Aug 25, 2017

Hispanic vs. Latino

Many people use the terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" interchangeably, they actually have different meanings. There is significant overlap between the terms, but their differences may make only one term correct in certain circumstances.

Hispanic and Latino are often mistakenly used to refer to race or color. Instead, these terms actually describe ethnicity.

Hispanic is a term that focuses on language and describes the culture and people of areas formerly ruled by the Spanish Empire. The common thread among Hispanics is the shared common language of Spanish. This would include areas such as Mexico, Central America, and most of South America.

Latino (or Latina for females), on the other hand, focuses on geography and describes people of Latin American descent. This would include countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and North America whose people speak Romance languages, such as Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese.

Based upon those definitions, it's easy to see how much overlap there is between the terms Hispanic and Latino. To make things more confusing, the term "Hispanic" comes from the Latin word for "Spain," while Latino comes from the Spanish word for "Latin."

To see where the two terms differ, consider the people of Brazilian descent. Since the people of Brazil speak Portuguese rather than Spanish, they would be considered Latino but not Hispanic.

So, the terms have much overlap, but they are not completely interchangeable. Hispanics and Latinos generally choose not to use either term. Instead, most prefer to be referred to simply as Americans or by their family's national origin, such as Mexican-American, Cuban-American, etc.

Today, there are more than 56 million Hispanic and Latino people in the United States, over 17% of the US population.