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The difference between Latinx, Hispanic and Spanish

Sometimes phrases are interchangeable, but they don’t mean the same thing

A group of girls takes photographs in front of street art showing artist Frida Kahlo (Chris McGrath/Getty Images).
A group of girls takes photographs in front of street art showing artist Frida Kahlo (Chris McGrath/Getty Images).

Most people are used to hearing Hispanic and Latino, some default to Spanish and others are now getting accustomed to the term Latinx. It can be confusing, but we’ll help you sort it out.

Though some of those words could be used interchangeably, they all have distinct differences to properly address the Hispanic and Latinx community at large. To avoid misusing them, we broke down easy ways to remember the difference.

Latino/a

Supporters of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro hold Brazilian national flags as they keep vigil outside the Supreme Court in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. Brazils highest court reached a narrow decision that could release almost 5,000 inmates who are still appealing their convictions, including jailed former President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva. The countrys Supreme Court decided on a 6-5 vote Thursday night that a person can be imprisoned only after all appeals to higher courts have been exhausted. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Supporters of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro hold Brazilian national flags as they keep vigil outside the Supreme Court in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. Brazils highest court reached a narrow decision that could release almost 5,000 inmates who are still appealing their convictions, including jailed former President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva. The countrys Supreme Court decided on a 6-5 vote Thursday night that a person can be imprisoned only after all appeals to higher courts have been exhausted. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Latino and Latina refer to people whose origin or ancestry is in Latin America -- this excludes Spain. This term is based on geographic location, which is what separates it from the terms Hispanic or Spanish.

Spanish people aren’t Latino, but Brazilians are.

REMEMBER: If they’re from Latin America, they’re Latino or Latinx

Latinx

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Since Spanish is a gendered language, in the societal push for a gender-neutral term emerged the word Latinx. The x replaces the masculine “o” or feminine “a” in Latino and Latina to be more inclusive to those of Latin heritage who are gender non-conforming or queer. The term has been adopted by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

BONUS: Latine

This term is gaining some steam now in 2020. The term, like Latinx, is meant to be gender-neutral but easier for Spanish speakers to say. Latinx, pronounced La-TEEN-ex, is harsher sounding compared to the romance-language influenced La-TEEN. Some scholars believe Latine is easier to implement into language, but it isn’t as widely accepted as Latinx.

REMEMBER: If they’re from Latin America and prefer a gender-neutral term, consider Latinx or Latine

Hispanic

Show us how your family celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
Show us how your family celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

This term is more language based as opposed to geography. Hispanic refers to people of Spanish-speaking descent, encompassing countries from Latin America and Spain.

This time, Spaniards are considered Hispanic but Brazilians are not since they speak Portuguese.

REMEMBER: If they speak Spanish, they’re likely Hispanic

Spanish

A Spanish flags flies at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Speculation over the whereabouts of former monarch Juan Carlos is gripping Spain, a day after he announced he was leaving the country for an unspecified destination amid a growing financial scandal. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
A Spanish flags flies at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Speculation over the whereabouts of former monarch Juan Carlos is gripping Spain, a day after he announced he was leaving the country for an unspecified destination amid a growing financial scandal. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Though people often refer to Spanish as a language, it’s also a nationality. Anyone from Spain is Spanish, but just because someone speaks the language doesn’t make them Spanish.

REMEMBER: If they’re from Spain, they’re Spanish. If they’re not from Spain -- they’re not Spanish.


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