Wondering what’s the difference between hispanic and latino?

If you came across these words and are not sure about what’s the difference between hispanic and latino, we’ll try to clarify what they refer to and when to use them!

You might have heard the words hispanic and latino referring to someone without understanding why: for example, someone can be hispanic but not latino or viceversa! The confusion generates from the fact that they refer to completely different things and can’t be used interchangeably.

Both words have been used in the US for a long time, but what’s their meaning?

Let’s try to explain it better!

Normally we use the word hispanic referring to someone who is Spanish speaking or have a Spanish-speaking background. Therefore people who are called hispanic may speak Spanish or not: for example, they may not speak the language but have Spanish speaking ancestors.

So someone from Mexico is hispanic, because of the language spoken and the linguistic backgrounds. As you can see, the main aspect is the language, which is part of the culture and can be shared by people from different ethnicity.

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On the other hand, we use the word latino (or latina if we use the feminine form) when we refer to someone who was born in or has ancestors from Latin America: for example, it’s correct if used for people from Mexico and from Brazil, which is also a country from Latin America. The word latino, then, is not linked to the language spoken, but to the geographic area of provenience: anyone from Central and Southern America and the Caribbean is latino! (Even though there is a debate about the Caribbean, as not all people from Caribbean would use the word latino to define themselves).

So someone from Mexico is hispanic and latino, whilst someone from Brazil is latino but not hispanic! Besides, someone from Spain can’t be called latino, because is from Europe, but is definitely hispanic!

Both words refer to shared culture and identity, so are definitely broader than only ethnicity!

Don’t forget to have a look at our interesting article about the Spanish language and dialects!

And if you need to boost your Spanish, check our Spanish Intensive One-to-One lessons!