What does exclusionary mean? The term is defined in different ways. Let’s define it and look at some examples of an exclusionary synonym.

What does exclusionary mean?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines exclusionary as:

“causing someone or something not to be allowed to take part in an activity or to enter a place.”

But this still needs to be clarified, so let’s explore it further.

Exclusion (the root word of exclusionary) carries a negative connotation and one of the best ways to understand the word is to list its synonyms. Here are 30+ exclusionary synonyms.

  • Absolute –– free from the mixture, pure
  • Asocial –– people who are not interested in making connections or interacting socially
  • Adversarial –– people opposing each other
  • Aristocratic –– being socially exclusive
  • Biased –– inclining to favor one side over another 
  • Censorious –– being critical of other people
  • Clannish –– showing loyalty only to one’s social group 
  • Cliquish –– being or forming a group that’s not welcoming outsiders
  • Close-minded –– not wanting to consider ideas that are not like your own
  • Discriminative –– being unequal in your treatment of different types of people
  • Elitist –– viewing people without wealth, money, or power as inferior
  • Exclusory–– preventing someone from participating
  • Exclusive –– not allowing people to participate in certain activities because of their differences (for example, race, sex, age, etc.)
  • Homogenous –– having the same kind of nature
  • Incomplete –– not finished, not whole
  • Isolationist –– not wanting to be part of the interest of other groups
  • Inflexible –– not wanting to change
  • Limited –– having a distinct opinion on a particular subject
  • Members-only ––limiting activities to people who are in a specific group
  • Narrow –– limited to areas of interest that are small
  • Omission –– to take out, to limit
  • One-sided –– taking only one side of the opinion
  • Oppressive –– being unfair or cruel
  • Prejudiced –– being unfair to people who are different from you.
  • Racist –– being biased against people based on their race or ethnic group
  • Restrictive –– being limited
  • Singular –– looking only at one type of person or thing
  • Slanted –– viewing information only from one angle, usually in a biased or unfair way
  • Segregated –– separating from others of the same group or kind
  • Separate ––to take out things or people which are not the same
  • Tribalistic –– showing loyalty to one’s tribe or social group
  • Undemocratic –– when a process is made only by one person or a small group instead of everyone involved. 

What are exclusionary words?

Exclusionary words are discriminatory language (or phrases) that may make people from certain groups feel excluded or underrepresented. One of the best definitions of exclusionary language is from Thought Co’s Blog, which defines exclusionary language as:

“Words and phrases that are considered discriminatory, offensive, and hurtful. Biased language includes expressions that demean or exclude people because of age, sex, race, ethnicity, social class, or physical or mental traits.”

Exclusionary words and phrases are harmful because:

  • They can add to systemic oppression, especially against groups of marginalized people.
  • They create an unwelcoming and hostile environment for those targeted by the language.
  • They can cause people who are on the receiving end of the words to develop anxiety, low-self esteem, and even depression.
  • They perpetuate stereotypes and breed prejudice against certain groups of people. When you use exclusionary words (even non-intentionally), you contribute to a culture that normalizes discrimination, making people feel disrespected, undervalued, or dehumanized.

There are many exclusionary words (unfortunately) in the English language. Most of them fall into these categories:

  1. gender
  2. race
  3. ethnicity
  4. elitism
  5. age
  6. LGBTQ+ 
  7. neurodiversity
  8. mental health
  9. veterans
  10. disability

Your email, company reports, job descriptions or any other written communication with biased words affects how your intended audience receives your message. 

Exclusionary words and their inclusive replacements

Now that we’ve defined “exclusionary” and outlined an exclusionary synonym list, here are some exclusionary words you might encounter daily (with more inclusive replacements):

Exclusionary TermMore Inclusive Term
alien (illegal alien)undocumented immigrant
cakewalkan easy task
blind (the blind)blind people/people with limited vision
blacklistblocklist, denylist
brown bag sessionlunch and learn session
criminal background checkbackground check
culture fitculture add
digital nativepassionate about technology
ladies and gentlemaneveryone/folks
man-hourswork hours/staff work hours
master bedroomprimary bedroom
native English speakerfluent in English
policemanPolice Officer
postmanmail carrier/postal worker
degree from a top schoola degree
manholeutility hole
recent graduategraduate
master/slave primary/ secondary
sexual preferencesexual orientation 
sanity checkreview/audit/double-check
sittingbeing stationary
steward/stewardessflight attendant

Ensure Your Content is Exclusionary-Free

When you write job descriptions or content, it’s best to ensure it’s free from exclusionary words. You can follow best practices, but because you’re human, biased words may creep in no matter how hard you try. To ensure you write bias-free content, you may want to run your work through an AI-based program like Ongig’s Text Analyzer. Tools like these scan your written work, flag non-inclusive words, and suggest real-time alternatives.

job description exclusionary word finder

Why I Wrote This:

Ongig’s mission is to help create effective and inclusive job descriptions (+ other content). Our software scans your work for biased language, explains why it’s flagged and suggests more inclusive alternatives. Please request a demo to learn more.


  1. Nato Gender Inclusive Gender Manual (NATO)
  2. United Nation’s Gender Inclusive Manual (United Nations)                                                 
  3. Everyday words and phrases that have racist connotations (Scottie Andrew and Harmeet Kaur)
  4. Terms to Avoid Problematic, Outdated or Harmful Language in LGBT Campaigns (Freedom for All Americans)                                                                                                                            
  5. Two US States Drop ‘Demeaning’ Terms for Immigrants; More Consider It (VOA News)
  6. European Fulbright Diversity Initiative (EFDI) Staff Training (EFDI)
  7. Age-inclusive language and content (Digital Government, New Zealand)
  8. Biased Language Definition and Examples Prejudiced, Offensive, and Hurtful Words and Phrases (by Richard Nordquist)
  9. Thesaurus.com

by in Diversity and Inclusion