DEI Glossary

Discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion are ever-evolving as we advocate for ourselves, our loved ones, and the greater community. To ensure clear, inclusive, and effective communication and to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations, it is imperative that we stay informed about emerging terminologies and inclusive language practices. 

The following glossary presents key terms frequently used. We hold that these terms are working definitions, meaning it captures our current understanding and connotations but are subject to change as we learn about different perspectives and the lived experiences of our multicultural community. 

Diversity - The presence of variety in one place regarding race, gender, class, ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, attraction identity, national origin, socioeconomic status, language, and physical ability. 

Equity - Freedom from systemic bias or favoritism. Parity across differences. Product and service access, opportunity, quality, and outcomes that do not vary by race, gender, class, or other meaningful differences. 

Inclusion - Creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to participate fully.

Term Definition
Ableism A belief or set of discriminatory actions against individuals with physical or intellectual disabilities or psychiatric disorders.
Accessibility The intentional design or redesign of physical spaces, technology, policies, system, entity, products, and services (to name a few) that increase one's ability to use, access, and obtain the respective element.  
Acculturation The process of learning and incorporating the language, value, beliefs, and behaviors that makes up a distinct culture. Under the process of acculturation, an individual will adopt new practices while still retaining their distinct culture. 
ADA Acronym: Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is a civil rights law signed in 1990 that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.
Affirm To acknowledge, respect, and support a person's identity regarding race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, experiences, ideas, or beliefs.
Ageism Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in age.
Ally Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on race, gender, class, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. 
Anti-Racism Refers to the work of actively opposing discrimination based on race by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. 
Assimilation The process by which an individual of a minority group gradually adopts characteristics of the majority culture, thereby, becoming a member of that culture. This can include adopting the language, food, communication, gender roles, etc. Assimilation can be voluntary or forced.
Attraction Identity (Sexual Orientation) Represents gender(s) to whom a person is emotionally, physically, romantically, or sexually attracted. E.g. gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, queer, androsexual, etc. 
Bias Prejudice in favor or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, unusually in a way that is considered unfair. 
Bigotry Extreme intolerance of the beliefs and opinions of an individual or group
BIPOC Acronym: Black, Indigenous, People of Color. It recognizes the collective experiences of systemic racism and meant to emphasize the unique experience of Black and Indigenous people in the United States. 
Bisexuality Romantic and/or sexual attraction to more than one gender.
Cisgender A term for people whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned at birth. 
Classism The institutional, cultural, and individual set of actions and beliefs that assign differential value to people according to their socioeconomic status. 
Cognitive Dissonance Tension between conflicting attitudes and beliefs with behaviors, that results in mental discomfort and dissonance-reduction responses. 
Colonization The action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area that can begin as geographical intrusion in the form of agricultural, urban, or industrial encroachments. The results of such incursions is the dispossession of vast amounts of lands from the original inhabitants. The dispossession of lands is often legalized after the fact resulting in institutionalized inequality that becomes permanent fixtures of society. 
Colorblind  The attitude that people should be treated as equally as possible, without regard to race or ethnicity. Though seemingly equitable, it tends to overlook the importance of people's cultures and the manifestations of racism in policy and institutions. 
Colorism The prejudice and/or discrimination against an individual with dark skin color, tone, shake, pigmentation, or complexion. 
Culture A social system of customs, behaviors, norms, values, habits, skills, ideologies, and beliefs. Culture affects thoughts and actions, often without us or other even being aware. 
Cultural humility An approach that involves recognizing and respecting cultural differences, being open to learning from other cultures, and acknowledging the limitations of one's own cultural perspective. It requires self-reflection, an attitude of respect and curiosity, and a willingness to build relationships based on mutual understanding. 
Deadnaming Using a person's birth name rather than their current chosen name. Most often used to disregard a trans person's identity. 
DEI Acronym: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Other iterations include J, A, and B for Justice, Access, and Belonging, respectively.  
Disability Physical or mental impairment that affects a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Discrimination The unequal  and unfair treatment of individuals or groups based on race, gender, class, etc. Also the act of making unjustified distinctions between certain social or racial groups or classes. 
Diversity The presence of variety in one place regarding race, gender, class, ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, attraction identity, national origin, socioeconomic status, language, and physical ability. 
Emotional Intelligence A term used to describe our ability to understand what we are feeling and how it impacts our actions. 
Equity Freedom from systemic bias or favoritism. Parity across differences. Product and service access, opportunity, quality, and outcomes that do not vary by race, gender, class, or other meaningful differences. 
Ethnicity A common identity based on ancestry, language, culture, nation or region of origin. 
Eurocentrism A worldview based on the preservation of Western cultural supremacy. 
Gaslighting A form of psychological abuse by shaming, casting self-doubt, and/or altering the perception of truth. 
Gender Expression The way in which a person embodies, demonstrates, or performs their gender outwardly through the ways they act, dress, behave, etc. Currently, society identifies these cues as masculine or feminine, understanding that masculinity and femininity changes over time and varies by culture. 
Gender Identity Refers to a person's own internal sense of self regarding their gender. Common gender identities include, but are not exclusive to, genderqueer, man, nonbinary, woman. 
Genocide The process of extermination of a social group by using direct and/or cultural violence. 
Gentrification A process of economic change in a historically disinvested neighborhood that happens through mechanism such as real estate investment and increase in higher-income residents, resulting in the displacement of long-term residents and demographic changes in income, education, and racial make-up. 
Harassment Unwanted conduct with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment based on race, gender, ability, etc. 
Heteronormative A worldview that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation. It assumes the gender binary and that sexual and marital relations are most fitting between a man and a woman. It involves the alignment of biological sex, sexuality, gender identity, and gender roles and that gender and sexual diversity is wrong. 
Homophobia (Heterosexism) Fear, prejudice, discomfort, or hatred of people attracted to members of their same gender. It occurs in a wide social context that systematically disadvantages LGBTQ+ people and promotes and rewards anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment. 
Implicit Bias A form of prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group that occurs automatically and unintentionally, that nevertheless affects judgments, decisions, and behaviors. Take the implicit bias test.
Inclusion Creating environment in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to particulate fully. 
Indigenous People A term used to identify ethnic groups who are the earliest known inhabitants of an area. In the US, this can refer to groups traditionally termed Natives, Native Americans, American Indian, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. 
Institutional Racism Unfair or biased institutional or organizational practices and policies that create different (or inequitable) outcomes for different racial groups.
Intent vs Impact Intent refers to what you hope or want to do when choosing to perform an action. Impact refers to the reality, results, or consequences of your actions. Intent versus impact is a phrase meant to honor intent and hold people accountable for the impact they have on others. 
Internalized Racism The conscious or unconscious development of ideas, beliefs, social structures, actions, and behaviors that confirm one's acceptance of the dominant society's racist tropes and stereotypes about their own race. It is the simultaneous hating of oneself and one's own race and valuing the dominant race. 
Intersectionality The intertwining of social identities such as gender, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, attraction identity, etc., which result in unique experiences, opportunities, barriers, or social inequality. 
Justice The process of society moving from an unfair, unequal, or inequitable state to one that is fair, equal, and equitable. A transformative practice that relies on the entire community to acknowledge past and current harms to reform societal morals and subsequently the governing laws. Proactive enforcement of policies, practices, and attitudes that produce equitable access, opportunities, treatment, and outcomes for all regardless of the various identities that one holds. 
Latine (Latinx) A gender-neutral or nonbinary term that refers to a person of Latin American descent (gender-neutral version of Latino or Latina). -e is said to be more colloquial to Spanish-speakers than -x
LGBTQIA2P+ Acronym: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and Pansexual/Pangender. The + includes all other expressions of gender identity and attraction identity and recognizes that definitions may grow and evolve over time. Usually seen as LGBTQ+. 
Marginalization The process that occurs when members of a dominant group relegate a particular group to the edge of society by not allowing them an active voice, identity, or place for the purpose of maintaining power. Marginalized groups have restricted access to education, healthcare, and generational wealth. 
Marginalized Group Any group of people who, because of their physical, neurological, or cultural characteristics, are singled out from others in society through differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination. Used to replace "Minority Group" as numerical minority is not necessarily appropriate, relevant, or accurate in many cases. 
Microaggression Intentional or unintentional commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, which communicate hostile, derogatory slights toward culturally marginalized groups. 
Misgender Referring or relating to a person using language whether a word or a pronoun that is not in line with another's gender identity, whether intentionally or unintentionally. This behavior or action often occurs when people make assumptions about a person's gender identity. 
Misogyny Hatred, aversion, or prejudice against women. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women. 
Misognynoir An extreme form of sexism rooted in racism. The term describes the contempt for or ingrained prejudice toward Black women. The unique oppression experienced by Black women due to the intersectionality of gender, race, and class combined with discrimination. Misogynoir utilizes and reinforces stereotypes of Black women. 
Multiculturalism The practice of acknowledging, respecting, and supporting the various cultures, religions, languages, social equity, races, ethnicities, attitudes, and opinions within an environment or involving a cultural or ethnic group. The theory and practice that promote the peaceful coexistence of all identities and people. 
Neurodiversity The presence of neurological differences that present in the way individuals act, think, hear, and communicate. These differences can include, but are not exclusive to, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Dyslexia. 
Non-Binary A term describing a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusive to male or female. 
Oppression A system of supremacy and discrimination for the benefit of a limited dominant group perpetuated through differential or unjust treatment, ideology, and institutional control. 
Othering The perception or intentional/unintentional placement of a group in contract to the societal norm. The identifying of a group as a threat to the favored dominant group. 
Passing Perceived membership of a dominant social group that results in privilege for target group members. 
Patriarchy Social system in which men hold primary power and authority both in social, economic, political, and cultural structures and can have negative impacts on women's rights, well-being, and empowerment. 
Power The ability of one person or group of people to produce the effects they want to produce. Power occurs when some individuals or groups wield a greater advantage over others, thereby allowing them greater access to and control over resources. 
Prejudice An inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgement and can be rooted in stereotypes that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with unique characteristics.
Privilege Certain social advantages, benefits, or degrees of prestige and respect that an individual has by virtue of belonging to certain social identity groups.
Pronouns The set of pronouns that an individual would like others to use when referring to them when not using their name. E.g. he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs. 
Queer An umbrella term that denotes a sexual or gender identity that does not correspond to heteronormative ideas of sexuality and gender.
Race A social construct that divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly skin color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification and are often associated with the social, economic, and political needs of a society at a given time. 
Racism The result of power plus privilege which plays out on multiple levels such as interpersonal, structural, and institutional. 
Restorative Justice The process of achieving justice rooted in Indigenous practices, using inclusion, harm repair, amends, and community reintegration. 
Safe Space An environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and participating fully without fear of attack, ridicule, or denial of experience.
Social Justice A form of activism based on principles of equity and inclusion that encompasses a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable, and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. 
Socialization The process of internalize the norms and ideologies of society. Socialization happens with or without our permission. 
Stereotype A form of generalization rooted in blanket beliefs and false assumptions, a product of categorization processes that can result in a prejudiced attitude, uncritical judgment and intentional or unintentional discrimination. Stereotypes are typically negative and based on little information that does not recognize individualism and personal agency. 
Tokenism The practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing. E.g. including a person of color to seem diverse, but not allowing said person to have a voice or power in their role. 
Tone-policing A silencing and retailing tactic used by focusing on the delivery rather than the truth of the narrative. 
Transgender/Trans A term for people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth. 
Transitioning The myriad of actions people may take to connect with the gender with which they identify. 
Transphobia Fear or hatred of transgender people and can manifest as violence, harassment, and discrimination. 
Two-Spirit A sacred and historical identity exclusively for Indigenous individuals who embodies both female and male spirits. 
White Fragility The state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves in white people. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. 
White Privilege The inherent set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white; an exemption of social, political, and/or economic burdens placed on non-white people. Generally, white people who experience privilege, both at the collective and individual level, do so without being conscious of it and may not experience socioeconomic privilege but are not hindered by the economic barriers associated with the color of one's skin. 
White Supremacy Policies, practices, norms, and laws meant to benefit those citizens considered white based on the belief that those people considered white are inherently better. 
Whiteness The worldview that comes from systems, norms, and beliefs being intended to benefit white people. 
Xenophobia Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions against people who are different from oneself, based on fear or hatred of strangers. Xenophobia is reflected in interpersonal, institutional, and systemic levels of oppression and white supremacy. 


  1. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Key Terms and Definitions. National Association of Counties.
  2. Glossary of Terms. Columbia School of Social Work.
  3. DEI Glossary of Terms. Foster School of Business. 
  4. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary. College of the Environment, University of Washington.