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o·ri·en·tal (ôrē-ĕntl)
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adj.
1. often Oriental Of or relating to the countries of the Orient or their peoples or cultures; eastern.
2. Oriental Biology Of or designating the biogeographic region that includes South Asia south of the Himalaya Mountains and Southeast Asia from southern China to Borneo.
3. Of or relating to the Oriental Orthodox Church.
4. Lustrous and valuable: oriental pearls.
5.
a. Of or relating to a genuine or superior gem: an oriental ruby.
b. Relating to or designating corundum that resembles another stone in color.
n. often Oriental
1. Often Offensive An Asian, especially a South Asian, Southeast Asian, or East Asian.
2. A domestic cat of a breed developed in Britain from the Siamese and other breeds, having a long slender body and either a long or short coat in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

ori·ental·ly adv.

Usage Note: Oriental is now considered outdated and often offensive in American English when referring to a person of Asian birth or descent. While this term is rarely intended as an outright slur, and may even be thought polite by some speakers, it is so associated with stereotypical images of Asians as portrayed in the West during an earlier era that its use in ethnic contexts should be routinely avoided. However, Oriental retains a certain currency in referring to Asian arts, foods, and practices, such as traditional medical procedures and remedies, where it is unlikely to give offense.

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:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    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.

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