The Meaning of Chicano: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of chicano? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word chicano, including its definition, etymology and word origin, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word chicano mean?

According to Britannica, The word Chicano refers to people of Mexican descent who were born in the United States of America. The feminine form of the word Chicano is Chicana. The term Chicano became popular during the Chicano movement of the 1960s as it was popularly used by Mexican Americans. Term was originated between 1960 and 1965. It comes from Mexican Spanish, and is formed by shortening and altering  the word mexicano or mexicana, meaning Mexican.

Activists began to use this term when the political presence of Mexican Americans was established in the 1960s and 1970s through the leadership of Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, Cesar Chavez, and Dolores Huerta. These people and other Chicano and Chicana activists worked to address employment discrimination, environmental racism, healthcare, sexual violence, and capitalist exploitation in their communities. Much of this movement took place in Los Angeles. Chicanos experience prejudice, racism, and mainstream attitudes from others that remind them that although Mexico may not be their homeland, they are also othered in America.

The word Chicano has evolved into other related words like Chicanismo, Chicanisma, Xicanismo and even Xicanisma. This 20th century movement is extremely powerful for the rights of Central Americans and Mexican Americans from Colorado to Arizona and beyond. These activists did and do things like protest on college campuses.

Different groups’ success in society are very much dependent on the perceived social status of said group. Therefore, the perception of Chicanas and Chicanos in the United States does play an important role in Social and psychological factors within the community. While eurocentric values and cultural norms have been imposed on Chicano and Chicana Society, thus making upward Mobility difficult and at times and possible, they have a Social and cultural disconnection from Caucasian American society with distinct cultural experiences. Mexican Americans live in a space that straddles Two Worlds often called the space or the -. They experience a lot of othering both from people who are white in the United States and people from Mexico. They can feel like they’re not either. 

Experience prejudice from both groups. Ironically, much of the southwest region in which these prejudices are taking place was once a part of Mexico. In the community, the dominant sentiment is that they did not cross the border, the Border crossed that. This question of what constitutes somebody who is American and what role American culture may have on the Chicano Community are very important. Once we understand this, we can understand the social and psychological impact they have faced throughout the years. While the Chicano movement has come a long way since the 1960s, there is still a long way to go. Many people face prejudice and discrimination every day. 

What is the difference between Hispanic, Chicano, Latino, and Latinx? 

According to Exploratorium, These different terms are used depending on the region, generation and political inclination of the people you are talking to. For example, in California and on the west coast of the United States, most people use the terms Latino and Latina. On the east coast and in southwest states like Texas and New Mexico, the term Hispanic is used more often. 

The word Hispanic refers to someone who is a native of or descends from a Spanish speaking country. This term was not invented in the United States – it’s a Spanish word that describes someone who belongs to or is from Hispania, Spain. This term began to be used to mean related to Hispanoamerica, which are countries in the Americas where they speak Spanish, in the 1970s. This term came into use officially in America during Nixon’s presidency. The United States government adopted Hispanic as a universal term to describe all Spanish-speaking groups in the US. 

We already know that the terms Chicano and Chicana are used by Mexican Americans in the United States. This term began to be used in the 1960s to express a political stance and pride in one’s ethnic, cultural and Community identity.

Latino or Latina describe people who descend from a Latin American country. This term excludes people who are from Brazil or Spain. However, while not all Brazilians identify as Latino, many do. You can see here that Hispanic refers more to language and Latino and Latina refers more to culture. Finally, Latinx is a gender-neutral term to refer to someone who identifies as Latino or Latina. 

What is the origin of the word chicano?

According to Dictionary, the word Chicano was first used between the year 1960 and 1965. The word Chicano derives from a Spanish word Mexicano. This would be “xicano” which is pronounced similarly to “Chicano.” This is a shortening of this word. You will also notice that the feminine form of Chicano is Chicana. This is considered the feminine a in Spanish. Often, words that are masculine and he didn’t know and words that are feminine end in the letter A. This happens frequently in Spanish. If you were talking to a man, you would describe him as Chicano. If you are describing a woman, you would describe her as Chicana. If you were describing a group of people made of both men and women, you would describe them as Chicanos. However, if you were describing a group of only women, you would describe them as Chicanas. This may seem confusing at first, but it is fairly simple. 

Overall, the word Chicano describes Mexican Americans and was first used in the 1960s as a celebration of heritage. The feminine form of Chicano is Chicana.


  1. Chicano | people | Britannica 
  2. Chicano | Definition of Chicano | 
  3. Is it Hispanic, Chicano/Chicana, Latino/Latina, or Latinx? | Exploratorium