What Is the Difference Between “Asian” and “Oriental” Geographically?

There is no geographical difference between “Asian” and “Oriental.” “Asian” refers to a person from the continent of Asia, the largest continent in the world, which includes China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran, among others. The term “Asian” is typically used to refer to people with origins in East or Southeast Asia.

The word “Oriental” comes from the Latin “orient,” meaning Eastern. This term originates from the Eurocentric view that all Asian peoples are located to the East in relation to the speaker. Using such terminology puts European culture at the center of the world, naming all other cultures in terms of their relation to Europe.

As a result, “Oriental” is considered an outdated and politically incorrect word to describe people from East and Southeast Asia. Current usage describes other cultures in the terms they use to describe themselves. This ensures that the speaker demonstrates respect for other cultures.

The more acceptable way to describe someone is by their country of origin. Using the term “Chinese” for a person known to be from China is more acceptable than calling that person “Oriental.” Both New York State and Washington have eliminated the term “Oriental” from all official government documents and forms because of its loaded implications.