Adj. (Neologism) In my belief Hispanic and Latino/a are usually used interchangeably in order to refer to those who come from Spanish speaking countries. This usually refers to people who come from Latin American countries that live in the United States. There are many controversial debates on whether the words mean the same thing or refer to different things. (Even though the terms themselves are not new, their significance and debate behind them, on the campus of William and Mary, is new).



OED Definition: Pertaining to Spain or its people; esp. pertaining to ancient Spain.

OED Etymology: “< Latin Hispānicus Spanish ( < Hispānia ).”

year: 1974 Econ. & Social Statistics for Spanish-speaking Americans

Urban Dictionary definition/etymology: “Hispanic-an ancient adjective and noun-was mainstreamed as a political label in the United States in the early 1970’s. The purpose for the introduction of such an ancient adjective by the Nixon administration was ostensibly to create a political label solely for the purpose of applying the constitutional anti-discrimination standard of “strict scrutiny” to anyone who was labeled Hispanic. The label had the immediate effect of linking the entire population of the 19 nations that comprise Latin America, as well as, distinguishing the “Hispanic” colonial heritage of Latin American Countries from the “Anglo Saxon” colonial heritage of the United States.”

Year: 2005


OED Definition: A Latin-American inhabitant of the US.

OED Etymology: American Spanish

Urban Dictionary definition/etymology: Means “latin”. The culture and language of ancient Italy. The Roman Empire took over most of Europe and influenced their languages and cultures, so it “latinized” the continent and the new languages are called Romance Languages (with roots in Rome). After Columbus’s discovery of America (the Continent), and the subsequent colonizations of most of the new continent by Spain and Portugal, the latino influence was expanded. Latino is a person who speaks a romance language (i.e. Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese) or their cultural heritage comes from any country that speaks any of those languages. In the US the word latino is misused to name only people from Latin America. The Latin America was a term first created to mean “the part of America ruled by Latino countries, Spain and Portugal” in opposition to the Anglo-Saxon America, ruled by the British (now Eastern United States). In this sense, some parts of the United States are part of the Latin America because they were ruled by Spain at some point (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas).

Year: 2006


Everyone uses this word in order to refer to people who come from Latin American countries. The government usually only uses the word Hispanic, but many people in daily lives use the word Latino/Latina. It is used on campus when they want to know the demographics of the school. We also use the word when we talk about Hispanic Studies, a major offered here at the college.

When most people ask me “what I am,” “what my background is,” or “where I come from” I usually don’t say I am Hispanic or Latina, I say I am Salvadorian.


These words are definitely going to be around for awhile, considering that they have been relevant for a long time. I think the difference now is that the Hispanic/Latino community is becoming more and more present and the label might change. There is a lot of debate as to what the community should be referred to considering that many of the Latin American countries have their own culture.


These words for me are very emotionally charged. Although I had never thought about whether I would consider myself Hispanic or Latina, I know that many people do in fact prefer one thing or another. I myself, like I stated, consider myself Salvadorian. I also think that these terms are just labels for a community, and that they have been instilled upon the community rather than picking something for themselves. All Latin American countries are different and they all refer to themselves differently.


(the following screenshot is part of a book by Juan Flores and shows just how complicated the debate of Latino vs Hispanic is)

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(the following video shows how people on this campus label those who come from Latin America)

Here we see what other people think, with a special interview with the Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies, Silvia Tandeciarz.


What other people find:



  1. This is a really interesting post. In my own experiences I’ve heard both taken offensively and this has made me question which word to use. More recently Ive found myself using both more and more interchangeably although I think Latino/Latina has a more ethnic and prideful sense to it. I find both to be positive and non offensive words, although my opinion isn’t what matters most, even if I am half Hispanic/Latino. I definitely thought of Spain being under Hispanic and not Latino, Latino/a has a more South American continent. Its weird you never thought of calling yourself Hispanic or Latina, I’ve always taken pride in calling myself Ecuadorian but I also really like the idea of using Latino/Latina to describe a more united South America.

  2. kesandberg says:

    This is a great choice for a word! It’s funny, because the other day my parents were asking me what the correct word was to refer to the “Hispanic” population (as an older generation, they are always trying to make sure they are using politically correct terms for the modern day, like “black” vs. “African American”), but I really had no idea what the right answer was. You’re right when you say that each country has it’s own culture, and it’s very interesting that you yourself don’t consider yourself Hispanic, but rather Salvadorian. Do the terms carry an offensive connotation when someone labels you as Latino or Hispanic? Or has it just become so normal that you don’t really notice it? Now that you have looked more into the term, does one appeal to you more than the other based on their structure or connotations? Or would you rather just get rid of them both together and acknowledge each separate culture?

    Great post! It’s all about a debate that I never fell like I can make any judgments on, since I’m not from a Spanish speaking country, so I really enjoyed seeing your viewpoint. Plus, the definitions of the two terms from the OED were really interesting. I had no idea that that was actually what Latino meant. Great job!

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