mi·nor·i·ty (mə-nôrĭ-tē, -nŏr-, mī-)
n. pl. mi·nor·i·ties
a. The smaller in number of two groups forming a whole.
b. A group or party having fewer than a controlling number of votes.
a. A racial, religious, political, national, or other group thought to be different from the larger group of which it is part.
b. A group having little power or representation relative to other groups within a society.
c. A member of one of these groups. See Usage Note at color.
3. Law The state or period of being younger than the age for legal adulthood: still in her minority.
[French minorité, from Medieval Latin minōritās, from Latin minor, smaller; see MINOR.]
Usage Note: Socially speaking, a minority is an ethnic, racial, religious, or other group having a distinctive presence within a larger society. Some people object to this term as negative or dismissive, and it should be avoided in contexts where a group's status with regard to the majority population is irrelevant. Thus we would normally say a poem celebrating the diversity of cultures (not minorities) in America, where the emphasis is cultural as opposed to statistical or political. But in the appropriate context, as when discussing a group from a social or demographic point of view, minority is a useful term that need not be avoided as offensive. · A different problem arises when minority is used to refer to an individual rather than a group, as in the sentence As a minority, I am particularly sensitive to the need for fair hiring practices. In our 2011 survey, 58 percent of the Usage Panel found this example unacceptable. However, when the word was used in the plural without a numeral or a quantifier like many or some—as in The firm announced plans to hire more minorities and women—the Panelists were more approving, with only 25 percent judging an example such as this one unacceptable The discrepancy in these opinions can be explained by the fact that in this type of plural usage, the word is understood as referring to the members of a group taken collectively rather than as individuals.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.