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Legal Dictionary

discrimination

Definition of discrimination

Pronunciation

  • Rhymes: -eɪʃən

Etymology

    From the Latin discriminatio (accusative discriminationem), the action noun to discriminare "to discriminate".
    Learned Latinism in English use from the 17th century.

Noun

discrimination (plural discriminations)

  1. a distinction; discernment, the act of discriminating, discerning, distinguishing, noting or perceiving differences between things.
  2. The state of being discriminated, distinguished from, or set apart.
  3. (sometimes discrimination against) distinct treatment of an individual or group to their disadvantage; treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality; prejudice; bigotry

    sexual or racial discrimination

  4. The quality of being discriminating, acute discernment, specifically in a learning situation; as to show great discrimination in the choice of means.
  5. That which discriminates; mark of distinction, a characteristic.

Derived terms

Further reading

Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be used as an expression of derogatory racial prejudice in the 1830s from Thomas D. Rice's performances as "Jim Crow".

Since the American Civil War the term 'discrimination' generally evolved in American English usage as an understanding of prejudicial treatment of an individual based solely on their race, later generalized as membership in a certain socially undesirable group or social category. Discernment has remained in British English as a term denoting elite status in perception and insight, often attributed to success in investment finance, or anyone with admirable choice in style, often high society leaders.

Discriminatory laws such as redlining exist in many countries. In some places, controversial attempts such as racial quotas have been used to redress negative effects of discrimination.

Definitions

Within sociology, 'discrimination' is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. Discrimination is the actual behavior towards members of another group. It involves excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to other groups. Moral philosophers have defined it as disadvantageous treatment or consideration. This is a comparative definition. An individual need not be actually harmed in order to be discriminated against. He or she just needs to be treated worse than others for some arbitrary reason. If someone decides to donate to help orphan children, but decides to donate less, say, to black children out of a racist attitude, he or she will be acting in a discriminatory way even if he or she actually benefits the people he discriminates against by donating some money to them.

The United Nations stance on discrimination includes a statement that: "Discriminatory behaviors take many forms, but they all involve some form of exclusion or rejection."

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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