Politically correct terms are a hot topic. The focus on using “PC” words has sky-rocketed recently with so much focus on diversity & inclusion in the news. We decided to create a list of the top 20 most-Googled questions on PC terms to help better understand each one.
Disclaimer: There are words or phrases in this article that are politically incorrect and might offend you. I am sharing the exact phrases/questions that people are querying on Google (source: ahrefs). I couldn’t think of any other way to answer these questions without listing them exactly as the user typed them into Google. I am not an expert in politically correct terminology.
Ok, here are the top 20 questions users search about on Google (verbatim):
Is People of Color politically correct?
“People of Color” (POC for short) is widely used but not everyone approves of the term — and there are often better alternatives.
A few alternatives are:
- BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)
- Use the origin of where the person of color is from (e.g. African American, Korean American, etc.)
- Ask the person which term they prefer
People of Color is a term used to identify people who are not white or of European heritage. The phrase “People of Color” was introduced in the 1960s by Black leaders in an effort to move away from terms like “colored people” and “Blacks”. POC is still widely being used worldwide today, but not everyone approves of the phrase.
The Washington Post interviewed 25 “People of Color” and was met with comments like:
““Not everyone likes this label,” “it flattens differences” and “it simplifies complexities.””
What is another word for people of color? BIPOC, which stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color is a more inclusive term that is being widely accepted as a replacement for POC. BIPOC is one of the hottest words in diversity, gaining traction since the Black Lives Matter Movement.
The popularity of the term POC (people of color) dropped 50% from January 2020 to June 2021 (while “BIPOC” grew 6X during the same period. (source: Google Trends
Are Asians People of Color? It may depend on who you ask. People of Color may be an accepted “label” for some, but it is always best to ask a person what they prefer to be called.
PC Term Google search volume: Is People of Color politically correct? (450/month); is people of color capitalized (350); people of color synonym (300); people of color definition (300); are asians people of color (700); another word for people of color (5)
Politically correct term for disabled?
What is a politically correct term for disabled? A PC term for disabled is “people with disabilities”. Disabled is considered a politically incorrect word because it is tied to negative stereotypes. The phrase”people with disabilities” is less de-humanizing.
When referring to a single person with a specific disability it is more appropriate to say the person “has” that disability instead of saying they “are” disabled. For example, an article on inclusive language at Colorado State University says:
Less Appropriate: Sue is an arthritic, – diabetic, – paraplegic.
More Appropriate: Sue has arthritis, – diabetes, – paralyzed, – has paralysis in her legs
Another PC word for disabled is the “disability community”. This phrase refers to a group of people with disabilities and is also received more positively than the word disabled.
Ireland’s National Disability Authority says the following about addressing people with disabilities:
“When writing or speaking about people with disabilities it is important to put the person first. Catch-all phrases such as ‘the blind’, ‘the deaf’ or ‘the disabled, do not reflect the individuality, equality or dignity of people with disabilities.”
When speaking about the disabled community, you also hear the word “handicapped”. A politically correct term for handicapped is “disabled person”, or “person with a disability”.
What is the politically correct term for mentally disabled? “Neurodivergent”, a “person who has an emotional disability”, or “neuroatypical” are all PC terms.
PC Term Google search volume: Politically correct term for disabled? (500/month); handicapped or disabled what is politically correct (60); what is the politically correct term for disabled (30); what is the politically correct term for mentally disabled (20); another word for disabled (300); proper term for disabled (200); politically correct term for handicapped (100); another word for handicapped (100)
Politically correct term for retardation
What is the politically correct term for mental retardation? A PC term for mental retardation is “intellectual disability”.
The term mental retardation was introduced to replace words like “idiot” and “imbecile” that were used in the past to identify people with certain levels of intelligence. But just like those derogatory words, the term “retardation” has become an insult, along with the word “retard”.
“Mental Retardation” as a phrase has even been legally replaced by the term “intellectual disability” according to an article addressing Appropriate Language About People With Disabilities.
PC Term Google search volume: Politically correct term for retardation (250/month); politically correct term for mental retardation (200); politically correct term for retard (80); what is the politically correct term for mental retardation (80)
Politically correct term for Black
There are 4 popular questions around PC terms for the word “Black”:
“What is the politically correct term for Black?”
“Is Black or African American politically correct?”
“What is another word for Black?”
“What are other words for Black?”
The terms Black and African American can be used interchangeably, according to Keith Mayes, associate professor of African American and African studies at the University of Minnesota.
Mayes said that descendants of slaves have historically been referred to as African Americans, but the percentage of those folks is decreasing in the United States. Mayes said:
“We have more Black people here from other parts of the diaspora and other parts of the continent. We have a lot of East Africans here. West Africans here, always had a lot of Caribbean Blacks in the United States. When I address you as Black or African American, they both apply but it may be a situation where some black folks whose parents come from other parts of the world may not identify as African American. It is better to call them Black American”
Finding a PC word for Black can be tricky because it depends on where a person comes from as well as what they prefer to be called. So in this case, it is best to ask someone which term they are comfortable with, whether it be Black, African American, Black American, Black Caribbean, Person of Color, etc.
PC Term Google search volume: Other words for Black (1,700); Another word for Black (1,400); Politically correct term for Black(200/month); What is the politically correct term for a Black person? (100); Black or African American politically correct (150); Another word for African American (80); What is the politically correct term for Black? (20); politically correct term for Black (30)
Mulatto politically correct?
Is Mulatto offensive? In 2021, the popular rapper Mulatto (who has 1 Black father and white mother) was forced to change her name (to Latto) after a huge backlash over her name not being PC. If you search Google for “Mulatto rapper backlash”, you get 3.2 million results!
Mulatto was once a word used to identify people of mixed race or mixed ethnicity. In 1850 the U.S. Census Bureau used “M” as a racial category for mulatto, which meant someone with one Black and one white parent. The Mulatto category became a “catch-all” for people whose race was not just “Black or white”, this included Native Americans.
A more PC term for Mulatto (as well as mixed race and mixed ethnicity) is “biracial” or “multiracial”. Multiracial is used to describe people with blended ancestries.
Over time terms have changed, so another way to be more politically correct is to identify a person by a group, like Latinx or Mexican American. But, mixed race is still used and accepted by people who are comfortable with saying “I’m Mixed”.
NPR’s article on All Mixed Up: What Do We Call People Of Multiple Backgrounds? says that celebrities may also set trends for multiracial people. For example:
“Rihanna, Drake, Key and Peele and Shemar Moore have all used the term “biracial” to self-identify. Barack Obama, ever tongue-in-cheek, likes to throw around mongrel and mutt. Slash, Nicole Richie and Trevor Noah have used “mixed.””
PC Term Google search volume: Is mulatto derogatory (450/month); Is mulatto offensive (400/month); Mulatto politically correct (200/month); politically correct word for mulatto (5); Which is more politically correct Mulatto or Mixed Ethnicity? (5)
Politically correct term for midget and dwarf?
The terms Dwarf and Midget are widely misused and can be considered derogatory. What is the politically correct term for midget?
First, make sure you’re being precise.
Difference between dwarf and midget?
Little People of America (LPA) defines midget vs. dwarf in this way:
Dwarfism is “a medical or genetic condition that usually results in an adult height of 4’10” or shorter, among both men and women, although in some cases a person with a dwarfing condition may be slightly taller than that.The average height of an adult with dwarfism is 4’0, but typical heights range from 2’8 to 4’8.”
“In some circles, a midget is the term used for a proportionate dwarf. However, the term has fallen into disfavor and is considered offensive by most people of short stature. The term dates back to 1865, the height of the “freak show” era, and was generally applied only to short-statured persons who were displayed for public amusement, which is why it is considered so unacceptable today.”
“Midget” is on its way out
Midget has been met with criticism from organizations like the Little People of America (LPA).
LPA surveyed their community and 90% of members stated that the word “midget” should never be used in reference to a person with dwarfism.
Recommendations for using the term “Midget” and “Dwarf”
The LPA suggests you use:
- Dwarf or “having dwarfism” (if you know they have dwarfism)
- Little person; or
- Person of short nature
But the LPA says that most people would rather be referred to by their name than by their label
PC Term Google search volume: How tall is a midget (1,400/mo.); What height is considered a midget (900); Dwarf vs Midget (1,000); Midget vs Dwarf (700); Difference between dwarf and midget; Is midget a slur (500/mo.) How tall is a dwarf (500/mo.) Politically correct term for midget (200/month); proper term for midget (200/month); what is the politically correct term for midget (150); pc term for midget (150) politically correct term for dwarf (100); pc term for dwarf (100); what is the politically correct term for a dwarf? (10)
Politically correct term for mental illness
What is the politically correct term for mental illness? There are many different alternative terms to use when it comes to mental illness. Health Partners has an excellent detailed list of some of these more PC terms for mental illness, and also lists terms to avoid. Some examples:
Don’t use “Mental Illness” as an aggregate term (it’s too broad)
Instead, use “Mental illnesses” or “A mental illness”
Don’t use “Afflicted by mental illness”, “suffers from mental illness” or “is a victim of mental illness”
Instead, use “Living with a mental illness”
Don’t use “Mentally ill person
Instead use, “Person with a mental illness”
Another term related to mental illness is special needs. “Special needs” has been met with criticism from people with disabilities. What is the politically correct term for special needs? A “person with a disability” or “disabled person” is more politically correct. “Special needs” can make people feel excluded or belittled.
This article, 12 different ways to say disabled, has multiple comments surrounding the use of “special needs”, from both teachers and people with disabilities.
PC Term Google search volume: Politically correct term for mental illness (150/month); what is the politically correct term for mental illness (5)
Politically correct term for gypsy
What is the politically correct term for gypsy? The word gypsy has ties to racial discrimination and the politically correct term is “Roma” which means “people”.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum says:
“Roma (Gypsies) originated in the Punjab region of northern India as a nomadic people and entered Europe between the eighth and tenth centuries C.E. They were called “Gypsies” because Europeans mistakenly believed they came from Egypt.”
A blog post from the Mindful Mermaid explains why we should stop saying gypsy. The blog says:
“Gypsy is straight-up racist, similar to using the n-word. The word is as a racial slur against the Roma people, the PC term for gypsy.”
PC Term Google search volume: Politically correct term for gypsy (150/month); what is the politically correct term for gypsy (10)
Politically correct term for gay
What is the politically correct term for gay? Gay is an acceptable term, along with “gay person”, “gay people”, and “lesbian”.
GLAAD says however the use of “homosexuals” should be avoided.
On a related note, a lot of people ask “What’s the politically correct term for LGBT?” LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) and its variations are PC terms when referring to gay people. Over time LGBT as an acronym has evolved into many more acronyms in the effort to be more inclusive to the gay community.
The New York Times discussed The ABCs of L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ back in 2018. The author talked about the addition of the letter “Q” for “questioning” or “queer” and said:
“Now there’s also I, for intersex; A, for ally (or asexual, depending on whom you’re talking to); and often a plus sign meant to cover anyone else who’s not included: L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+.”
PC Term Google search volume: Politically correct term for gay (90/month); What is the politically correct term for gay? (20); Politically correct term for LGBT (40/month)
Politically correct terms for race
What is a politically correct term for race? Race is a PC word that is used to divide people into groups based on shared physical or social qualities. Race can be based on skin color, ethnic association, cultural history, or ethnic classification.
Here is a list of race-related terms that are used most frequently:
- American Indian
- Black or African American
- Other Pacific Islander
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people can choose more than one race to indicate their racial mixture (e.g. American Indian and white).
PC Term Google search volume: Politically correct term for mixed race (100); Politically correct term for race (90/month); what is the politically correct term for a mixed race person (5); Politically correct terms for race (90); list of politically correct terms for race (5)
Politically correct term for deaf
What is the politically correct term for deaf? “Deaf” is considered a PC word, as well as “hard of hearing” or “people with hearing loss” according to the National Association of the Deaf. Other terms like “hearing impaired” are not widely accepted in the deaf community and could be considered derogatory.
The term “hearing impaired” was not coined by the deaf community, and a 2019 article on Medium.com titled “The Deaf Culture Hates Being Politically Correct” says:
“The word “impaired” means “weakened or damaged” or “having a disability of a specific kind.”
The deaf community may not see their deafness as a disability, so it is best to avoid “hearing impaired”. Another word for impaired could be “limited hearing” or “partially deaf”.
PC Term Google search volume: Another word for impaired (150); Politically correct term for deaf (80/month); what is the politically correct term for deaf (5)
Politically correct term for minority
What is the politically correct term for minority? The term “minority” was popular in the 1990s and replaced the use of the offensive phrase “colored people”, but its popularity as a PC term has lost traction in recent years.
One reason that minority is politically incorrect is that the word “minor” in minority suggests someone of lesser significance.
More inclusive terms are now being used to replace the word minority like:
- Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)
- Underrepresented Group (URG)
The other alternative is to refer to groups individually (e.g. Asian American, Mexican American, Inuit, etc.)
PC Term Google search volume: Politically correct term for minority (80/month); what is the politically correct term for minority (5); what is a minority? (1,900/mo.)
Politically correct terms for ethnic groups
Googlers also search for politically correct terms for ethnic groups like the ones listed below.
What do you call a white person? [Other words for white]
What is another word for white? Caucasian is the most common, formal word to identify a white person, but federal data collection also simply uses the word “white”. Caucasian is defined as a person of European origin which derived from the word “Caucasus”, but according to workforce.com:
“Most white people in the U.S. aren’t descended from the Caucasus region between Europe and Asia (touching Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) but from western and northern Europe.”
This author says “white people” is acceptable and politically correct language.
PC Term Google search volume: Another word for white (1,000/mo); Other words for white (600/mo); white or caucasian politically correct (80); What do you call a white person? (70/month); politically correct term for white person (5)
Politically correct term for Eskimo
What is the politically correct term for Eskimo? Inuit is the most widely used term to replace Eskimo, which is plural meaning “people”. The singular term, which means “person” is Inuk.
NPR gives reasons Why You Probably Shouldn’t Say Eskimo in an article addressing the confusion behind the word. The article says:
“People in many parts of the Arctic consider Eskimo a derogatory term because it was widely used by racist, non-native colonizers.”
PC Term Google search volume: Politically correct term for Eskimo (50/month); what is the politically correct term for an Eskimo? (5)
Politically correct term for Indian
“Indigenous peoples” or “aboriginal peoples” are preferred over using “Indian”. These groups are also referred to as “First Nations” in Canada according to national.com.
What is the politically correct term for Native American? In the United States, Native American is preferred over the use of the word Indian. Native American is also often used interchangeably with American Indian, although many Native Americans find the word “Indian” offensive and prefer to identify themselves by their specific tribe.
Words like squaw, engine, and chief are examples of a derogatory term for Indian and should be avoided.
PC Term Google search volume: Derogatory term for Indian (150); pc term for Native American (90); Politically correct term for Indian (50/month); politically correct term for American Indian (30); what is the politically correct term for Native American? (5)
Politically correct term for Mexican
The term Mexican is acceptable for a person who was born in Mexico.
In her article “Mexican” is Not a Bad Word, Diana Rojo-Gracias from The Free Press says:
What is the politically correct term for Mexican American? Someone who was born in Mexico, but immigrated to America would be called Mexican American.
PC Term Google search volume: Politically correct term for Mexican (40/month); what is the politically correct term for mexican American (10)
Politically correct term for Asian
What is the politically correct term for Asian? In the United States, Asian-American is a term that means to have origins in Asia or the Indian subcontinent. Asian-American includes people who live in the United States and indicate their race as:
- Other Asian
In the UK, people use BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority People) to identify Black and Asian people. Other PC terms are APA which means Asian-Pacific American and API which means Asian-Pacific Islander.
PC Term Google search volume: derogatory term for Asian (60); “Politically correct term for Asian” (30/month); what is the politically correct term for Asian (5)
Is Oriental racist?
In 2016, an act was passed in the USA, removing the word Oriental in federal law. It was likened to the word…negro, which was also banned (source: Oriental isn’t offensive but it could be (author is “Andrea” at The Haute Heel).
Asian Pop columnist for the San Francisco shared his thoughts on why Oriental is offensive to National Public Radio on September 2, 2009:
“[Oriental is] something which has been associated with racist campaigns, with stereotypical imagery. And you know, frankly, it’s just not a very precise term. When you think about it, Orient basically translates into East. And you know, here in New York, when you’re thinking of East you could be, you know, saying Long Island or something…” “…It’s a term that feels old. It feels antiquated…”
But outside the U.S. the word Oriental is still widely used (and often accepted). Even leading brands such as Mandarin Oriental and Oriental Express and a bunch of other restaurants use the term. As Andrea@TheHauteHeel put it:
“Owning a takeaway shop called Oriental Dynasty or anything to that effect is not in itself racist. The name of a company is part of branding and in that, marketing.”
So, should YOU use the term Oriental?
The answer is “fluid” as Andrea@TheHauteHeel says. “If the word conjures the idea of 1920’s Shanghai and women in cheongsam dresses, then cool.”
But if you’re not sure of the context, you might consider using a more precise term such as:
PC Term Google search volume: Is Oriental offensive (1,500/mo); Why is oriental offensive (1,100/mo.); Why is the term oriental offensive (90/mo.); Why oriental is offensive (70).
Politically correct term for Hispanic
What is a politically correct term for Hispanic? Hispanic is a PC term that was actually adopted by the United States government in the 1970s to give people immigrating from Latin America a common identity. Hispanic refers to people who share the common language, Spanish, and are from certain areas of Latin America.
An article from NPR that addresses the common question, Hispanic Or Latino?, saying that Hispanic:
“excludes a big part of the region — namely Brazil, which is Portuguese-speaking. So a person from Chile is Hispanic but a person from Brazil is not. A person from Spain could also be deemed Hispanic”
The writer also says that a person can be both Hispanic and Latino. (See below for more on Latino)
PC Term Google search volume: “Politically correct term for Hispanic” (20/month)
Politically correct term for Latino
What is the politically correct term for Latino? When comparing Latino vs Hispanic, according to hispanicdiversity.com:
“Which term is considered politically correct in business (and private) dealings? That depends on who you are addressing and individual preference of the person you are addressing.”
Latino and Hispanic have been used interchangeably and are identified by where a person is from, not their race. A more recent, inclusive term, is Latinx, which is a gender-neutral term used to replace Latino or Latina when referring to a person of Latin-American descent.
Just like the case above, someone can be both Latino or Hispanic, so its best to ask what they prefer.
PC Term Google search volume: “Politically correct term for Latino” (10/month)
What is the politically correct term for a transvestite?
Tranvestite has been defined as a person (usually a man) who gets pleasure from dressing in clothes associated with the opposite sex. This definition, as well as the use of the word “Tranny” is outdated and considered offensive by the LGBTQ community.
In an article called, Transvestite, Transsexual, Transgender: Here’s what you should actually call trans people, PinkNews in the UK said:
“What about transvestites? Another word that has fallen out of favour. Because so-called “transvestism” was seen as a medical disorder.
One preferred and PC term for a transvestite is “Cross-dresser.” A cross-dresser is a person who dresses in clothing or styles that are opposite to the one they were assigned at birth. Cross-dressing has also been known as “drag”, but not every person who cross-dresses does it to perform in a drag show.
Transvestism is often related to being a transgender person. What is the politically correct term for Transgender? Transgender refers to people who have a gender identity or gender expression that is different from their sex assigned at birth. The umbrella term “Trans” is widely accepted as a short version of Transgender and as a replacement of Transvestite.
What do you call a Trans person? The simple answer is, just ask. Planned Parenthood recommends approaching a trans person with respect, awareness, and a desire to learn about them as a person. Some people may prefer to be called a Cross-dresser, others identify more with Trans.
PC Term Google search volume: “What is the politically correct term for a transvestite?” (10/mo.)
What are Dutertards?
“Dutertards” is considered a politically incorrect word used to describe supporters of the President of the Philippines. In 2017, the Manilla Times reported:
“THE word “Dutertard,” started out as a pejorative. It was used by those who hate President Duterte to label his supporters, as shorthand for “Duterte retards,” in retaliation for the latter’s use of “Noytard” or “Yellowtard” to describe them.”
PC Term Google search volume: “Dutertards” (60/mo.)
What do YOU think of my answers to these PC terms?
Please share your thoughts on my answers.
Also, this most certainly is not every question on PC terms. Do you have one to add? Put it in the comments section so we can continue to add to this list of politically correct words. We address these terms along with 200+ others in our Diversity and Inclusion Glossary.
Thanks, Pros on PC Words
- Transvestite, Transsexual, Transgender: Here’s what you should actually call trans people (by Mayer Nissim)
- Planned Parenthood’s article on Transgender Identity Terms and Labels
- Here’s exactly why the word ‘transvestite’ is offensive (by Bianca Soldani)
- Unhandicap Your Language (by Colorado State University)
- Ireland National Disability Authority’s article on Appropriate Terms to Use About Disability
- Toni Harrison’s article on A Guide to Culturally Conscious Identifiers and Emojis
- ‘People of color’ are protesting. Here’s what you need to know about this new identity. (by Efrén Pérez)
- Twitter’s BIPOC Hashtag
- Appropriate Language About People With Disabilities (by Mark Stephenson)
- African American or Black: Which term should you use? (by Adrienne Broaddus)
- Leah Donnella’s article on All Mixed Up: What Do We Call People Of Multiple Backgrounds?
- LPA issues statement to abolish the “m” word (by Little People of America)
- Mental illnesses: Terms to use. Terms to avoid. (by HealthPartners)
- 12 different ways to say disabled (by Beth Finke)
- Susana Rinderle’s article on 6 Reasons to Not Say ‘Caucasian’
- Why You Probably Shouldn’t Say ‘Eskimo’ (by Rebecca Hersher)
- No perfect answer: Is it First Nations, Aboriginal or Indigenous? (by Marie Céline-Charron)
- “Mexican” is not a bad word (by Diana Rojo-Garcia)
- Lahle Wolfe’s article on Which is Politically Correct: Latino or Hispanic?
- Reporter’s Notebook: Gypsies & Racism (by Rebecca Lipkin)
- Glossary of Terms – Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual / Queer (by GLAAD)
- Michael Gold’s article on The ABCs of L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+
- National Association of the Deaf’s blog on What is the difference between a person who is “deaf,” “Deaf,” or “hard of hearing”?
- Logan Beddes’ blog on The Deaf Culture Hates Being Politically Correct
- The Journey From ‘Colored’ To ‘Minorities’ To ‘People Of Color’ Code Switch (by Kee Malesky)
- Hispanic Or Latino? A Guide For The U.S. Presidential Campaign (by Lulu Garcia-Navarro)
- Why it’s Time to Stop Saying “Gypsy” (by Alexandra Schmidt)
- ‘Oriental’: Rugs, Not People (The Haute Heel)
- ‘Oriental’ isn’t offensive — but it could be (interview of Jeff Yang, an Asian Pop columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle by Linda Werthheimer of NPR)
Why I Wrote This
Our mission here at Ongig is to transform your job descriptions to attract top-tier and diverse talent. Our Text Analyzer software analyzes every word of your job descriptions to ensure they are inclusive to everyone. We will help you stay politically correct too!