The American HeritageŽ Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
1. Of or relating to Spain or Spanish-speaking Latin America.
2. Of or relating to a Spanish-speaking people or culture.
1. A Spanish-speaking person.
2. A U.S. citizen or resident of Latin-American or Spanish descent.
[Latin Hispnicus, from Hispnia, Spain.]
Usage Note: Though often used interchangeably in American English,
Hispanic and Latino are not identical terms, and in certain contexts the
choice between them can be significant. Hispanic, from the Latin word
for "Spain," has the broader reference, potentially encompassing all
Spanish-speaking peoples in both hemispheres and emphasizing the common
denominator of language among communities that sometimes have little
else in common. Latino which in Spanish means "Latin" but which as an
English word is probably a shortening of the Spanish word
latinoamericano refers more exclusively to persons or communities of
Latin American origin. Of the two, only Hispanic can be used in
referring to Spain and its history and culture; a native of Spain
residing in the United States is a Hispanic, not a Latino, and one
cannot substitute Latino in the phrase the Hispanic influence on native
Mexican cultures without garbling the meaning. In practice, however,
this distinction is of little significance when referring to residents
of the United States, most of whom are of Latin American origin and can
theoretically be called by either word.ˇA more important distinction
concerns the sociopolitical rift that has opened between Latino and
Hispanic in American usage. For a certain segment of the
Spanish-speaking population, Latino is a term of ethnic pride and
Hispanic a label that borders on the offensive. According to this view,
Hispanic lacks the authenticity and cultural resonance of Latino, with
its Spanish sound and its ability to show the feminine form Latina when
used of women. Furthermore, Hispanic the term used by the U.S. Census
Bureau and other government agencies is said to bear the stamp of an
Anglo establishment far removed from the concerns of the
Spanish-speaking community. While these views are strongly held by some,
they are by no means universal, and the division in usage seems as
related to geography as it is to politics, with Latino widely preferred
in California and Hispanic the more usual term in Florida and Texas.
Even in these regions, however, usage is often mixed, and it is not
uncommon to find both terms used by the same writer or speaker. See
Usage Note at Chicano.