What's The Difference Between Hispanic And Latino?

What's The Difference Between Hispanic And Latino?

The terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" are often used interchangeably, but they don't mean the same thing. In the broadest sense, "Hispanic" refers to those with a Spanish-speaking background and "Latino" refers to those with Latin-American heritage. Put another way, "Hispanic" is about language; "Latino" is about geography. Both of these terms are used almost exclusively to describe those living in the United States. The good news is that if you do use them interchangeably, you have a good chance of being right: the majority of Latinos are also Hispanic, and the majority of Hispanics are also Latino.

It's the instances where a person is one but not the other that add complexity to the issue. Take Brazil, for example. Brazil is a country in Latin America, so Brazilians are Latinos. But Brazilians speak Portuguese, not Spanish, so they're not Hispanic. On the contrary, people from Spain speak Spanish, so they're considered Hispanic. But Spain is not in Latin America, so the Spanish are not Latino. (The adjective "Spanish," it should be said, only refers to people from Spain). Things get more complex still when you consider that the root word for "Hispanic" is "Hispania," the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula. Because the Iberian Peninsula also contained Portugal, one could argue that people of Portuguese-speaking descent—like Brazilians—are also Hispanic. Hear the other strange exceptions to these rules in the videos below.

What's The Difference Between Latino and Hispanic?

On paper, it's simple. In practice, it's much more complicated.


Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    The word "Hispanic" comes from the Latin word "Hispanicus," meaning "from Hispania," which was a province of the Roman Empire. (0:26)

  • 2

    People from of Spanish descent are Hispanic, but not Latino; and people from Portuguese descent are Latino, but not Hispanic. (2:57)

  • 3

    People of European and Amerindian descent are Mestizo. (7:10)

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