Definition of ethnic in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈeTHnik/


1Relating to a population subgroup (within a larger or dominant national or cultural group) with a common national or cultural tradition: leaders of ethnic communities
More example sentences
  • These policy shifts stem from struggles over social dominance among cultural and ethnic groups within the larger society.
  • He says Germany's 2 million-plus Turks are the country's largest foreign ethnic group.
  • The company dates back to a time when they would sell their products within ethnic communities, before eventually expanding to include the other Australians.
racial, race-related, ethnological;
cultural, national, tribal, ancestral, traditional
1.1Relating to national and cultural origins: two playwrights of different ethnic origins
More example sentences
  • The Muslim community in America is made up of people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds and national origins.
  • People from more than a hundred different nationalities and as many cultural and ethnic origins were subsumed under a single national identity in Israel.
  • As I have set out above, the school has for many years taught pupils from a wide variety of ethnic origins, cultural backgrounds and religious faiths.
1.2Denoting origin by birth or descent rather than by present nationality: ethnic Albanians in Kosovo
More example sentences
  • About 25 per cent of the university's students are Bulgarians of Turkish ethnic origin and Roma.
  • They were predominantly ethnic Albanian, but from different backgrounds - farmers, politicians and retirees.
  • Macedonia came close to civil war last year, when ethnic Albanians staged an uprising demanding greater rights.
1.3Characteristic of or belonging to a non-Western cultural tradition: ethnic dishes folk and ethnic music
More example sentences
  • The richness of their heritage became a legacy for all and their recordings dating back to the turn of the 20th century put Irish traditional music on a par with other ethnic world music forms.
  • Dark blue walls shimmer with candlelight, a display case of market vegetables glows in the background and strains of ethnic music play at just the right level for conversation.
  • The festival, to be held on October 9, features ethnic foods and music, craft booths, and food vendors.
1.4 archaic Neither Christian nor Jewish; pagan or heathen.
Example sentences
  • Christmas is an imitation of the Saturnalia of the ethnic Romans, and so used as if Bacchus, and not Christ, were the God of Christians.


dated or offensive
A member of an ethnic minority.
Example sentences
  • Although they were immigrants, their cultural differences and the darker skin color of some marked them as racially distinct, especially in relation to European ethnics.
  • It introduces new approaches to the interaction between America and its ethnics.
  • Even street gangs of the time reflected the trend to embrace ethnics and banish blacks.


Late Middle English (denoting a person not of the Christian or Jewish faith): via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek ethnikos 'heathen', from ethnos 'nation'. Current senses date from the 19th century.

  • This, like gentile ( see gentle), was first used for a person not belonging to the Christian or Jewish faith. It comes via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek ethnikos ‘heathen’, from ethnos ‘nation’. Current senses date from the mid 19th century. The phrase ethnic minority arose in the 1940s; references to ethnic cleansing are found in texts from the 1990s.

Words that rhyme with ethnic


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: eth·nic

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