Wondering what the word caucasian means? This guide is here to help. Read on to learn more about the word caucasian, its meaning, and more.
If you’re one of the 204.3 million white people in America, there’s a good chance that you’ve had to identify as “caucasian” before.
Whether on your medical records or college application, race is a standard demographic question that’s typically asked to ensure diversity — but what exactly does the word caucasian mean? And where did it originate?
You have questions, and we have answers. Read on to discover our complete guide on caucasian to get to the bottom of its meaning, origin, and more. Are you ready?
Let’s dive in!
What Is the Definition of Caucasian?
There are varying definitions of the word caucasian. To some people, caucasian is synonymous with white-skinned, but to others, it’s nothing more than an outdated racial class. So, what does caucasian mean?
Let’s take a look at some helpful dictionary definitions:
- The Cambridge Dictionary defines Caucasians as belonging to the races of people who have skin that is of pale color.
- According to Your Dictionary, caucasian refers to the people or cultures of the Caucasus region (aka Caucasoid).
- The Collins Dictionary says a caucasian person is a white person.
In short, the literal definition of caucasian is of or relating to the Caucasus. However, the more modern definition of caucasian refers to the racial group commonly referred to as white.
What Is the Origin of Caucasian as a Racial Classification?
Believe it or not, most used skin pigmentation as the main differential factor between races back in the day.
Yup, it’s true — coined in 1785 by a German philosopher named Christoph Meiners, the “Caucasian race” encompassed the native populations of Europe, the aboriginal inhabitants of West Asia, as well as the autochthones of Northern Africa, and Indians.
At the time, the caucasian race was one of two races that Meiners recognized, with the Mongolian race (or ugly race) being the other. Shortly after creating this classification, anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach took it further and divided humans into five races.
That said, here are the “five great families” — or system of racial classification — as defined by Blumenbach:
1775 — First edition containing four classifications according to geography:
- People deriving out of Europe
- People deriving out of Asia to the Ganges as well as certain parts of North America
- People deriving out of Africa
- People deriving out of North America
1781 — Second edition containing five classifications according to geography:
- People deriving out of primeval Europe, including North Africa, North America (Esquimaux, for example), and North India
- People deriving out of the remainder of Asia, what is essentially beyond the Ganges river
- People deriving out of Africa (except the north)
- People deriving out of the remainder of America
- People deriving out of the southern world ( the Philippines, for example)
1795 — Third edition containing the five great families (or five genetic varieties):
- Caucasians or white
- Mongolians or yellow (Japan and China)
- Ethiopians or black (Africans, excluding light-skinned North Africans)
- Native Americans or red
- Malays or brown (Pacific Islanders and Aboriginal Australians)
How Can You Use Caucasian in a Sentence?
Now that you understand what the word caucasian means, take a few minutes to practice using it in a sentence. Not sure where to start? Check out our usage examples listed below:
“Did you know that the word caucasian doesn’t actually mean white?”
“The Chechens were a caucasian tribe that sought independence from the Russian Federation.”
“People from Russia, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan are usually of the caucasian race.”
“I am of European descent, so I identify as caucasian.”
“Ann is a caucasian from New England, but she was actually born in Western Asia.”
“If you ask me, it’s time we retire the word caucasian from the English language.”
“I may have white skin, but I am not caucasian — I am Asian.”
“If you’re from the Caucasus mountains, you’re probably caucasian.”
“What race are you? Caucasian, African American, Arabic, or Armenian?”
“Many people think caucasian refers to skin color, but it actually refers to the inhabitants of the Caucasus region.”
“The police said that a caucasian man with black hair is still at large.”
What Are Translations of Caucasian?
Did you know that there is more than one way to say our word of the day? Some of the most common translations of caucasian are as follows:
- Chinese (Traditional) — 白種人的, 高加索人的
- Russian — европеоидный
- Thai — ชาวคอเคเซียน, คนผิวขาว, ที่เป็นคนผิวขาว
- Vietnamese — chủng tộc người da trắng, thuộc chủng tộc người da trắng
- Norwegian — kaukasisk
- Turkish — Kafkaslı, kafkas kökenli, beyaz veya solgun benizli ırktan olan
- Spanish — caucásico, blanco, Caucasiano
- Portuguese — caucasiano, branco
- Indonesian — orang kulit putih, berkulit putih
- Ukrainian — європеоїд, білий
- Polish — biały
- Ukrainian — європеоїд, білий
- German — der Weiße, weiß
- Malay — Kaukasia
- French — Caucasien/-ne, Blanc/-che, caucasien
- Italian — caucasico
- Chinese (Simplified) — 白种人的, 高加索人种的
- Czech — běloch, bělošský
- Danish — Kaukasien, kaukasisk
So, what does the word caucasian mean, you ask?
The definition of caucasian is a person born or living in the Caucasus. Also called Caucasia, the Caucasus is a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
In other words, the term caucasian isn’t necessarily synonymous with “white-skinned,” which is what many people have come to believe.
- 2020 Census Illuminates Racial and Ethnic Composition of the Country | Census
- White, European, Western, Caucasian, or what? Inappropriate labeling in research on race, ethnicity, and health | PMC
- Caucasian | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary
- What does caucasian mean? : Best 16 Definitions of Caucasian | Dictionary.com
- Caucasian definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary