The demonyms Latino and Latina (feminine) are defined as:
In the United States, the term is in official use in the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino, defined as "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race."
The term Latino was officially adopted in 1997 by the United States Government in the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino, which replaced the single term "Hispanic". U.S. official use of the term "Hispanic" has its origins in the 1970 census. The Census Bureau attempted to identify all Hispanics by use of the following criteria in sampled sets:
Neither "Hispanic" nor "Latino" refers to a race, as a person of Latino or Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race. Like non-Latinos, a Latino can be of a single race of the following racial categories: White/Caucasian or Black/African, Asian, Native American, or Pacific Islander. Again like non-Latinos, some may identify with more than one race, such as Mestizo (a bi-racial person of White/Caucasian and Native American descent), Mulatto (a person of White/Caucasian and Black/African American descent), Zambo (a person of Native American and Black/African American descent) or any other race or combination.
Although as officially defined in the United States Census, the "Hispanic" category does not include Brazilian Americans, and specifically refers to "Spanish culture or origin" however Brazil is part of Latin America so some of the dictionary definitions may include them and/or Brazilians as Latinos in general. Furthermore, Hispanic or Latino origin is, like race, a matter of self-identification in the US, and government and non-government questionnaires, including the census form, usually contain a blank entry space wherein respondents can indicate a Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin other than the few (Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban) which are specified; presumably, Brazilian Americans can thus self-identify as being of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity —. However, Brazilian Americans are not included with Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S government's population reports.
Some authorities of American English maintain a distinction between the terms "Hispanic" and "Latino":
"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."
"Latin American" may also not mean the same as "Latino," depending on which definition of the latter is used. A Spaniard, for example, though a "Latino" by English and Spanish definitions definitions (including the U.S. government definition), does not need to have Latin American heritage. The term "Latin American" is applied to inhabitants of Latin America and is also preferred by some Latino individuals and organizations in the United States, as one of ways ‘Latino’ can be used is as a shortening of the term Latin American. Another term that Latinos are defined by and use to self-identify is Latin, as Latino also means Latin. , Latin is also defined as "a member of any of the Latin peoples, or those speaking chiefly Romance languages, esp. a native of or émigré from Latin America. Although "Latino" is almost always used to refer to those from a Spanish background, the way in which the word should be used, is to refer to anyone of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, or Romanian descent. "Latin American" is defined as:
| The countries of |
Latin Europe and Latin America
Latino (feminine Latina) in the Romance languages, such as Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, literally translates as "Latin". Portuguese dictionaries define the demonym Latino to refer to natives of Romance-speaking nations influenced by Roman civilization, and to the natives or inhabitants of ancient Latium (modern Lazio). Italian dictionaries define the demonym Latino as: the ancient Latins and Romans, and their language, Latin, as well as the neo-Latin nations. The dictionary of the Real Academia Española defines ten meanings for Latino, including the ancient peoples of Latium and the modern Romance-speaking European and American nations. In these languages, Latino, just like any other demonym, is by convention not capitalized.