The terms and definitions in this glossary have been collated by staff and students across St George’s, including consultation with student representatives and members of our staff networks to ensure they accurately represent the views of our diverse community.
It is important to mention that language is continually evolving, and terms and definitions mean different things to different people depending on their experiences and identities. We recognise the importance of discussion and consultation when deciding terms to be used, remaining aware of the complexities and sensitivities of language and identity. We will endeavour to keep this page up to date as language evolves.
If you would like to share any feedback or suggestions for this page, please email our Diversity and Inclusion Adviser.
Ableism - Ableism is discrimination or prejudice against people who have a disability. (Reference)
Ally - Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they may benefit in concrete ways. (Reference)
Anti-Black - Anti-black racism is the specific exclusion and prejudice against people visibly (or perceived to be) of African descent – what most of us would commonly call black people. (Reference)
Anti-racism – Anti-Racism is defined as the work of actively opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach, and set up in opposition to individual racist behaviours and impacts. An anti-racist is someone who recgonises and understands the structural and systemic underpinnings of racism. Additionally, an anti-racist is someone who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing antiracist ideas. This includes the expression of ideas that racial groups are equals, should be treated equally, and that no group needs developing, as well as supporting policies that reduce racial inequity. (Reference)
St George’s has adopted an Anti-Racism statement of commitment which aims to underpin our organisational approach to race equality.
Anti-Semitism - Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities (Reference)
Asexual / Ace - A person who does not experience sexual attraction. Some asexual people experience romantic attraction, while others do not. Asexual people who experience romantic attraction might also use terms such as gay, bi, lesbian, straight and queer in conjunction with asexual to describe the direction of their romantic attraction. (Reference)
BAME/BME – BAME stands for Black, Asian and minority ethnic whilst BME stands for Black and minority ethnic. Note that these categories do not include White minority ethnic groups and they do include those who identify as having a mixed ethnicity.
Use of the term BAME has been increasingly criticised due to the grouping together of diverse ethnicities, and the implication that it reflects a singular or homogenous ethnic identity. Additionally, this grouping differentiates and defines people against a white majority. BAME/BME has been used in research and data analysis, for example, when making statistical comparisons between White and BAME/BME populations. However, data collection and statistical analysis should seek to disaggregate ethnicity data further wherever numbers are large enough to ensure individuals are not homogenised and differences between groups are not overlooked (Reference)
Below is an example of how some black academics have described the use of the term BAME:
Race in the UK can be summarised in this metaphor of (a kitchen drawer).
“This is a place where anyone who isn’t white, all us brown-skinned immigrants from Far, Far Away, we get lumped together and put in a drawer. This is how race labels have traditionally worked in this country. This is what marginalisation feels like.” (Boakye, J. 2019:55)
Bisexual / Bi – Bisexual orBi is an umbrella term used to describe a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards more than one gender. Bi people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including, but not limited to, bisexual, pan, queer, and some other non-monosexual and non-monoromantic identities. (Reference)
Cisgender / Cis - Someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-trans is also used by some people. (Reference)
Classism - Classism is differential treatment based on social class or perceived social class. Classism is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups. It’s the systematic assignment of characteristics of worth and ability based on social class. (Reference)
Colourism - The term is defined as the discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone. This means that darker skinned people of colour have to fight prejudice even within their own community, where lighter skin is seen as more desirable. (Reference)
Cultural appropriation - The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society. (Reference)
Cultural competency - Cultural competence is defined in many ways but fundamentally it is the ability to communicate and interact effectively with people regardless of difference. Cultural competence applies to individual behaviours but also organisational systems, processes and culture. Being ‘culturally competent’ means having the knowledge and skills to be aware of one’s own cultural values and the implications of these for making respectful, reflective and reasoned choices. (Reference)
Decolonising the curriculum - While the term ‘decolonising’ has lent itself to multiple definitions across various post-colonial movements, in the context of its recent resurgence in higher education it broadly refers to (1) considering how forces of colonialism, empire and racism have shaped the world we live in today and (2) offering alternative ways of thinking about the world, particularly from the perspective of populations that have been historically oppressed and marginalised by these forces *. Gishen and Lokumage suggest ‘decolonising the curriculum’ refers to the aim to overturn power imbalances rooted in historic and institutional biases along axes of race, ethnicity, nationality, class, gender, sexual orientation and disability that are reflected in medical curricula. (Reference)
Diaspora - Individuals who are migrants or descendants of migrants and whose identity and sense of belonging, either real or symbolic, have been shaped by their migration experience and background are often referred to collectively as diaspora. There are currently an estimated 258 million people living outside of their country of birth and these migrants have formed diaspora communities in countries across the world. (Reference)
Diversity – Diversity is about valuing, respecting and acknowledging people’s differences. Diversity is important both in terms of characteristics, backgrounds and identities but also in relation to perspectives and experiences.
Disabled – The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as having a “physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”. This includes long-term health conditions, hidden disabilities and mental health conditions.
Ethnicity - Ethnicity is broader than race and has usually been used to refer to long shared cultural experiences, religious practices, traditions, ancestry, language, dialect or national origins (for example, African-Caribbean, Indian, Irish). Ethnicity can be seen as a more positive identity than one forged from the shared negative experiences of racism. It's more commonly used and asked about within diversity questionnaires in the UK. (Reference)
Ethnic Minority / Minority Ethnic – These terms usually refer to racial and ethnic groups that are in a minority in the population. In the UK, they usually cover all ethnic groups except White British. For example, they include White minority ethnic groups such as Polish or Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller. ‘Minority ethnic’ is sometimes preferred over ‘ethnic minority’. Use of minority ethnic was proposed to help counter the use of the term ‘ethnic’ when referring to people who are not White British. Some felt that by not putting ‘ethnic’ first, ‘minority ethnic’ better recognised the fact that everyone has an ethnicity including White British people. (Reference)
Equality – Equality refers to the fair treatment of everyone, ensuring all individuals are treated with dignity and respect.
Equity – Equity focuses on the equality of outcomes, recognising the need to ‘level the playing field’. It is different from equality, which focuses on treating everyone the same. Equity focuses on treating people differently depending on what is needed to reach equality of outcome, this includes recognising the barriers that prevent this from happening.
Gay - Refers to a man who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men. Also a generic term for lesbian and gay sexuality - some women define themselves as gay rather than lesbian. Some non-binary people may also identify with this term. (Reference)
Gender identity – A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else (see non-binary below), which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth (Reference)
Gender expression - How a person chooses to outwardly express their gender, within the context of societal expectations of gender. A person who does not conform to societal expectations of gender may not, however, identify as trans. (Reference)
Gender reassignment - Another way of describing a person’s transition. To undergo gender reassignment usually means to undergo some sort of medical intervention, but it can also mean changing names, pronouns, dressing differently and living in their self-identified gender. Gender reassignment is a characteristic that is protected by the Equality Act 2010, and it is further interpreted in the Equality Act 2010 approved code of practice. (Reference)
Global Majority – The term global majority focuses on the global population and recognises that the majority ethnicity is not White, therefore ethnicities such as Black or Black British and Asian or Asian British should not be defined as a minority group. (Reference)
Heterosexual - Refers to a man who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards women or to a woman who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men. The term “straight” is also used to describe heterosexuality. (Reference)
Hidden (or invisible) disability – Hidden or invisible disabilities are not visible and/or not immediately obvious, such as learning difficulties, mental health as well as mobility, speech, visual or hearing impairments. Living with a hidden disability can make daily life more demanding for many people, but it can be difficult for others to identify, acknowledge or understand the challenges faced. Some individuals may choose to indicate that they have a disability by wearing a sunflower lanyard or displaying an information card. (Reference)
Intersex – the term intersex refers to individuals who possess a set of chromosomes which are not XX or XY, for example, or have a presentation of genital organs and/or reproductive organs that do not fit into the binary models of “male” and “female”. (Reference)
Institutional racism - The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report (1999) defines institutional racism as: “The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.” It is further defined as “the differential access to the goods and services and opportunities of society by race… codified in our institutions of custom, practice, and law… Institutionalised racism manifests itself both in material conditions and in access to power.” (Jones, 2000) It includes informal systems, rules and actions that result in “racially inequitable outcomes”. (Flynn et al., 2017).
Further explanation of institutional racism is provided in St George’s, University of London Anti-Racism Statement of Commitment
Intersectionality – Intersectionality was first used by American legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe the distinct form of discrimination Black women experienced. Since then, intersectionality has been expanded to critically interrogate the ways in which race, gender, class and other individual characteristics interconnect to produce multiple forms of exclusion and discrimination beyond sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, racism, ageism and so forth. This is important because it recognises that individuals rarely fall into one simple category, instead they are complex and this means any initiatives to challenge exclusion must also have an intersectional approach. (MSC guide – about to be published)
Imposter Syndrome - People who suffer from imposter syndrome “feel that they’ve somehow managed to slip through the system undetected; in their mind, it’s just a matter of time before they’re found out". Even overwhelming evidence of ones abilities isn’t enough to counter inner feelings of fraudulence. Research finds imposter syndrome is more common among women. (Valerie Young, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It)
Islamophobia - Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness. (Reference)
LGBT+ or LGBTQIA - LGBT+is an acronym that encompasses a range of sexualities and gender identities. The first part of the term (LGB) refers to lesbian, gay and bisexual. The T refers to trans The plus sign is often used to enable inclusion of additional groups who are not specifically listed in the letters LGBT. Sometimes the acronym LGBTQIA is used. In this acronym, the Q refers both to queer and/or questioning. The ‘I’ represents intersex and the A is used to represent asexual. These terms are all defined individually in this glossary. (Reference)
Lesbian - Refers to a woman who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards women. Some non-binary people may also identify with this term. (Reference)
Microaggressions – The term microaggression is used to describe ‘commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups’ (D W Sue, Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation, 2010)
Microaggressions are most frequently referred to in relation to race and ethnicity and have been defined as ‘subtle and insidious, often leaving the victim confused, distressed and frustrated and the perpetrator oblivious of the offense they have caused (Rollock, 2012)’ (Reference)
Minoritised ethnic - Minoritised ethnic’ (or the similar term ‘racially minoritised’) recognises that individuals have been minoritised through social processes of power and domination rather than just existing in distinct statistical minorities. It also better reflects the fact that ethnic groups that are minorities in the UK are majorities in the global population. (Reference)
Neurodiversity or Neurodivergent - Neurodiversity is the diversity of human minds and the fact that brains and neurocognition vary among all individuals. All these variations are ‘normal’ and ‘valuable’ with neurodiversity being the concept that neurological differences are to be recognised and respected as any other human variation. The term encompasses attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, various mental health issues such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety issues, acquired memory losses, Tourette’s and other neurominorities. (Reference)
Non-binary – An umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely. The terms NB or enby might also be used to refer to non-binary. (Reference)
Pansexual - Refers to a person whose romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by sex or gender. (Reference)
People of colour or PoC – People of colour is gaining popularity in the UK after originating in the US. Some feel it is preferable to terms such as BAME/BME or ethnic minority because it doesn’t define people against a white majority. However, it still faces criticism for grouping people together and therefore failing to recognise the differences between ethnic groups. (A guide to race and ethnicity terminology and language | The Law Society) The term BIPoc (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) is also used by some to recognise these different groups and to build solidarity.
Personal racism - These forms of racism can either be direct and identifiable and manifested through harassment and offensive behaviour or can be subtle and covert that operate through microaggressions. The following provide some examples of Direct and identifiable forms of racism (NB this is not an exhaustive list)
- Physical assault against a person or group due to their race, colour, ethnic or national origins;
- Derogatory name calling, insults, ridiculing and racist jokes;
- Racist graffiti;
- Provocative behaviour such as wearing racists badges or insignia;
- Verbal abuse and threats related to race;
- Incitement of others to behave in a racist way;
- Racist comments within the context of meetings, teaching sessions.
- Racist comments online and in social media posts
(Taken from St George’s, University of London Anti-Racism Statement of Commitment)
Pronouns – Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation - for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some people may prefer others to refer to them in gender neutral language and use pronouns such as they/their and ze/zir (Reference)
Psychological Satefy - Psychological safety is a condition in which human beings feel (1) included, (2) safe to learn, (3) safe to contribute, and (4) safe to challenge the status quo – all without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way. (Timothy R Clark The Four Stages of Psychological Safety)
Queer - Queer is a term used by those wanting to reject specific labels of romantic orientation, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It can also be a way of rejecting the perceived norms of the LGBT community (racism, sizeism, ableism etc). Although some LGBT people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed in the late 80s by the queer community who have embraced it (Reference)
Questioning - The process of exploring your own sexual orientation and/or gender identity. (Reference)
Race - Race is a categorisation that is based mainly on physical attributes or traits, assigning people to a specific race simply by having similar appearances or skin colour (for example, black or white). The categorisation is rooted in colonialism and in white supremacy and efforts to prove biological superiority and maintain dominance over others. It's now widely accepted that race is a social construct. However, having been racialised and shared common experiences of racism, racial identity is important to many and can be a basis for collective organising and support for racially minoritised individuals. In the Equality Act 2010, the protected characteristic of ‘race’ is defined as including colour, ethnic or national origin, or nationality. (Reference)
Racialised minority – This term draws attention to the racialisation of people of colour and serves to highlight the discursive power of whiteness. As such the term is a critique of whiteness and therefore a form of resistance. (Reference)
Reasonable adjustments - Reasonable adjustments is the term used in the Equality Act 2010. In a workplace or education context this refers to changes or adjustments that are made to ensure indviduals with a disability can fully access education and employment. Individuals may prefer the terms 'reasonable accommodations' or 'workplace adjustments'. For more information about reasonable adjustments at St George's, see our webpage.
Sinophobia - Anti-Chinese racism or Sinophobia is described as fear or dislike of China, or Chinese people, their language or culture. Sinophobia or anti-Chinese sentiment is a type of racism that affects Chinese people and those who are perceived to be Chinese. Since the Coronavirus pandemic began, there has been a significant increase in incidents of Sinophobia in the UK as well as internationally. (Reference)
Systemic or structural racism - Structural racism refers to the systems and structures in which the policies and practices are located, interacting with institutional culture, environment, curriculum, and other ‘norms’, and compounded by wider external history, culture and systemic privilege that perpetuate ‘race’ inequality. (Reference)
Tokenism - Tokenism is the practice of cherry-picking a handful of societally underrepresented individuals, as a perfunctory effort to appear diverse and representative of the larger society. (Reference)
Trans – An umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois. These terms are not interchangeable and it is important to refer to individuals with the term that they identify with. (Reference)
Transphobia - The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact they are trans, including denying their gender identity or refusing to accept it. Transphobia may be targeted at people who are, or who are perceived to be, trans. (Reference)
Unconscious Bias - Implicit or unconscious bias happens by our brains making incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realising. Our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. We may not even be aware of these views and opinions, or be aware of their full impact and implications. (Reference)
White privilege – The term ‘white privilege’ was coined by Peggy McIntosh in her essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” in 1989. The term white privilege recognises that racism not only puts those from ethnic minority at a disadvantage, but it also puts people from white backgrounds at an advantage. McIntosh says ‘I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks’. (Reference) This term does not seek to suggest that white people face no disadvantages, but recognises that those from white backgrounds will not be disadvantaged because of their skin colour.
White fragility – Author Robin DiAngelo defines “White Fragility” as ‘a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium’ (Reference)
White Supremacy - Author Lalyla F Saad defines white supremacy in the following way: "white supremacy is about this idea, this belief, this ideology that people who are white or who look white are superior to people of other races, and therefore they deserve to be dominant over people of other races. And that dominance shows up in various different ways. It showed up centuries ago with genocide and enslavement and colonization. But it still shows up today, in interpersonal relationships, in what we see as the norm in the media, or the norm in companies, or the norm in schools. And so dominance doesn’t have to just be enslavement." (Reference)