(noun) The unequal treatment of an individual or group on the basis of their statuses (e.g., age, beliefs, ethnicity, sex) by limiting access to social resources (e.g., education, housing, jobs, legal rights, loans, or political power).

Audio Pronunciation: (dis·crim·i·na·tion)

Download Audio Pronunciation: discrimination.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: discriminations
  • Discrimination occurs on the individual and institutional level.
  • Discrimination is often divided into de facto discrimination and de jure discrimination. De facto (Latin for “concerning fact”) discrimination describes covert social practices while de jure (Latin for “concerning law” or “in law”) discrimination describes overt discrimination such as women not being allowed to vote or minorities not serving on juries.
  • A type of ethnocentrism.
  • Also called:
    • favoritism
    • partiality
    • prejudice
  • Types:
  • A (noun) discriminator (verb) discriminates (adverb) discriminatorally in a (adjective) discriminational or (adjective) discriminatory or (adjective) discriminative manner.

Related Quotations:

  • “[D]iscrimination creates a terrible irony: the very discrimination that invalidates the American Dream for man Americans creates conditions that seem to validate it for others, enabling them to embrace it so fervently. By excluding entire categories of people from equal access to opportunity, discrimination has reduced reduced competition and increased the chances to get ahead of others, who often mistakenly conclude that their own success is based exclusively on the own individual ‘merit'” (McNamee and Miller 2013:18).
  • “In addition to prejudices, the dominant group also applies various actions against minority ethnic groups, including avoidance, denial, threat, or physical attack. At different times, all of these forms of coercion may be used, depending on how threatening the minority group is perceived to be. These actions are collectively called discrimination” (Marger 1985:45).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 



McNamee, Stephen J., and Robert K. Miller. 2013. The Meritocracy Myth. 3rd. ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Marger, Martin. 1985. Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.