing while encouraging – and engaging in – evangelization. Do not use the word proselytize unless you know it is being used in a negative context. Evangelism (Protestant) or evangelization (Catholic or Orthodox) are the preferred terms.
  • psycho
    See crazy.
  • psychotic/psycho
    A broad term used to describe symptoms of certain mental health problems. Symptoms may include delusions or hallucinations or other loss of contact with reality. People with psychosis are described as psychotic. In common usage, psychotic often is used in the same way as the word crazy, and thus can be offensive and inaccurate. Use the words psychotic and psychosis only when they accurately describe a medical experience. Avoid using psychotic to describe a person; instead refer to a person as having a psychotic condition or psychosis. Avoid using the terms colloquially.
  • Puerto Rico
    Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. Spain held Puerto Rico as a colony for more than 400 years and ceded it to the United States in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War. It has been under U.S. rule as an unincorporated territory ever since. Puerto Ricans were made citizens in 1917, though they had not requested it. In 1952, with Congressional approval, Puerto Ricans voted to become a commonwealth. This did not fundamentally change the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.
  • Punjab
    Both a state in north India and a province in eastern Pakistan. At partition, the British split Punjab, dividing it between the two neighbors. The name Punjab means "five waters," or "five rivers,"and signifies the land drained by the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej rivers, which are tributaries of the Indus River.
  • Punjabi
    The primary language of Punjab and one of the main regional languages in India. A person from Punjab is referred to as a Punjabi.  
  • qawwali
    Pronounced “kuh-WAH-lee.” Devotional songs of the Sufi tradition of Islam. Do not capitalize.
  • quadriplegia/quadriplegic
    Quadriplegia is defined as the paralysis of all four limbs as well as the torso. It often is caused by a spinal cord or brain injury and is characterized by the loss of sensory and motor function. Paraplegia is similar but does not affect the arms. People with these conditions often are referred to as quadriplegics and paraplegics, but these terms are considered offensive by some. Use people-first language, such as “a person with quadriplegia” rather than quadriplegic, since this implies that the condition defines them. Sometimes people with quadriplegia refer to themselves as “quads.” If so, use in quotes. (NCDJ)
  • Quakers
    This group’s formal name is the Religious Society of Friends, but Quakers can be used in all references. Members typically refer to themselves as Friends. Historically, Quakers are considered Christian; some Quakers today consider themselves nontheistic. Their worship and business gatherings are called meetings. Although there is no recognized ranking of clergy over lay people, meeting officers are called elders or ministers, and these terms should be capitalized when used before a name. Many Quaker ministers in the Midwest and West use the Rev. before their names.
  • queen
    Originally a pejorative term for an effeminate gay man but often used acceptably as slang among LGBT people. Offensive when used as an epithet. Use only if there is a compelling reason.
  • queer
    Traditionally a pejorative term, queer has been appropriated by some LGBT people as a self-affirming umbrella term. However, it is not universally accepted even within the LGBT community and should be avoided unless describing someone who self-identifies that way or in a direct quote. When Q is seen at the end of "LGBT," it typically means queer and/or questioning.
  • quinceañera
    Pronounced "keen-see-nyair-ah." A Hispanic celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, signifying her transition from youth to adulthood. This is both a social and religious event and, like many other Hispanic traditions, emphasizes the importance of family. A quinceañera typically begins with a mass that is attended by the girl’s parents, grandparents, godparents and family. The mass is followed by a reception with food, family, music, dancing and more. In past times, the quinceañera signified that a girl was prepared for marriage. In contemporary times, it tends to mean that a girl is ready to begin formal dating. Some families will throw a quinceañera for a son.  
  • quotas
    A specific or presubscribed number than must be met to reach a certain goal. A buzzword often used in the affirmative action debate, however, it is not synonymous with affirmative action, which is a practice, activity or program aimed at correcting the enduring effects of discrimination and helping to diversify businesses, organizations and schools.
  • Quran
    Pronounced “ku-RAHN.” The holy book of Islam, which Muslims believe is the direct word of God as dictated in Arabic to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel during the month of Ramadan beginning in 610 to about 632. The Quran contains laws for society, as well as descriptions of heaven and hell and warnings on the end of the world. It also includes stories of figures found in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, but Muslims believe the Quran supersedes those holy writings. Quran is the preferred spelling and is capitalized in all references. The spelling Koran should only be used if it is in a specific title or name.
  • rabbi
    Hebrew word for teacher and the title used by Jewish clergy. On first reference, capitalize before a name. On second reference use only the cleric’s last name.
  • race
    A person’s race should not be mentioned unless relevant. This also applies to references to ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. Derogatory terms or slurs aimed at members of a racial or ethnic group may not be used unless having a direct bearing on the news, and then only with the approval of the senior editor in charge. Avoid stereotypes. Race and ethnicity may be relevant in some stories, including the following: Crime stories – A highly detailed description of a suspect sought by police can contain [skin color]. Be sure the description is properly attributed. Do not use descriptions that include only a few items or are vague, such as tall, dark clothes. [A detailed description might include a person's complexion, facial features, distinguishing marks or tattoos, etc.] Biographical or announcement stories – Be careful about using race or ethnicity to describe a person as the first to accomplish a specific feat. Firsts are important, but race and ethnicity shouldn't be overemphasized. Reserve race or ethnicity for significant, groundbreaking or historic events such as winning a Nobel Prize, being named chief justice or becoming mayor. By overplaying race or ethnicity, one’s achievement may seem dependent on that instead of ability. See ethnicity.  
  • race card, "play the race card"
    To say someone is “playing the race card” is to say they are injecting race into a discussion. To say someone is doing this can be an attempt to deflect, diminish or discredit race’s effects. Black feminist scholar bell hooks writes that the expression “trivializes discussions of racism, implying it’s all just a game.” She calls this a backlash against talk about race, “more often than not representing it as mere hysteria.”
  • race, U.S. Census definitions of
    According to its website, the U.S. Census Bureau adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, which guide the Census Bureau in classifying written responses to the race question: White – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. Black or African American – A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. American Indian or Alaska Native – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment. Asian – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. The 1997 OMB standards permit the reporting of more than one race. An individual’s response to the race question is based upon self-identification.
  • rainbow flag
    A flag of six equal horizontal stripes (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet) symbolizing the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
  • Ramadan
    Pronounced “rah-mah-DAHN.” Islam’s holy month, during which Muslims fast from sunup to sundown. Ramadan commemorates the time during which the faithful believe Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad in Mecca and gave him the teachings of the Quran. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr. Because Islam follows a lunar calendar, Ramadan shifts each year as calculated by Western calendars.
  • Rashomon
    Arguably the most influential work of fiction on modern journalism. Originally called “In a Grove” and written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, the story was made into the acclaimed movie “Rashomon” (1950). It tells the story of a crime witnessed by different people and their differing memories of the same crime.  Its application to modern journalism was quickly understood. Rashomon (Japanese for “castle gate”) is a dilapidated area in Kyoto, Japan.
  • Rastafarians
    Members of a political and religious movement among blacks in Jamaica and several other countries. This messianic movement dates back to the 1930s. Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie (originally known as Ras Tafari), a former emperor of Ethiopia, is the only true God and consider him the messiah. They believe that black people are the Israelites reincarnated and have been subjected to the white race in divine punishment for their sins; they will eventually be redeemed by repatriation to Africa. These beliefs, first enunciated in 1953, can be traced to several independent proponents, particularly Marcus Garvey. Some Rastafarian rituals include the use of marijuana, considered a holy weed, and the chanting of revivalist hymns. Reggae music is the popular music of the movement.
  • Reconstruction
    Period after the Civil War in which attempts made to rebuild the South and solve the political, social, and economic problems arising from the readmission to the Union of the 11 Confederate states that had seceded at or before the war. Most historians consider Reconstruction to have taken place 1865-1877. Newly emancipated blacks with the help of government and supporters assisted in reconstructing society.
  • Reconstructionist Judaism
    A 20th-century movement, founded by Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, that views Judaism as a social rather than a God-centered phenomenon. Reconstructionists generally do not believe the Hebrew Scriptures are divinely inspired, reject the idea of God as male or female, are less hierarchical and believe that Jewish law as a guiding principle isn’t binding. Reconstructionist rabbis are ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa.
  • recovery, treatment (mental illness)
    Recovery from mental illness is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. Recognize that a diagnosis of mental illness is not forever. Mental illness is treatable and recovery is possible. Sharing stories of people who have sought treatment and recovered or are managing their condition successfully goes a long way toward reducing misconceptions.
  • red
    A good-luck color in several cultures, including Indian and Chinese. It is a favored color for weddings in both cultures and it is the traditional color for the bindi worn by Indian women.  
  • redneck
    A derogatory term for whites. Do not use.
  • redskin
    Avoid. An overtly racist term that can be compared to the N-word. Some media organizations no longer use the term when referring to the Washington NFL franchise. The Native American Journalists Association strongly urges news outlets to limit use of racial team names and images. [For more about the history of the term, see this Washington Post article: "A Brief History of the Word ‘Redskin’ and How it Became a Source of Controversy." See Redskins (NFL team).
  • Redskins (NFL team)
    A growing number of  journalists are denouncing the name of the Washington NFL team and limiting the way it is used in stories, according to the Native American Journalists Association. Some news organizations, including the Kansas City Star, San Francisco Chronicle, MMQB, Washington City Paper, The New Republic and Slate, have ceased using the name. NAJA strongly urges news outlets to limit use of racial team names and images and monitors progress toward that goal on its Mascots and Media page. [In a 2016 Washington Post poll, nine in 10 Native Americans said they were not offended by the name of the Washington Redskins. The Post featured some of them in "In Their Words: 12 Native Americans Talk About the Furor Cver the Redskins Name."] See redskin.  
  • rehab
    See treatment/treatment center/rehab center/detox center.
  • relationships (LGBTQ)
    Lesbian, gay and bisexual people use various terms to describe their commitments. Ask individuals which term they prefer, if possible. If not, “partner” is generally acceptable. See husband, wife, lover, partner.
  • religious left
    A term used to describe people of faith with liberal political views. Journalists can refer to the so-called “religious left,” but it is best to specify which groups they are referring to and what action they are promoting. See religious right and progressive.
  • religious right
    A term used to describe people and groups whose religious beliefs inform their conservative political and social views. The term dates to 1979, when the Rev. Jerry Falwell formed the Moral Majority. Since then, politically active religious conservatives have diversified in their goals and approaches. Journalists should refer to the so-called “religious right” or religious conservatives. It is best to specify which groups the term refers to and what they are promoting. See religious left.
  • religious titles
    The Religion Stylebook offers this guidance on religious titles for the major religious traditions as well as traditions in which titles are likely to be unfamiliar to many journalists: For all faiths, the title Dr. is generally not used before the names of scholars or clergy who hold academic doctorates. If the person’s academic credentials are important to the story, it is better to give specifics, as in Jane Doe, who holds a doctorate in systematic theology, led the discussion. Never combine Dr. with other titles, such as the Rev. Dr. Baptist churches: All members of the Baptist clergy may be referred to as ministers. Pastor applies if a minister leads a congregation. Use the Rev. on first reference before a clergy’s name. On second reference use only the last name. Buddhism: Titles for Buddhist teachers or masters are capitalized when used with a name but lowercase otherwise. The title of lama generally precedes a name; rinpoche, sensei and roshi generally follow the name, but practice varies, especially in the United States. (For example, a well-known Japanese Zen teacher is always referred to as Maezumi Roshi; a well-known American Zen teacher is Roshi Bernard Glassman.) To determine how to refer to a particular Buddhist teacher, ask or try looking up the name through a database or other Web tool. Teachers may be addressed by their titles (e.g., “Rinpoche, may I ask a question?”). Dalai Lama is capitalized when referring to the man who holds the title and no name is used; dalai lama is lowercase otherwise. Buddhists address the Dalai Lama as Your Holiness in person and His Holiness in writing. Ordained monks in Theravada Buddhism are given the honorific Venerable before their names. Church of Christ, Scientist: This denomination, also called the Christian Science Church, has lay leaders called readers who lead its worship services. The faith also has  practitioners, who are self-employed healers. Capitalize these titles before a name, and on second reference use only the last name. Do not use the Rev. in any references. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Apostle is a title used for the church’s highest-ranking members. The senior, or longest-serving, apostle serves as the church president and carries that title. Other titles used by Mormons are bishop, elder and sister. Capitalize all of these when used before a name. The terms minister and the Rev. are not used. Eastern Orthodox churches: The patriarch of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) is known as the ecumenical patriarch; he is regarded as “the first among equals.” Capitalize this title if used before a name, but not otherwise. In the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches, a metropolitan heads an ecclesiastical province, a metropolitan see, and ranks below the patriarch. Capitalize metropolitan when used as a title before a name. Eastern Orthodox archbishops and bishops frequently follow a monastic tradition in which they are known only by a first name. In those cases, repeat the title before the name in subsequent references. Archbishop may be replaced by the Most Rev. on first reference. Use the Rev. before the name of a priest on first reference; on second reference use only his last name. Episcopal Church: Among Protestant churches, the Episcopal Church has titles that are particularly challenging. Capitalize titles before a name but lowercase otherwise. Note that some positions have more than one title or honorific. Because some U.S. congregations have broken ties with the Episcopal Church and affiliated with Anglican bishops, be sure to make clear in stories about such disputes whether a bishop is Anglican or Episcopal. The presiding bishop is the chief pastor and primate who leads the national Episcopal Church. She is addressed as the Most Rev. All other bishops use the title the Rt. Rev. before their name. Priests and deacons use the title the Rev. Priests who head a chapter, or governing body of a cathedral, are called deans and are addressed as the Very Rev. Archdeacons are addressed with the honorific the Venerable, as in the Venerable Jill Smith. Women and men in religious communities are called brother or sister and may be ordained. A diocesan bishop has jurisdiction over a diocese and is sometimes known as the Ordinary. They may be assisted by other bishops, known as bishops suffragan. In addition, bishops who retire or resign from their diocese may assist in another diocese in some capacity; the church variously refers to them as assistant bishops, bishops assisting or assisting bishops. The archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is part. Capitalize the title when used before the holder’s name. He is also referred to by the honorific the Most Rev., as in the Most Rev. Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, but it is sufficient to refer to him as Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Hinduism: Hindus have no formal clergy but do have spiritual teachers, or gurus. Capitalize guru before a name on first reference, and use only the last name on second reference. Swami is a title of respect and reverence conferred on a religious teacher and, in particular, one who has taken vows of celibacy and renunciation; it, too, should be capitalized before a name. Islam: Capitalize all Islamic titles when used before a name and lowercase otherwise. Use the title and name on first reference and only the person’s last name after that. Shiites and Sunnis use a few of the same religious titles but differ on others. Shiites have a more-defined hierarchy than Sunnis. For example, Sunnis call people who lead congregational prayers imams, while Shiites almost exclusively reserve imam to refer to any of the 12 descendants of the Prophet Muhammad who Shiites believe were his rightful successors. Sheikh, on the other hand, is used in both communities, but can be used either as a term of respect – to address older men, for example — or for a formally trained scholar. Among Sufi Muslims, sheikh holds a more exclusive status that is reserved for highly trained scholars and heads of Sufi orders. Among Shiites, mullahs are lower-level clergy who generally have only rudimentary religious education. A hujjat al-Islam is more learned than a mullah but does not have the authority to issue legal rulings. Mujtahids and faqihs are jurists with the authority to issue rulings. A higher-level mujtahid is a marja, the most educated of whom are called ayatollahs. In addition to imam and sheikh, Sunni titles include mufti and grand mufti, which indicate a higher status usually conferred by an institution. Grand muftis are usually the top religious scholar in a country. Jehovah’s Witnesses: Jehovah’s Witnesses have no formal clergy titles and do not use honorifics such as the Rev. They refer to baptized members who evangelize as publishers and those who devote greater time to ministry activities as regular pioneers. Full-time workers are called special pioneers. Judaism: Rabbi and cantor should be capitalized before a name on first reference. On second reference, use only the person’s last name. Nation of Islam: Its clergymen use the title minister, which should be capitalized on first reference before a name. On second reference, use only the person’s last name. Pentecostalism: There are dozens of Pentecostal denominations as well as many nondenominational churches that are Pentecostal, so titles vary greatly. Common titles are bishop, minister, elder and superintendent; capitalize them before a name. Evangelist is another common title, but do not capitalize it, even with a name. Some clergy use the title of the Rev., but some do not. Protestant churches: Customs vary in different traditions. Many, but not all, use the Rev. before a clergy member’s name on first reference. Do not include the honorific unless you are certain it is acceptable in that tradition. Among those that do not use the Rev. are Churches of Christ and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Some Protestants use other titles for their clergy, including pastor, bishop or brother. Capitalize when used before a name. Quakers have no recognized ranking of clergy over lay people. Their meeting officers are called elders or ministers, and these terms should be capitalized when used before a name. Many Quaker ministers in the Midwest and West use the Rev. before their names. On subsequent references to Protestant clerics, use just the last name. Roman Catholic Church: A pope should be referred to by his full papal name on first reference, as in Pope Benedict XVI. On subsequent references, use the pope, the pontiff or just his papal name (without Roman numerals), as in Benedict. Catholics also refer to the pope as the Holy Father, a term that should be used only in quotes. For cardinals, archbishops, bishops and deacons, capitalize the title when used with a name on first reference, as in Cardinal Bernard Law, but lowercase otherwise. On second reference, use just the person’s last name. For priests, use the Rev. before the name on first reference; on subsequent references, use just the last name. Monsignor can be substituted if a priest has received that title. Catholics commonly address priests as Father; use this only in quotes, and capitalize it with or without a name attached, as in She said, “We asked Father what we should do.” For nuns, sisters and brothers, capitalize sister, mother or brother before the name on first reference. In subsequent references, use just the last name for those who keep surnames; otherwise, continue to use the full name, as in Mother Teresa. The title Venerable is applied to a person posthumously if a pope has approved the first stage in his or her official cause for canonization, as in Venerable Fulton Sheen.
  • reparations
    Reparations are made to right past wrongs. They are often payments. The United States has paid more than $1.5 billion to settle claims made by black farmers in a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The case was called Pigford v. Glickman. It was about discrimination in farm loans and assistance paid between 1981 and 1996. In 1989, U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) began introducing bills to create a commission to study more sweeping reparations for events dating back to slavery. Those bills have not advanced. Japanese Americans interned during World War II have received $1.6 billion in reparations and a formal apology from the U.S. government. Native Americans have received several payments including a $3.4 billion settlement in 2012.
  • reservation
    Indian reservations are areas of land reserved by the U.S. government as permanent tribal homelands. The United States established its reservation policy for American Indians in 1787. In 2015 there were 326 reservations. About 56 million acres are in reservations and trust land. More than 60 percent of American Indians live away from reservations.
  • retarded
    See mentally retarded, mentally disabled, intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled.
  • reverse discrimination, reverse racism
    These phrases are used in lawsuits and in accusations that affirmative action puts men and non-minorities at a disadvantage for college admission, scholarships and jobs. Research shows that this scarcely happens. A 1995 Brandeis University study of 3,000 discrimination suits found that about 100 had charged reverse discrimination. The course ordered relief in six of those cases.
  • Roma, Romany, Romani
    The Roma, or Romani (also spelled Romany) are a traditionally itinerant ethnic group, who live mostly in Europe; branches of the ethnic group live in the Americas, Asia and North Africa. They are often called Gypsies (or Gipsies) but that term has negative connotations of illegal activity and many Roma don't identify with it. They are also known as Gitanos in Spain and Travellers in Scandinavia and Ireland. The group includes many branches and subgroups, including the Iberian Kale in Spain and Portugal; the Finnish Kale in Finland; the Welsh Kale in Wales; the Romanichal in the United Kingdom; the Sinti in Central Europe; and the Manouche (or Manush) or Gitan in France; and the Romanisæl in Sweden and Norway. Romany (with a y) usually refers specifically to Romanichals, the native Romani subgroup in England. Mounting evidence -- genetic as well as linguistic — suggests that the Roma originate from northern India. Many of the words and grammatical rules of the Romani language are similar to those of the Hindi language. The Roma were among the groups singled out for persecution on so-called racial grounds by the Nazis before and during World War II, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia. They continue to face discrimination in Europe and other parts of the world.  
  • Roman Catholic Church
    It is the largest Christian community in the world and in the U.S. The Roman Catholic Church considers itself to be the one, true, and full expression of the church founded by Jesus Christ. (The word catholic means “universal.”) It traces its origins to the Church of Rome, which was one of several pre-eminent churches in the apostolic age of the first century. (Others were in Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and elsewhere.) The Catholic Church believes that through St. Peter — considered the first bishop of Rome, where he was martyred — the Church of Rome early on exercised a primacy and authority over the other churches. That authority continued to be exercised under the successors to Peter, bishops who later came to be known by the title of pope. The Catholic Church says the basis of the Petrine and papal authority starts with Jesus’ commission to Peter in Matthew 16:18. The assertion and its practice were always matters of dispute. The first major fracture came in the 11th century, when Western, Latin-Rite Christianity under the bishop of Rome split with the patriarchs of the Orthodox churches in the East, based in Constantinople. The Catholic Church still considers Eastern Orthodoxy a true church with which it has few significant doctrinal differences — the authority of the pope being one of them. Rome characterizes much of Protestantism as not comprising true churches but rather “ecclesial communities.” The Roman Catholic Church was known simply as the Catholic Church until the Protestant Reformation, when the authority of the pope became a source of contention. Catholics began to use the Roman appellation to reinforce their unity under the pope, and the primacy of the papacy has become one of the distinguishing marks of modern Catholicism. Catholic belief and practice are ordered around seven sacraments — Holy Eucharist, baptism, confirmation, penance (confession), matrimony, holy orders (ordination) and the sacrament of the sick. The pope’s seat of power is the Holy See at the Vatican. He selects bishops and members of the College of Cardinals. Cardinals usually are bishops, but that is not a requirement. When a new pope must be chosen, the cardinals gather in a conclave to select him.Outside of Rome, the church’s principal organizational units are archdioceses, headed by archbishops, and dioceses, headed by bishops. Both report directly to Rome. The highest office in the Catholic Church is that of bishop; the pope is the bishop of Rome. In reality, the hierarchical structure among ordained clergy is pope, cardinal, archbishop, bishop, monsignor, priest and deacon. Women are barred from holy orders.
  • Rosh Hashanah
    Pronounced “rohsh-huh-SHAH-nuh.” The Jewish New Year, celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar sometime between the middle of September and the middle of October. To find the date for the holiday in the current or an upcoming year consult the Jewish holidays page on Hebcal.
  • rumspringa
    Some Amish allow their youth, after age 16, to spend a couple years free of the most intense restrictions of their faith while still living with their parents. The purpose is to make sure they are committed to their faith before they are baptized. The vast majority decide to remain within the Amish community.
  • Russian Orthodox Church
    Branch of the Eastern Church of Christianity with headquarters in Moscow. It is the largest of the national and ethnic churches of Eastern Orthodoxy. See Eastern Orthodox.
  • Sabbath
    The day of the week observed for rest and worship. Most Christian traditions observe the Sabbath on Sunday. Judaism — along with some Christian traditions such as Seventh-day Adventists — observes the Sabbath on Saturday. (Jews’ observance of the Sabbath begins at sundown Friday [and is often referred to by the Hebrew word Shabbat].) Capitalize in religious references but lowercase when talking about periods of rest.
  • safe sex, safer sex
    Sexual practices that minimize the possible transmission of HIV and other infectious agents. Some publications prefer “safer sex” to denote that no sexual contact is completely safe.
  • Sambo
    Historically, term was used to describe a happy black slave. Today, it is an offensive term. Do not use in copy.
  • sandsucker
    Avoid. Racial slur. Derogatory term for Arabs.
  • Sansei, sansei
    Term for third-generation Japanese Americans, originating from the Japanese language term for "third generation." In the American context, the term is understood to refer to the grandchildren of Japanese immigrants who arrived prior to the cessation of Japanese immigration to the U.S. under the dictates of the Immigration Act of 1924. The vast majority of Sansei were born after the war, and their generational range parallels that of the baby boomers. Other generational terms include Issei (first generation) for the immigrant generation, Nisei (second generation) for the American-born children of the Nisei, and Yonsei (fourth generation) for the children of the Sansei. [Some Japanese-American institutions, such as Densho Encyclopedia, the digital educational resource on Japanese American internment and Japanese incarceration,  capitalize the first letter of Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei, etc. Others capitalize the words when they are used in a generational context, but lowercase those same words when referring to an individual. For example, “Nisei soldiers of World War II” has a generational context. However, you might say, “My uncle, a nisei, served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.” Some institutions lowercase the words unless they are part of a proper noun, such as Nisei Farmers League.] See Issei/issei, Nisei/nisei, Yonsei/yonsei.
  • Sanskrit
    Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world that is still being used. It is the root for many other languages, including Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Bengali, Gujarati and Nepali. Sanskrit literature often consists of poetry, philosophical and dharma texts. It is widely used for religion and ceremony. Sanskrit is known for its precise alphabet, compact writing system and complex grammar rules. Some, but not all Sanskrit-based languages use the Devanagari script or variations of it. [To learn more about Sanskrit go to Omniglot, the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages.]
  • sari (also saree)
    A traditional garment worn by a women in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It is essentially a piece of fabric about 6 yards long that is wrapped around the body. It is generally wrapped around the waist and draped over the shoulder, leaving the midriff bare. Types of fabric, styles and prices vary. A sari is sometimes worn with a blouse.
  • schizo, schizoid
    Avoid. Slang words derived from schizophrenic and generally used inaccurately, to mean “of two minds.” Instead of using schizophrenia (or its derivatives) to describe something other than the illness, find other words. A person who can't make up his mind is indecisive. A situation that keeps changing is unsettled.
  • schizophrenic
    A severe and chronic mental illness characterized by distorted recognition and interpretations of reality, affecting how an individual thinks, feels and acts, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Common symptoms include visual and auditory hallucinations, delusional and disordered thinking, unresponsiveness, a lack of pleasure in daily life and other social issues. It does not involve split personalities. Less than 1 percent of the general population has schizophrenia, and it is treated mostly through the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Avoid using schizophrenic as an adjective, but rather refer to a person as diagnosed with schizophrenia or living with schizophrenia. Also avoid using the term for nonpsychiatric conditions, such as a rapidly changing situation or an indecisive person. Similar guidelines apply to words like psychotic, bipolar, anorexic and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). Refer to someone as having schizophrenia only if the information is relevant to the story and if the person has been formally diagnosed by a licensed medical professional. Use people-first language, stating that someone is a person with schizophrenia or a person diagnosed with schizophrenia rather than a schizophrenic or a schizophrenic person. Do not use the word schizophrenic colloquially as a synonym for something inconsistent or contradictory.
  • Scottsboro
    In 1931, two white women stepped from a train box car in Paint Rock, Ala., and falsely accused nine black teenagers of rape while on the train. The case became a cause celebre and a symbol of racism and injustice in the South; the teenagers came to be known as the Scottsboro Nine or Scottsboro Boys. After several retrials, worldwide protests, two Supreme Court rulings, four of the nine were freed after six years in jail. In 1976, Gov. George Wallace pardoned all nine.
  • sect
    Refers to a group that has broken off from another. Avoid this label unless you are sure it fits; it often carries negative connotations.
  • secular humanism
    An outlook that emphasizes human rather than religious values. Secular humanism stresses reason, scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation.
  • secularism
    The belief that religion and religious considerations have no place in public life and education.
  • seder
    The ritualized dinner held in Jewish homes on the first night or first two nights of Passover. The word seder means “order” in Hebrew. It commemorates the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt as described in the book of Exodus, and it features special foods and the reading of the Haggadah, a compilation of biblical passages, prayers, hymns and rabbinic literature.
  • seizure
    See epilepsy.
  • senior, senior citizen
    Use the term sparingly; can be discriminatory in nature; the preferred terminology is older adults.
  • Sephardi
    Pronounced “suh-FAR-dee.” A Jew of Portuguese, Spanish or North African descent. Originally, Sephardi meant a Jew descended from the Iberian Peninsula, but it has now come to mean Jews who are not Ashkenazim, including Jews from Arab countries and Greece. Sephardic Jews are estimated to make up 20 percent of the world’s Jewish population. The plural form of Sephardi is Sephardim. See Ashkenazi.
  • seroconversion
    Scientifically observable alteration of blood or other bodily fluids from HIV-negative to HIV-positive. The verb is “seroconvert.” See HIV.
  • seronegative
    Synonymous with HIV-negative. See HIV.
  • seropositive
    Synonymous with HIV-positive. See HIV.
  • service animal/assistance animal/guide dog/Seeing Eye dog
    Service animals are trained animals, mostly dogs, which provide services to people with disabilities. They also are sometimes called assistance animals, guide dogs, or Seeing Eye dogs. The federal definition of a “service animal” applies to “any guide dog, signal dog or other animal trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” This may include animals that guide individuals with impaired vision, alert individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, provide minimal protection or rescue work, pull a wheelchair or fetch dropped items. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act, regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified.  For more information, go to Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA, a document prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section. Service animal, assistance animal and guide dog all are acceptable. Avoid use of Seeing Eye dog as Seeing Eye is a registered trademark of The Seeing Eye school in Morristown, N.J. Be aware that the issue of licensure and/or certification of service animals is a contentious issue in the disability community, so it may be best to refer to the federal definition.
  • sex change
    Avoid this antiquated term. See gender transition, sex reassignment.
  • sexual orientation
    Describes an individual's enduring physical, romantic and/oremotional attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. For example, a person who transitions from male to female and is attracted solely to men would identify as a straight woman.
  • sexual preference
    Avoid. Politically charged term implying that sexuality is the result of a conscious choice. See sexual orientation.
  • sexual reassignment
    The medical and surgical process by which transgender people change their physical, sexual characteristics to reflect their gender identity. May include surgery and/or hormone therapy. Sexual reassignment surgery can be a part of gender transition but is not necessary. Not all transgender people choose to or can afford to have such surgery. Avoid overemphasizing the role of surgery in the transition process. Avoid the outdated term sex change.
  • sexually transmitted infection (STI)
    Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were formerly known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The new name is intended to emphasize that anyone can be infected with an STI even without showing symptoms of disease. STIs can be transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex, as well as other intimate skin-to-skin contact.
  • Shabbat
    Hebrew word for Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath is from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Shabbat is observed by lighting candles on Friday night (this is usually done by the woman of the house) and sharing a special family meal. Religious services that include a reading from the Torah happen on Saturday morning, after which families gather for a Shabbat lunch. Shabbat ends with the lighting of a three-wicked “havdalah” candle and the passing around of a fragrant spice box, the scent of which is supposed to carry the peace of Shabbat into the work week. Orthodox Jews refrain from driving, turning lights on or off and a number of other activities that are considered “work” on Shabbat.
  • shaman
    A spiritual leader in a tribal society who heals people by channeling spirits, often in an altered state. Sometimes referred to as a medicine man or witch doctor. It is a description rather than a formal title; do not capitalize, even when used with a name.  
  • Shariah
    The way or path that Muslims follow to achieve God’s will on Earth. It requires Muslims to live righteously, to protect and expand their community and to establish a just society. Shariah describes the ideal relationship between people and God and in their interactions with each other. Shariah’s principles come from the Quran, the hadith and other considerations, depending on the sect.
  • sheesha
    See argilah, argeelah
  • sheikh
    Most Islamic clergymen use the title sheikh like a Christian cleric uses the Rev. Sheikh also is used as a secular title. Capitalize it when used before a name, but lowercase otherwise. [According to 100 Questions & Answers About Arab Americans, the term can also be used for the leader of a family, a village or a tribe in Arab and Arab-American communities.]  
  • Shiism, Shiite
    Shiism is the name of the smaller of the two major branches of Islam. It developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, when his followers split over who would lead Islam. The Shiism branch favored Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. Its followers are called Shiites. Use Shiite instead of Shi’ah unless in a quote or as part of a name. Uppercase in all uses. See Islam, Sunni.
  • Shinto
    Japan’s indigenous religion. It has no formal doctrine and stresses nature, harmony and personal cleanliness. In 1868, it was declared Japan’s official religion after the emperor regained power from the shoguns. After World War II, the religion was separated from the state. Uppercase in all references.
  • Shiva
    Pronounced “SHEE-vah.” A popular representation of God in Hinduism. He is worshipped as the lord of time and change. Brahma is the name used for God when God’s role as creator of the universe is described. God is referred to as Vishnu when God’s role as preserver is emphasized. The divine is always understood to be one. Shiva’s consort has the names of Parvati, Kali and Durga. Also spelled Siva (pronounced “SEE-vah”).
  • short stature
    See dwarf/little person/midget/short stature.
  • sickle-cell anemia
    Inherited chronic anemia found chiefly among blacks, characterized by abnormal red blood cells. Unlike normal red cells, which are usually smooth and donut-shaped, sickle-shaped red cells cannot squeeze through small blood vessels. Instead, they stack up and cause blockages that deprive organs and tissues of oxygen-carrying blood. The disease has no cure but can be treated with drugs and or blood transfusions.
  • Sikhism
    The traditional pronunciation is “SICK-ism,” but it is commonly pronounced “SEEK-ism.” The Sikh religion is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Followers are called Sikhs (meaning students). It originated in 15th-century Punjab (now North India and Pakistan) when Guru Nanak, the first Sikh teacher, turned against the caste system, forced conversion and empty ritual in medieval Hinduism and Islam. Through devotional (bhakti) poetry and music, he taught that all religions lead to One Formless God, that all people, including women and the poor, are equal, and that all may realize liberation here and now through living an honest life of love and service (seva). Nine gurus succeeded him, and in 1699, the 10th teacher, Guru Gobind Singh, formed Sikhs into the Khalsa: a spiritual sister- and brotherhood where men share the last name Singh (“lion”) and women share the name Kaur (“daughter of kings”). All were given five articles of faith (the Five Kakaars), including long uncut hair, which men and some women wrap in a turban. The 11th and lasting Sikh teacher is the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, also known as the Adi Granth. Sikhism has no clergy, but spiritual guides may be called gurus; capitalize this title before a name.
  • Singh
    A last name shared by all men who practice the Sikh religion, it means “lion.” The 10th Sikh teacher, Guru Gobind Singh, gave Sikhs the same last names as a sign of equality (traditional last names in 17th-century North India indicated caste).  
  • sister, sista
    Terms used to refer to a family member or an affectionate, respectful name for a church member, sorority member or another black woman. Be mindful of appropriateness in news copy. May use in quotes.
  • skullcap
    A small, close-fitting headpiece worn in some religious traditions, particularly by men. Other names for it include yarmulke or kippa (worn by Jews), zucchetto (worn by Roman Catholic prelates) and kufi (worn by Muslims).                  
  • slant
    Avoid use to describe eyes, a racial slur.  
  • slavery
    The first black African slaves in the American colonies arrived in the early 1600s. As the colonies grew, the demand for slave labor also increased. By 1750, 200,000 slaves lived in the colonies, the majority of them living and working in the South. Hundreds of thousands of slaves were brought to America during The Middle Passage and millions others died along the way. Slaves were forced to work farms and plantations, enduring brutality, cruelty, abuse and suffering. As injustices of slavery grew, resistance efforts formed, including the Underground Railroad. This secretive system of transporting slaves from safe house to safe house, helping them escape to free states or Canada, operated for years with Harriet Tubman, a former slave, as one of its leading figures. In 1861, the Civil War pitted the South, which favored slavery, against the North, which opposed it. [Several other political and economic factors also caused the conflict.] President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring an end to slavery. In 1865, the 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery in the country. See Juneteenth, Middle Passage and Underground Railroad.
  • slope
    Avoid use to describe eyes; a racial slur. See eye shape.  
  • sodomy laws
    Historically used to selectively persecute gay people, the state laws often referred to as "sodomy laws" were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas (2003). "Sodomy" should never be used to describe gay, lesbian or bisexual relationships or sexuality. See sodomy.
  • soul food
    Items popular originally in the South and traditionally eaten by black people. The cuisine originated during slavery when slaves were given leftovers or undesirable cuts of meat by their owners, which was supplemented by vegetables the slaves grew themselves. Today, the dishes include collard greens, fried chicken, ham hocks, black-eyed peas, yams and cornbread.
  • South Asia
    South Asia or Southern Asia is a term used to represent the southern region of the Asian continent. It is bounded on the south by the Indian Ocean and on land by West Asia, Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. The terms Indian subcontinent and South Asia are both used to describe the region. South Asia includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • South Asian
    Term for people who trace their origin to the subcontinent. Preferred to East Indian, which should not be used.
  • South Asian diaspora
    Because of the British colonial legacy and large-scale immigration, there are substantial pockets of people of South Asian heritage outside of South Asia. In some cases — Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago — South Asians make up at least a third of the population. Other countries with large South Asian communities: Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.
  • South Asian names (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and others):
    Names currently used in South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora follow dozens of complex rules and vary by community. As a general rule, it is a good idea to ask an interview subject which name is his or her the first name and which is the surname. One Hindu may follow old caste traditions and have what he considers a first name and a last name, but his biological son may have a different name. Similarly, Sikh and Muslim names can vary by generation. Also, names and orders of names that were used in South Asia often get confused when immigrants arrive in the United States, forcing them to adopt names and spellings more “convenient” for mainstream America. Be careful about generalizing about South Asian names, not all of which are Hindu or Muslim names. There are many South Asian Christians, as well as South Asian Jews, and it may not be obvious from their names that they are South Asian. Moreover, there are some South Asians who have a one-word name.
  • Southeast Asia, Southeastern Asia
    A subregion of Asia that consists of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies near the intersection of geological plates, and has heavy seismic and volcanic activity. Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions: Maritime Southeast Asia, which includes Brunei, Christmas Island, East Malaysia, East Timor, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore; and Mainland Southeast Asia, also known as Indochina, which includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Vietnam, and West Malaysia.
  • Southern Cross
    Confederate battle flag used during the Civil War, which remains offensive to some black Americans because it represents the Confederacy and the era of slavery. The flag has a red background, with two blue stripes in a cross, and 13 white stars inside the stripes. Some have described the Southern Cross as a proud symbol of Southern heritage. The Ku Klux Klan and other racist hate groups have also appropriated it. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 500 extremist groups use the Southern Cross as one of their symbols.
  • Spanglish
    An informal hybrid of Spanish and English. It is used among peoplewho know both languages and who switch between languages when on language describes what they are trying to say better than the other. Linguists call that code switching.  
  • spastic/spaz
    See cerebral palsy.
  • special rights
    Politically charged term used by opponents of civil rights for the LGBT community. Avoid. LGBT rights, equal rights or gay and lesbian rights are alternatives.
  • special/special needs/functional needs
    The term special needs was popularized in the U.S. during the early 20th century during a push for special needs education to serve people with all kinds of disabilities. The word “special” in relationship to those with disabilities is now widely considered offensive because it euphemistically stigmatizes that which is different. Avoid using these terms when describing a person with a disability or the programs designed to serve them, with the exception of government references or formal names of organizations and programs. It is more accurate to cite the specific disability or disabilities in question. The term functional needs is preferred when a term is required. For example, addressing the functional needs of people with disabilities could be used when referring to a facility or program.
  • spina bifida
    The literal translation of spina bifida is split spine, according to the Spina Bifida Association.  The condition is a neural tube defect that occurs when the spinal column does not close all the way in the womb. It is the most common neural tube defect in the U.S. There are four types of spina bifida. For complete definitions, visit the Spina Bifida Association website. Complications from spina bifida range from minor physical problems to severe mental and physical disabilities. It is acceptable to describe a person as “someone with spina bifida,” followed by a short explanation of what their condition entails.
  • sports stereotypes
    Avoid characterizations of black athletes as naturally being better than athletes of other ethnic backgrounds. Such depictions are reminiscent of slavery, when owners described their male slaves as bucks and tried to breed them with female slaves to produce superior slaves.
  • Sri
    Among some Indians it is a term of respect. Saying Sri before a man’s name is similar to saying “mister.”
  • stereotypes
    The word comes from the ancient Greek for “fixed impression.” Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), an American journalist, popularized the word, a printing-press term, as a metaphor for “a picture in our heads” that could be true or, more often, false. Examples of stereotypes include geisha, delivery boy, manicurist and Samurai (all used metaphorically).  
  • Stonewall
    The Stonewall Inn tavern in New York City’s Greenwich Village was the site of several nights of raucous protests after a police raid on June 28, 1969. Although not the nation’s first gay civil rights demonstration, Stonewall is now regarded as the birth of the modern gay civil rights movement.
  • straight
    Heterosexual; describes a person whose sexual and affectional attraction is to someone of the opposite sex. As a noun, use “heterosexual” or “straight person.”
  • stricken with
    See victim of.
  • stuttering/stammering
    A speech disorder characterized by repeated or prolonged words, sounds or syllables that affect the flow or fluency of speech, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Stuttering often is involuntary and can be accompanied by rapid blinking or lip tremors. Stuttering symptoms manifest in early childhood. While many children outgrow stuttering, a small percentage of adults stutter as well. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association notes that most stuttering can be treated by behavioral therapies.There is some ambiguity about the difference between stuttering and stammering and which term is appropriate in different contexts. However, organizations such as the NIDCD, Mayo Clinic and the National Stuttering Association generally use the term stuttering to refer to the speech disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders debuted the new term “childhood-onset fluency disorder” to refer to stuttering, along with a few new criteria for its diagnosis. However this term is not yet widely used.The word stuttering is preferred over stammering. Do not refer to an individual as a stutterer. Rather, use people-first language, such as “a person who stutters.” Refer to stuttering only if it is relevant* to the story.
  • suffers from
    See victim of.
  • suicide
    Evidence suggests that certain types of media reporting are tied to an increase in suicides (also known as suicide contagion). When not handled carefully, each of the following elements has been shown to raise the risk of suicide for people tempted to imitate the publicized behavior: Placement — If you determine the story is newsworthy, don’t dramatize the event by placing it on the front page—or by placing “suicide” in the headline. (In headlines, “dies” is appropriate.) Details — Avoid exact details on locations and methods. Photos/videos — Avoid photos or videos of the location or method of death, as well as dramatic images of grieving family and friends or memorial services. Language — The words committed, succeeded or failed are inaccurate. Appropriate wording is that someone died by suicide, took his life or killed herself. Don’t oversimplify — Suicide is complex and often has many factors. It is almost certainly inaccurate to cite a single cause as, for example, “recent money woes” or “a fight with a spouse.” Suicides usually result when a confluence of events and circumstances makes life temporarily unbearable. Mental health disorders and/or substance abuse are associated with 90 percent of suicides. Often, even family and friends do not recognize the warning signs or the underlying mental health problems leading to a suicide. [For more information on covering suicide consult these resources: Reporting on Suicide Suicide Facts at a Glance, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and these resources from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma: In Depth: Covering Suicide A Tip Sheet on Covering Suicide from Al Tompkins Tip Sheet: Covering Military/Veteran Suicides Suicide on College Campuses Suicide and the Media]
  • suicide bombing
    Use of explosives carried to a target on the body of the attacker or in a vehicle operated by him or her. Especially fearsome attack because the attacker cannot be bargained with since he or she is determined to die. Similar to the Japanese kamikaze attacks of World War II. Thought to have been invented in the early 1980s by the Tamil Tiger separatists in Sri Lanka.
  • suicide contagion
    More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration, and prominence of coverage. Risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death. ​ Suicide contagion, or copycat suicide, occurs when one or more suicides are reported in a way that contributes to another suicide. See suicide for more information on how to cover suicide responsibly.
  • Sunni
    Pronounced “SOO-nee.” The largest denomination in Islam, followed by about 85 percent of Muslims. The plural form is Sunnis. See Shiism, Shiite
  • swastika
    It is one of the most popular symbols for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. The word swastika is derived from Sanskrit words that mean “auspicious,” “luck” and “well-being.” It is also a sign of the Sun-God Surya and his generosity. The swastika is one of the 108 symbols of Lord Vishnu and represents the sun’s rays, without which there would be no life. The swastika is used in religious and civil ceremonies in India, both public and private. The swastika used by the Nazis was a perverted version of the ancient Hindu swastika.  
  • systemic racism
    Social values that support personal and institutional discrimination. As a social concept, systemic racism explains how people of color must adapt to a society not built for them, while white people readily fit in. See institutional racism.
  • Tagalog
    Pronounced tah-GAH-log. The official language of the Philippines, but also one of scores of local and regional dialects.              
  • Taipeng Revolution
    One of the bloodiest conflicts in world history. A continuing theme in modern Chinese history is the central government’s fear of separatist movements leading to catastrophic violence. Perhaps 20 million or more Chinese died in a long civil war, contemporaneous with the American Civil War, in which fewer than 1 million Americans were killed. It was led by a Chinese national who thought he was Jesus’ younger brother.
  • Tao
    Pronounced “Dow.” The ever-changing energy of the universe that flows all around in the form of nature. In Taoism, Tao is unknowable and therefore cannot be defined. In Confucianism, Tao is the correct manner of conduct that stems from universal standards and ideals that govern right and wrong.
  • Taoism, Daoism
    Pronounced “DOW-ism.” A school of philosophical and religious teachings that stem from Tao. Taoism is one of the major religions in China, although it was forcefully suppressed during Maoist Communist rule. When tolerance of some religions was restored in China in the early 1980s, Taoism began to flourish again.
  • Tejano
    A Texan of Mexican descent. Tejano derives from “Coahuiltejano,” a name given to the citizens of the Mexican State Coahuila y Tejas, now Texas. Tejano culture includes folk music synthesized from European and Mexican styles and contributions to Tex-Mex cuisine. Hispanic and Anglo-Saxon settlers who lived in the area during the 18th century created a bilingualism that later shaped the Tejano language.
  • telenovela
    A type of “limited-run” television drama that is very popular in Latin America and has had success in the United States and elsewhere. Telenovelas are similar to traditional U.S. soap operas but they have distinctive qualities. The run time for telenovelas are a fixed duration, with episodes shown five to six days a week and an average of 120 episodes per telenovela.
  • Thai names
    Typically personal name first, family name second, with long multi-syllable names, especially if Chinese. On second reference, personal name is sometimes used.  
  • third gender
    Term often used in anthropological studies to set apart identities other than man or woman that appear across different cultures. See androgyne, agender, genderqueer, non-binary gender.
  • Third World
    Originally used to distinguish nations that were aligned with neither the West nor with the East during the Cold War. Commonly used to describe underdeveloped countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. These nations and the people there are often cast as being uncivilized or primitive. Avoid using term because of its negative connotations. Better to say developing countries. Use in quotes only if necessary.
  • Tiananmen Square
    The vast public square at the center of Beijing, capital of China. In 1989, as many as a million protesters, led by students, demonstrated in favor of democracy, prompting a lethal crackdown by the Communist government on June 4. Number of deaths still unknown, but totaling at least in the hundreds. The crackdown is a central event in modern Chinese history.
  • tolerance (drug)
    A condition in which higher doses of a drug are required to produce the same effect achieved during initial use, which often leads to dependence.
  • Torah
    The Jewish sacred writings found in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Also called “the Five Books of Moses,” the Torah is copied by specialized scribes onto parchment scrolls and is treated with great care and respect by Jewish congregations. The term Torah is sometimes also used to describe the larger body of Jewish law and Scripture.
  • totem
    A representation of a person or likeness such as an animal or plant that is revered by a tribe or group. It is a part of many American Indian and African religious practices.  
  • Tourette syndrome/Tourette's syndrome/Tourette's disorder
    Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by tics, or sudden, purposeless and rapid movements or vocalizations, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Such tics are recurrent, involuntary and non-rhythmic, with the same tics occurring each time. The disorder was originally named for French neurologist Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who first described the condition in 1885, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. While those with Tourette syndrome often can suppress tics by focusing on them, the disorder also can be treated with medication, relaxation techniques and therapy.  Although involuntary cursing is commonly thought to be a key trait of the disorder, only a minority of those with Tourette syndrome exhibits this symptom. Terminology for the disorder is varied. It is interchangeably referred to as Tourette syndrome, Tourette’s syndrome and Tourette’s disorder. However, prominent mental health organizations such as NINDS, the Mayo Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Tourette Syndrome Association refer to it as Tourette syndrome. Use Tourette syndrome, with no possessive or capitalization of syndrome. Refer to someone as having Tourette syndrome only if the information is relevant to the story and if the person has been formally diagnosed by a licensed medical professional. Use people-first language, stating that someone is a person with Tourette syndrome or a person diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. Avoid the acronym TS as it is not widely known. [For more information about Tourette syndrome see the Tourette Syndrome Association website, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Tourette's Syndrome Fact Sheet or the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke's Tourette Syndrome Fact Sheet.]
  • towelhead
    Avoid; a slur used to describe South Asians.
  • tranny
    Often a pejorative term for a transgender person, it is now being reclaimed by some transgender people. Offensive when used as an epithet and should be avoided except in quotes or as someone’s self-identified term.
  • Transcendental Meditation
    A form of meditation made popular by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced it in 1955. TM is acceptable on second reference.
  • transgender
    Refers to individuals whose gender identity and/or expression may not match their physical, sexual characteristics or sex assigned at birth. Some female and male cross-dressers, drag queens or kings, female or male impersonators and intersex individuals may also identify as transgender. Use the name and personal pronouns that are consistent with how the individual lives publicly. When possible, ask which term the source prefers. Do not use transgendered. Offensive when used as a noun; use transgender people, transgender man or transgender woman. In cases where space is an issue, such as headlines, using trans as a shorthand adjectival form is acceptable. See gender transition, intersex, sexual reassignment. Transgender people may use a number of terms to describe themselves. For more guidance on transgender terminology and coverage, visit the NLGJA Journalists Toolbox article at www.nlgja.org/toolbox/transgender and the GLAAD Media Reference Guide on Transgender Issues.
  • transracial
    Across or crossing racial boundaries. The term is most often used in adoption to describe families where a child is adopted by parents of a different race. In 2015, the term was used to describe Rachel Dolezal, a NAACP chapter president who made international news when she was outed as a white woman who identified herself as black.
  • transsexual
    Avoid this outdated term in favor of transgender and transgender people unless a person or community prefers the term; it can carry misleading medical connotations.
  • transvestite
    Avoid this outdated term.
  • treatment/treatment center/rehab center/detox center
    Treatment is defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine as the use of any planned, intentional intervention in the health, behavior, personal and/or family life of an individual suffering from alcoholism or another drug dependency designed to achieve and maintain sobriety, physical and mental health and maximum functional ability.  A treatment center is an establishment usually run by psychiatric or medical professionals. Treatment is an acceptable term for medical interventions, and treatment center is acceptable for the establishment in which such practices take place. Use treatment center in place of rehab or detox center. A person enrolled in a treatment center should be referred to as a patient.  
  • tribal council
    The governing body of a tribe is usually referred to as the tribal council, and is elected by adult members of the tribe. Heading the council is one elected chairperson, president, chief or governor who is the recognized leader. The council performs legislative aspects of tribal government. See American Indian, Native American, tribe.  
  • tribal warfare
    Avoid. Eurocentric term for ethnic conflict among people of color.Example: The conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda was called tribal warfare, but the civil war in the former Yugoslavia between Serbs, Croats, and Muslims was "ethnic cleansing." Both are ethnic conflicts or civil wars.
  • tribe
    Avoid. Use nation or ethnic group except for specific entities like a "tribal council" on a reservation. Within the United States, many Native Americans prefer nation because their people have signed treaties with the United States that recognize them as nations. Some Native Americans prefer their national affiliation instead of using  generic term Native American, e.g., Navajo, Hopi, Cherokee. In Africa, avoid referring to different ethnic groups as tribes. Hutu and Tutsi are ethnic groups, just like Serbs, Croats and Muslims in the former Yugoslavia. A federally recognized tribe is an American Indian or Alaska Native tribal entity that is recognized as having a government-to-government relationship with the United States, with the responsibilities, powers, limitations, and obligations attached to that designation, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 2015 there were 566 federally recognized tribes. See American Indian.
  • Trinity
    This key doctrine in Christianity says that God, the Son and the Holy Spirit together make up the one Godhead. The exact nature and definition of the Trinity were central in the split between the Eastern and Western Christian churches.
  • trust land
    Land held by the United States for the use and benefit of American Indian tribes. Virtually all trust land is on reservations. Tribes also can purchase land and petition the federal government to hold it in trust, protecting the land from encroachment or seizure. See reservation.
  • turban
    A head covering in desert or other hot climates that does not necessarily have ethnic or religious significance and is not solely Arab. People wear turbans for different reasons, and there are different types of turbans. Sikh men wear turbans that peak at the forehead to take care of their hair, which they do not cut, and to promote equality among themselves and to declare their identity. Turbans make Sikhs distinctive in India, where they are a minority. In the United States, Sikhs have been attacked by people who assumed the turbans meant they were Muslims. Most Muslims do not wear turbans, though their religious may wear them. It’s typically spherical or conical. The shape of turbans varies by country. See Sikhism.  
  • ultra-Orthodox
    A term sometimes applied to strictly observant Jews such as Hasidim who are distinguished by their style of dress, physical appearance and attention to religious ritual. Some Jewish communities described as ultra-Orthodox, such as the Lubavitch Hasidim, find the term offensive. Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella group that includes other Hasidic and many non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews, also objects to the term. Other groups do not. The term is also commonly used to describe right-wing religious parties in Israeli politics. Haredi (or Charedi) is another term sometimes used as an alternative to ultra-Orthodox, though it is not widely known. Be aware that Modern Orthodox is a separate category of Orthodox Judaism, and it is an acceptable term.
  • uncle
    In many cultures, this is a term of respect, not necessarily family relationship. An Arab American, for example, might call an older Arab male uncle (“ammo”). 
  • Uncle Tom
    A term of contempt. Based on the main character, an elderly black man, in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel that protested the use of slavery. In today's terms, it means a black person who treats whites as superiors or who is eager to please them. Do not apply it to a person.  
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin (or Life Among the Lowly)
    1852 antislavery novel and controversial bestseller by Harriet Beecher Stowe that increased sentiment against slavery. Main character Uncle Tom is a pious and faithful slave sold by his master to a brutal plantation owner, who later beat Uncle Tom to death. Before dying Uncle Tom prayed for his master’s repentance and salvation. Some historians credit the novel with helping to prompt the Civil War. See slavery.
  • unconscious bias
    See implicit bias, unconscious bias.
  • Underground Railroad
    In the United States before the Civil War, a vast network of people organized to free slaves from the South. It started in the colonial period and reached its peak in the early 1830s. An estimated 100,000 slaves were freed using the secretive system of safe houses and transportation. Slaves often used songs to relay messages of escape. Notable figures include John Fairfield in Ohio, the son of a slaveholding family, who made many daring rescues; Quaker Levi Coffin, who assisted more than 3,000 slaves; and Harriet Tubman, who made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom.
  • undocumented immigrant
    Preferred term to illegal alien, illegal immigrant, or illegal(s). This term describes the immigration status of people who do not have the federal documentation to show they are legally entitled to work, visit or live here. Some Latinos say this term more accurately describes people who are in the United States illegally because the word points out that they are undocumented, but does not dehumanize them in the manner that such terms as aliens and illegals do.
  • undocumented worker
    Preferred term to illegal alien, illegal immigrant or illegal(s). This term describes the immigration status of people who do not have the federal documentation to show they are legally entitled to work, visit or live here.
  • Unification Church
    The formal name of this organization founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon is the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, but Unification Church is acceptable in all references. Moon launched it in 1954 in South Korea, six years after the Presbyterian Church of Korea excommunicated him for beliefs it said were incompatible with traditional Christianity. Among other beliefs, followers reject the Trinity, saying instead that God is a single being with male and female aspects. Members are often called Moonies, but the term is considered derogatory; they call themselves Unificationists. Use Moonies only in direct quotes.
  • Unitarian Universalist
    The Unitarian Universalist Association encourages a wide spectrum of belief. Many members believe in God, but atheists also find a home in this denomination. Unitarian Universalists do not believe Jesus was divine and are not considered Christians, although they would welcome Christians — or just about anyone — in their churches. They employ a congregational form of government.
  • United Church of Christ
    A mainline Protestant denomination and the largest of the Congregationalist denominations. The word church is applied only to individual, local churches. Clergy members are known as ministers. Pastor is used if a minister leads a congregation. On first reference, use the Rev. before the name. On second reference, use only the last name.
  • United Methodist Church
    The largest Methodist denomination and the second-largest Protestant body in the United States. Officially, the denomination is The United Methodist Church, but the Religion Stylebook follows Associated Press style in not capitalizing “The” as part of the name.
  • United Negro College Fund
    Nation’s largest, oldest and most comprehensive minority higher education assistance organization. UNCF provides operating funds for 37 member historically black colleges and universities, scholarships and internships for students at more than 1,100 institutions and faculty and administrative professional training. May use UNCF on second reference.
  • Unity Church
    A denomination that says it promotes “practical Christianity.” It is the primary church in the “New Thought” movement, which teaches belief in monism, the universal presence of creative energy, or God, within the world and within all people. Some adherents accept traditional Christian beliefs about Jesus, but many do not.
  • Untouchables
    Dalit (capitalized) is a more respectful and current term for castes once called “untouchables.” M.K. Gandhi coined the term Harijan (“children of God”) to refer to these castes.  
  • Urdu
    One of the official languages of Pakistan; also spoken in many partsof India, especially in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Also the language used in ballads known as ghazals. Urdu is written in a Perso-Arabic alphabet. Persian uses an adapted Arabic script which is further adapted to accommodate Urdu.
  • Vatican, Vatican City
    The pope and his administrative clergy live in this 108-acre city-state that is the temporal headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican City is an independent state in the center of Rome. The cathedral of the pope — the bishop of Rome — is the Basilica of St. John Lateran on the other side of Rome. In recent centuries popes have resided more often at the Vatican, which is built around St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica sits above the tomb where the remains of St. Peter, who Catholic tradition regards as the first pope and bishop of Rome, are believed to rest. The popes were for centuries temporal rulers of a large swath of central Italy. But when Italy was united as a single nation in 1860, the Papal States became part of the new secular government, and the pope’s kingdom was reduced to the city of Rome. In 1870 Italian troops defeated the last papal forces and took Rome as the nation’s capital. The pope refused to recognize the new situation and became a self-declared “prisoner of the Vatican” until 1929, when the Vatican and the government of Benito Mussolini resolved the impasse in a concordat. The Vatican was given a sum of money as compensation for the confiscation of its holdings, and Vatican City was recognized as a legal governing entity. Popes were also allowed to travel outside the Vatican’s confines. The Vatican has its own flag, coins, postage stamps, media, train station and police, as well as the ceremonial troops known as the Swiss Guard. Vatican City includes St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo, the Vatican Museums and other priceless works of art. Vatican City stands alone in datelines. For more about the Vatican, see its official website.
  • vegetative state/comatose/non-response
    A vegetative state is defined as the absence of responsiveness or consciousness in which a patient shows no awareness of his or her environment. Patients may exhibit eye movements and other involuntary movements. A minimally conscious state is one in which a patient has some awareness of self and/or the environment. Referring to a person in a vegetative state as a vegetable is considered offensive. It is preferable to use precise medical terminology or, if that is not possible, terms such as comatose or non-responsive. If using the term vegetative state, use people-first language, such as a person in a vegetative state. Avoid referring to someone as a vegetable or “veg” as such words dehumanize the person.  
  • veiling
    This is a religious practice, related to Islam, and not a specifically Arab tradition. While some say that veiling denigrates women, many women who dress this way say it liberates them. Some say it is more oppressive to be expected to dress in revealing ways. This practice of modesty, called hijab, is not universally observed by Muslim women and varies by region and class. Some governments have, at times, banned veiling and at other times required it. In American families, a mother, a daughter or a sister might decide to cover her head while the other does not. Most Arab Americans dress like other Americans.          
  • victim, suffering from, afflicted with, stricken with
    Don’t make an assumption about how someone with a mental illness [or other condition] is handling his or her life. Use value-neutral terms. Not preferred: She suffers from anxiety. Preferred: She’s being treated for an anxiety disorder or She is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
  • Vietnamese names
    Typically written family name first, personal name last. On second reference, the personal name is sometimes used. But in the United States, Western word order is common.  
  • Vodou, Voodoo
    A religious tradition born in West Africa that is derived from animism, ancestor worship and polytheism. Slaves brought from West Africa transplanted Vodou to the New World. As practiced in the Caribbean and areas along the U.S. Gulf Coast, Vodou merged West African traditions with Roman Catholic beliefs, adding saints to rituals. The term Vodou, which should always be capitalized, is the acceptable spelling in academic circles and the Haitian community. Other common spellings include Vodun, Voodoo and voodoo, but generic uses of voodoo can be offensive to those who practice the religion. Avoid using phrases such as “voodoo economics,” except in direct quotes. The Associated Press Stylebook continues to use Voodoo.
  • Voting Rights Act
    Enacted on Aug. 6, 1965, it empowered the federal government to oversee voter registration and elections in communities, especially in the South, that had used tests to determine voter eligibility and or where registration or turnout was less than 50 percent in the 1964 presidential election. It also banned discriminatory literacy tests and expanded voting rights for non-English speaking Americans. The laws effects were wide and powerful. By 1968, for example, nearly 60 percent of eligible blacks were registered to vote in Mississippi. The Voting Rights Act was extended in 1970, 1975, and 1982 and despite some setbacks and debates had an enormous impact by helping elect black lawmakers at the local, state and national levels.  
  • West Indies
    A group of islands in the Caribbean Sea that includes the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, United States Virgin Islands, the Leeward Islands and Windward Islands, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago. They acquired that name because Spanish explorers erroneously thought they had sailed to India.
  • wheelchair/wheelchair-bound/confined to a wheelchair
    People who use mobility equipment such as a wheelchair, scooter or cane consider their equipment part of their personal space, according to the United Spinal Association. People who use wheelchairs have widely different disabilities and varying abilities. It is acceptable to describe a person as someone who uses a wheelchair, followed by an explanation of why the equipment is required. Avoid confined to a wheelchair or wheelchair-bound as these terms describe a person only in relationship to a piece of equipment. The terms also are misleading, as wheelchairs can liberate people, allowing them to move about, and they are inaccurate, as people who use wheelchairs are not permanently confined in them, but are transferred [or transfer themselves] to sleep, sit in chairs, drive cars, etc.
  • White privilege
    Advantages for people with white skin. This includes advantages they might not even know about. It can be a product of systemic racism. Advantages can be economic, social or educational. One kind of privilege is freedom from barriers, suspicions or expectations that non-White people experience daily. Another can be freedom from judgment or denial surrounding success or aspirations. For example, if two people acquire the same job or car, the White person’s success might be taken for granted while the Black person is asked how he or she managed it. See institutional racism, systemic racism.
  • White, U.S. Census definition of
    The U.S. Census Bureau, which adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, defines White as “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.” The Census Bureau notes: "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or sociocultural groups."
  • White, white
    People in the United States who share a lineage that can be traced directly or indirectly to Europe. There has been much discussion about whether the w in White and the b in Black should be capitalized. Most journalism style guides, like those of the Associated Press and The New York Times, call for putting both “white” and “black” in all lowercase letters. Others, like The Chicago Manual of Style, allow capitalization if an author or publication prefers. Essence and Ebony magazines, The Chicago Defender  and many other publications serving African-American communities capitalize Black; some, but not all, capitalize White. The National Association of Black Journalists does not capitalize Black in its publications, including the NABJ Style Guide. Many of the terms related to Black and White people in The Diversity Style Guide come from 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans. The team that put together that guide decided to capitalize Black and White, according to editor Joe Grimm. After much research and consideration, the editor of The Diversity Style Guide elected to capitalize Black and White when used in a racial context, but most would say it's not incorrect to lowercase those words. For more discussion about whether to capitalize the w in White see: “Black and White: Why Capitalization Matters” by Merrill Perlman Columbia Journalism Review, 2015 “The Case for Black With a Capital B” by Lori Tharps The New York Times, 2014 "When to Capitalize ‘Black’ and ‘White’" by Elahe Izadi DCentric, 2011 “Black, black, or African American?” by Aly Colón Poynter, 2003 See Caucasian; White privilege; White, U.S. Census definition of.
  • Wicca
    There are many forms of Wicca, but most share a worship of the divine feminine, or Goddess, and a reverence for nature and its cycles. It is traditionally believed to be based on the symbols, celebrations, beliefs and deities of ancient Celtic peoples. Many scholars consider it the largest segment of neo-paganism, saying it can be traced back to Gardnerian Witchcraft, founded in the United Kingdom during the late 1940s.
  • wigger
    A derogatory term used for a white person who mimics language, dress and mannerisms of blacks; a white person who acts black.
  • witch
    A practitioner of natural magic; often a follower of a pagan religion, such as Wicca.
  • withdrawal (drug)
    Symptoms that occur after regular use of a drug has been abruptly reduced or stopped. Symptom severity depends on the type of drug, the dosage, and how long and how frequently it has been taken.
  • worship, worshipped, worshipper
    Worship is the act of offering devotion and praise to a deity or deities. It is most often used in reference to formal religious services, but also applies to private prayer and other acts done to honor or revere the sacred. Many evangelical Protestants have a tendency to use it specifically in reference to music – especially contemporary praise music – sung in church. Thus, the leader of the contemporary singing group may appear in the church bulletin as “praise and worship leader.”
  • Xmas
    Do not use this shortened form of the word Christmas.
  • yarmulke
    Pronounced “YAH-mi-kuh.” Yiddish name for the skullcap traditionally worn by Jewish men in synagogue, and by some Jews at all times. It is a symbol of humility and submission to God. It is sometimes also referred to by its Hebrew name, kippah (or kippa), which means “dome.”
  • yellow journalism
    Archaic, possibly anti-Semitic rather than anti-Asian. Refers to the “Yellow Kid,” a young boy from a cartoon strip popular in New York tabloids of the 1890s and, thus, synonymous with tabloid sensationalism. The boy wore a yellow nightshirt. He was Eastern European, possibly Jewish, and was bald because his hair had been shorn because of lice, a common sight in Lower East Side tenements.
  • yellow peril
    Avoid, a slur. An imagined invasion of the United States at the beginning of the 20th century by Asian “hordes,” specifically Japanese, who had become successful entrepreneurs in California agriculture. Led to racialist pulp fiction.
  • yellow skin, Asian-ness of
    A persistent vestige of the age of scientific racism. Yellow skin is a sign of jaundice, a symptom of various diseases, including hepatitis. Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), the paleontologist, traced the terminology to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), who coined “Caucasian.” Blumenbach, a German naturalist, derived his terminology from Carl Linnaeus (the 18th-century Swedish botanist who developed such classifications as “homo sapiens”) and the medieval theory of physiology that human temperament arises from the presence of various fluids, or “humors.” (“Sense of humor” comes from this theory.) Linnaeus said the black, or relaxed, humor  dominated in Africa and the white, or muscular, humor in Europe. Linnaeus wrote that the “luridus, melancholicus, rigidus.”
  • yin/yang
    A symbol from Chinese philosophies such as Taoism and Confucianism representing two forces continually interacting in humans and in the universe; balance between the two is ideal. Yin is the darker, female, passive force; yang is the lighter, male, active.
  • Yom Kippur
    Pronounced “yohm ki-POOR.” The Jewish Day of Atonement, which takes place on the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishri — September or October of the Gregorian calendar. Yom Kippur is marked by spending the day in prayer; forgoing food, drink and work; and repenting for misdeeds of the past year. To find the date for the holiday in the current or an upcoming year consult the Jewish holidays page on Hebcal.
  • Yonsei, yonsei
    Term for fourth-generation Japanese Americans, originating from the Japanese language term for "fourth generation." In the American context, the term is understood to refer to the great-grandchildren of Japanese immigrants who arrived prior to the cessation of Japanese immigration to the U.S. under the dictates of the Immigration Act of 1924. The vast majority of Yonsei were born a generation or more after the World War II, and given the boom in intermarriage rates among Japanese Americans starting in the 1960s, many are of mixed race heritage. Other generational terms include Issei (first generation) for the immigrant generation, Nisei (second generation) for the American born children of the Nisei, and Sansei (third generation) for the children of the Nisei and parents of the Yonsei. [Some Japanese-American institutions, such as Densho Encyclopedia, the digital educational resource on Japanese American internment and Japanese incarceration,  capitalize the first letter of Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei, etc. Others capitalize the words when they are used in a generational context, but lowercase those same words when referring to an individual. For example, “Nisei soldiers of World War II” has a generational context. However, you might say, “My uncle, a nisei, served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.” Some institutions lowercase the words unless they are part of a proper noun, such as Nisei Farmers League.] See Issei/issei, Nisei/nisei, Sansei/sansei.
  • Zionism, Zionist
    A modern movement in Judaism rooted in the establishment of a separate Jewish nation, based on God’s biblical promise that Israel would forever belong to Abraham and his descendants as a nation. Many Zionists do not have religious motives, but believe a Jewish state is necessary because of the long history of persecution of Jews. That goal was realized with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Zionism refers to Mount Zion, the site of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. A Zionist is a supporter of Zionism.