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

What should you say when someone asks you about your ethnicity? This article will define the meaning of ethnicity and teach you how to use it.

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

You probably know how to answer when someone asks you what your race is, but do you know your ethnicity? This article will define the word ethnicity and teach you how to use it. Then, it will tell you how to say the word ethnicity in other languages and alternate terminology for the word ethnicity.

What Does Ethnicity Mean?

According to Dictionary, ethnicity is a noun that refers to a specific ethnic or social group with a distinctive, common language, religion, or culture. People often think of ethnicities as the cultures that people identify with and where their heritage comes from.

If, for example, your family is from Korea, you might identify as Korean or Korean-American if you live in America and identify with American culture. This is just one of many examples of a person’s ethnicity. If a person’s family has several countries of origin, they might identify with all of these ethnicities. 

The Difference Between Ethnicity and Race

While ethnicity describes a cultural group, race is a more narrow category based on biology and physical attributes such as skin color and hair texture, according to Very Well Mind. Often, if you are filling out paperwork that asks for a race, they will categorize race into the below categories:

  • Black or African American
  • Asian
  • White
  • American Indian, Native American, or Alaska Native
  • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
  • Some other race

However, ethnicity is much broader. For example, someone might describe themselves as Latino, Spanish, or Hispanic to describe their ethnic group or ethnic identity, while they might select different races from the above categories. 

Often, anthropologists explore the concept of race differently than the social construction of different ethnicities and cultural traits. While ethnic minorities go through ethnic conflict and disparities, these types of conflict may present differently than minority groups based on racial categories or racial differences. 

How Can We Use Ethnicity in a Sentence?

There are several situations where a person can use the word of the day ethnicity. For example, you might use ethnicity when discussing a person’s cultural background for something like a census form. You might also hear the word ethnicity if you are studying something like anthropology in an educational setting. 

To learn how to use the word ethnicity in a sentence, you can start by studying the below example sentences containing the word ethnicity. Then, you can practice using ethnicity in sentences on your own. Be careful and respectful, and never assume someone’s ethnicity. 

While many people assumed that she was not Irish due to her skin color, her self-identification with the Irish ethnicity ran deep. However, she found that people were very prejudiced toward her and did not believe she could be Irish in ethnicity and Asian in race.

The students’ shared culture and ethnic background in the Latinx Union made many new freshmen feel instantly at home. They loved being surrounded by people from the same culture, sharing food and common ground.

New York is a diverse city that boasts many different ethnic groups of people and racial groups.

What Is the Etymology of Ethnicity?

The word ethnicity entered the English language in the mid to late 1700s. The word ethnicity comes from the Late Latin ethnicus and Greek ethnikós. These all stem from the root ethno, which means a race, culture, or people.

What Are Translations of Ethnicity?

People have different words to refer to their ethnicities around the world. If you are traveling in a country where people do not speak English as a first language and want to refer to your ethnicity, you can use one of these translations of the word ethnicity from Nice Translator

You might notice that many of these translations of ethnicity look similar to the word ethnicity. This usually happens when words in different languages have the same root word or language of origin, like Greek or Latin. 

  • French: ethnique
  • Slovenian: etnična pripadnost
  • Spanish: etnia
  • Icelandic: þjóðerni
  • Hindi: जातीयता
  • Finnish: etnisyys
  • Turkish: etnik köken
  • Welsh: ethnigrwydd
  • Russian: этническая принадлежность
  • German: Ethnizität
  • Serbian: етничка припадност
  • Korean: 민족성
  • Portuguese (Brazil): etnia
  • Kannada: ಜನಾಂಗೀಯತೆ
  • Bulgarian: етническа принадлежност
  • Indonesian: etnisitas
  • Filipino: etniko
  • Malay: etnik
  • Slovak: etnicita
  • Vietnamese: dân tộc
  • Polish: pochodzenie etniczne
  • Amharic: ጎሳ
  • Estonian: etniline kuuluvus
  • Lithuanian: Tautybė
  • Norwegian: etnisitet
  • Bengali: জাতিগততা
  • Ukrainian: етнічна приналежність
  • Basque: etnia
  • Arabic: الأصل العرقي
  • Dutch: etniciteit
  • Hungarian: etnikai hovatartozás
  • Greek: εθνικότητα
  • Croatian: etnička pripadnost
  • Urdu: نسلی
  • Latvian: etniskā piederība
  • Malayalam: വംശീയത
  • Thai: เชื้อชาติ
  • Japanese: 民族
  • Chinese (PRC): 种族
  • Tamil: இனம்
  • Italian: etnia
  • Swedish: etnicitet
  • Hebrew: מוצא אתני
  • Catalan: ètnia
  • Danish: etnicitet
  • Swahili: ukabila
  • Czech: etnicita
  • Portuguese (Portugal): etnia
  • Romanian: etnie
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 種族
  • Telugu: జాతి
  • Gujarati: વંશીયતા
  • Marathi: वांशिकता

What Are Synonyms of Ethnicity?

Ethnicity is a very specific term that refers to a person’s cultural background or affiliation. However, there are several ways to refer to a person’s cultural affiliation more generally or specifically. 

Using this list from Power Thesaurus, you can learn how to refer to someone’s race, nationality, and ethnicity. 

  • affiliation
  • background
  • color
  • community
  • companionship
  • culture
  • customs
  • ethnic
  • ethnic background
  • ethnic community
  • ethnic group
  • ethnic nationality
  • ethnic origin
  • ethnos
  • identity
  • lifestyle
  • nation
  • national character
  • nationality
  • nationhood
  • origin
  • race
  • skin color
  • society
  • traditions
  • way of life


The definition of ethnicity is a specific social or ethnic group with a distinctive, common language, religion, or culture. Ethnicity is different from both race and nationality. Two people of the same race might have different ethnicity and vice versa. 


  1. Ethnicity Definition & Meaning |
  2. The Difference Between Race and Ethnicity | VeryWell Mind
  3. Ethnicity synonyms – 94 Words and Phrases for Ethnicity | Power Thesaurus 
  4. Ethnicity | Nice Translator