Word Confusion: Bigotry vs Prejudice vs Racism

Posted January 1, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I warn you…my own prejudices will surface in this post…

While bigotry, prejudice, and racism are closely related, there are distinctions.

Bigotry is practiced by small-minded people who believe their way is the only way.

Prejudice is practiced by people who form their opinion [and hostility] based on other people’s opinions.

Racism is strictly about the race of a person, their having distinct physical characteristics that set them apart from another “race”.

What I find curious is how many whites are racists, but they don’t recognize color when it comes to sports or music…

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Bigotry Prejudice Racism
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: racism

Church sign proclaiming its bigotry

Muslims Demand ‘Bigoted’ Church Sign Removal, Pastor Has Perfect Reply” authored by Dom the Conservative and courtesy of Mad World News.com, 15 May 2016

Two gay men wearing pink garden hats and waving blue pompoms

“Couple” by bambe1964 is under the CC BY-ND 2.0 license, via VisualHunt

So many people are prejudiced against a love they don’t understand.

Young boy wearing Ku Klux Klan robes and pointed hat

“White People Hoodies” by Key West Wedding Photography, under the CC BY 2.0 license, via VisualHunt.

The Ku Klux Klan is all about racism.

Part of Grammar:
Plural for noun: bigotries
Noun 1 and 2; Verb, transitive 1

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: prejudices
Past tense or past participle: prejudiced
Gerund or present participle: prejudicing

Plural for noun: racism
Intolerant, narrow-minded, small-minded

Intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself

The actions, beliefs, prejudices, etc., of a bigot

Has no actual experience with the issue/people

Preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience 1

  • Dislike, hostility, or unjust behavior deriving from unfounded opinions

[Chiefly Law] Harm or injury that results or may result from some action or judgment 2

Verb, transitive:
Give rise to prejudice in someone 1

  • Make biased

[Chiefly Law] Cause harm to (a state of affairs)


Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior

  • The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races

Hatred or intolerance of another race or other races

  • Abusive or aggressive behavior towards members of another race on the basis of such a belief

A policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine

  • Discrimination
There are a ton of difficulties in combating prejudice and bigotry.

“It needs to be said: bigotry in the name of religion is still bigotry ; child abuse wrapped in a Bible verse is still child abuse.”, Parker Molloy, “Dear Leelah, We Will Fight On For You: A Letter to a Dead Trans Teen“, The Daily Beast, 1 January 2015

“No more allowing people to justify their bigotry by spouting a cherry-picked Bible verse.”, Parker Molloy, “Dear Leelah, We Will Fight On For You: A Letter to a Dead Trans Teen“, The Daily Beast, 1 January 2015

“Regarding Muslims, we have clearly seen in recent times an uptick in anti—Muslim bigotry.”, Dean Obeidallah, “Muslims & Jews Unite vs. Abercrombie & Fitch“, The Daily Beast, 16 December 2014

“But infidelity and bigotry are frequently next-door neighbors.”, Lewis Goldsmith, Memoirs of the Court of St. Cloud, Complete: Being Secret Letters from a Gentleman at Paris to a Nobleman in London, Vol. 5

“When the schoolteacher’s turn shall come, then let tyranny and bigotry beware.”, Maturin M. Ballou, Aztec Land

“True, bigotry barked there too, but culture went on its serene course.”, I. Zangwill, Dreamers of the Ghetto

“There’s a thousand years of prejudice and bigotry concentrated in you.”, Robert W. Service, “The Trail of Ninety-Eight

Aborigines are the main victims of racism in Australia.

There is a grave English prejudice against foreigners.

They harbor such ingrained religious prejudices.

Accusations of racial prejudice were hurled.

Prejudice could result in a delay in the institution of the proceedings.

The payment was made without any prejudice to her rights.

Verb, transitive:
That statement might prejudice the jury.

Delay is likely to prejudice the child’s welfare.

The government believes we need a program to combat racism.

There are some disgusting theories on racism.

“Cosby conspiracy theorists share a perspective born of a long, pained history of American racism.”, Stereo Williams, “Phylicia Rashad and the Cult of Cosby Truthers“, The Daily Beast, 8 January 2015

“One blames black Americans as a race; the other, racism as a social structure.”, James Poulos, “No Gods, No Cops, No Masters“, The Daily Beast, 1 January 2015

“The rule of law, you see, buckles, bends and sometimes crumbles under the weight of racism, sexism, and classism.”, Goldie Taylor, “What Would Happen if I Got in White Cop’s Face?“, The Daily Beast, 30 December 2014

Adjective: bigoted
Noun: bigot, bigotism
Adjective: prejudiceless, prejudicial, nonprejudiced, prejudicedly, quasi-prejudiced
Adverb: prejudicedly
Adjective: racist, racialist
Noun: antiracism, race, racist, racialist,
History of the Word:
Late 17th century, from bigot and reinforced by the French bigoterie. 1 C. 1300, in the sense of despite, contempt, from the Old French prejudice meaning prejudice, damage, from the Medieval Latin prejudicium meaning injustice, which is from the Latin praeiudicium meaning prior judgment, which is from the prae- meaning before (pre-) + iudicium (judgment), which is from iudex (genitive iudicis) meaning a judge.

2 Middle English from the Old French, which is from the Latin praejudicium, which is from prae (in advance) + judicium (judgement).

1865-70, from the French word racisme.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

NYC Pro-Muslim Rally Marching On Sept. 11th, 2010” by Viktor Nagornyy and Negro League by dbking are both under the CC BY 2.0 license and via VisualHunt.

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