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  • Writer's pictureMaría Palomares Tarí


Have you ever get caught confusing geographical terms? Whether in a business meeting, talking to a client or having an informal conversation, it's always quite embarrassing to mix up words when referring to nationalities, languages, countries and regions.

Here’s a list of some of the trickiest and easily mistaken terms in English. Check the differences out and don’t get confused again!

Latino vs. Hispanic

The term “Latino” refers to geography; people who are from or descended from Latin America or the Caribbean. It is, in fact, a shortened form of the Spanish phrase latinoamericano — Latin American, in English.

Conversely, “Hispanic” refers to people who speak Spanish and/or are descended from Spanish-speaking populations. That includes places like Spain, in Europe, and even the tiny African nation of Equatorial Guinea.

Persian vs. Iranian

“Persian” refers to the majority-ethnicity of Iran. It is also an anglicization of “Farsi,” the official language of the Islamic Republic and the predominant language of literature, journalism, and the sciences.

“Iranian” is a nationality, assigned to anyone who is a citizen of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or descended from such individuals. This includes ethnic Azeris, Lurs, Kurds, Balochis, Arabs, Turkmen and Turkic tribes.

Chinese vs. Mandarin

It is commonly said that “Chinese” is like a large umbrella with a bunch of languages under it. “Mandarin” is one of those languages underneath; it is considered the standard language and the most spoken one in the People’s Republic of China. “Mandarin” is also labeled by the Chinese Government as the official language of the country.

The term “Chinese” is then an ethnic umbrella-term, which includes the Han, Zhuang, Hui, and Manchu; but also a broader nationalistic term, referring to anyone with citizenship granted by both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Arabic vs. Arab vs. Arabian

“Arab” refers to an ethnic group that forms the majority in a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. It is also the normal adjective (e.g. the Arab World, the Arab Press). Alternatively, “Arabic” is the language spoken in Arab countries.

Meanwhile, “Arabian” generally refers to items or plan/animal species originating on the Arabian Peninsula (the historical homeland of ethnic Arabs) or is used in place names (e.g. the Arabian Sea).

England vs. Great Britain vs. The United Kingdom vs. The British Isles

England is a constituent country of the United Kingdom and people from there would be referred to as “English”.

By contrast, Great Britain refers to the territory of England, Scotland and Wales. If you are then referring to this larger entity, the word you should use is “British”.

The United Kingdom, meantime, is the political entity, ruled by Queen Elisabeth II, and it refers to England, Scotland, Wales and the six counties of Northern Ireland.

As a final remark, the British Isles are the set of North Atlantic islands that include Ireland, Great Britain, and the Isle of Man.


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