Difference Between Latino and Hispanic

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Latino and Hispanic

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Latino and Hispanic are often used interchangeably, but in reality, they’re two very different terms that refer to two different identities. In this article, we’ll look at the differences between Latino and Hispanics to get a better understanding of what it means to be both Latino and Hispanic in America today. We’ll also look at some of the political issues that have arisen as a result of these two identities being conflated.

While there are many subtle differences between two things, sometimes it can be helpful to pinpoint exactly what those differences are. After all, if you can’t explain a difference, how will you know when you see one? In cases where two words might be used interchangeably, it can help to break down why they’re different from each other. It might also help to remember that language is an ever-evolving thing—new terms (e.g., Latino) come into use as old ones fade away (e.g., Hispanic). Today we're here to compare Latino and Hispanics. Let's get started! The basic idea behind both of these words is about Spain or its culture or people.

When something has to do with Spain or Spanish people, it could technically be described as Hispano/Latino/Hispanic in English. So then what’s going on with Latino? What does it mean? Where did it come from? And should you care about it? Well...we can tell you everything we know about Latino and Hispanics so that you have no more questions. Now let's get to it! First off, we want to mention that Latino is considered to be politically correct because it encompasses several cultures: namely Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican Republic, and Central American.

On top of that Latino were chosen by journalists who were tired of saying Hispanic over and over again while writing their articles; so they went ahead and made up their word which encompassed multiple countries instead of just one. Lastly, most Latin Americans themselves prefer to be called Latinos rather than Hispanics since they feel that being called Hispanic makes them seem less important. For example, if someone says I am Latina she would not like to hear Oh I thought you were only part of a group! This is why many Latin Americans prefer to call themselves Latinos even though it doesn't make sense grammatically speaking.

Latino vs Hispanic

Let’s take a look at both terms and clear up any confusion over which one is correct. Latin American refers to someone from a country in Central or South America, including Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and many others. For example, I just visited my parents in Peru for Christmas. When I told people there that I was from Brazil they asked if I was Latina or Latino—Latina is an ethnicity so no matter where you are from you can be Latina. On the other hand, Latino refers to nationality. So if you are from Brazil then you would say I am Brazilian. If you were from Spain then you would say I am Spanish. Therefore, when someone asks me what my race is I always say I am Brazilian because of my nationality but I could also identify myself as Latina because of my ethnicity (regardless of what country I was born in). To summarize: If your heritage comes from anywhere in Latin America then it’s fine to call yourself Latina/o; however, it isn't okay to call yourself Hispanic/Latino because it has nothing to do with your heritage but rather your nationality.  You should only use Hispanic/Latino when referring to someone who is actually from Spain or another country in Latin America. You wouldn't ask what's your race? but instead, where are you from? This question will usually get answered with I'm Mexican and that person would say oh, so you're Latino. That being said, some Latinos may still prefer to be called Hispanic because even though technically it doesn't make sense, most people don't know what Latin American means. It all depends on where you're from and how comfortable you feel identifying yourself as either term.

Difference Between Latino and Hispanics in Tabular Form

Parameters Of Comparison Latino Hispanics
People People from Latin America including Central America, South America, and the Caribbean People who speak Spanish or who have a background in a Spanish-speaking country
Areas Urban areas Rural areas
Refers to Geography. Language
Derived from The term "Latino" is shortened from Spanish Latino americano, "Latin American" The term "Hispanic" comes from a Latin word for Spain "Hispania", which later became "España".

What is Latino?

The term Latino describes people of Latin American descent. Specifically, it’s used to refer to those who speak Romance languages derived from Latin. Spanish is considered a branch of the Romance languages. It includes not only Spanish but also Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and Catalan among others. The terms Latino or Hispanic can be used interchangeably when referring to an individual from these areas. However, they are not interchangeable when describing a person from Spain (who would be called Spanish). People of African descent born in Latin America are sometimes referred to as Afro-Latinos. A person whose ancestors were indigenous to Central or South America may be referred to as Amerindian. Some Latinos choose to identify with their specific country of origin rather than with all Latinos. For example, someone might identify himself as Mexican-American rather than Latino/Hispanic. When referencing an entire group of people, however, such as in demographic statistics, it is acceptable and more accurate to use either term interchangeably. This is because most countries have populations that are mixed, meaning that there is no single racial or ethnic majority. Most countries have several different groups represented within them. Therefore, using a single term for everyone makes sense.

History About Latino

Although it’s often used interchangeably with Hispanic, Latino is a more general term that encompasses multiple ethnicities. Its origins can be traced back to Latin, meaning Roman Empire, as well as Latin America—which was named after its dominant language group. Latinos can be from any country in Central or South America, although Mexico has historically been a popular destination for those seeking asylum in America. Because it’s a blanket term, some people have begun referring to themselves as Latinx (pronounced La-teen-ex) or Latin@ (pronounced Latino), both of which signify greater inclusion. However, these terms are still less common than in Latino. It’s also important to note that being Latino doesn't necessarily mean you're Spanish-speaking; many countries in Central and South America have their languages. For example, Brazilians speak Portuguese while Argentinians speak Spanish. This may seem confusing but just remember: Latino means Latin American, while Hispanic refers specifically to Spanish speakers. If you need help remembering all of this information, think about how they sound: The word Latino ends with an o sound (like a boy), while Hispanic ends with an I sound (like the sea).

What is Hispanic?

According to US Census data, any person whose origins are from — or whose parents were born in — a Spanish-speaking country. The majority of Hispanics are immigrants, though some people consider themselves Hispanic that was born in Puerto Rico. It’s common for Latinos to be identified as Hispanic. However, many Latinos feel that calling themselves Hispanic is an oversimplification of their identity. According to Pew Research Center, 55% of Hispanics prefer to be referred to as Latino while only 12% would like their identity described as Hispanic. Other names Latinos prefer include Chicano (if you’re male), Chicanas (if you’re female), or simply Mexican-American. Also, remember that Latino and Hispanic are not interchangeable terms; they have different meanings. As mentioned above, Latino refers to language; Hispanic refers to ethnicity. A Brazilian immigrant could very well identify as Latino but not Hispanic. For example, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa identifies himself as both Latino and Mexican-American but does not describe himself as Hispanic because he was born in Southern California—an area with little history of Spanish settlement. On top of all that, when it comes to race, Latinos don't necessarily think of themselves as white. In fact, according to Pew Research Center, about 50% of U.S.-born Latinos say their race is some other race than white.

History About Hispanic

The word Hispanic is a descriptive term used by some to refer to people whose ancestry originated in Spain, Portugal, or Spanish-speaking Latin America. The term may also include people from Morocco, as that country was once colonized by Spain. In Spanish, Latino can be used as an adjective (such as Latino culture) or a noun (as in Alfredo's restaurant serves a lot of Latino cuisine). Although most Americans who speak Spanish will say they are Latinos, in Latin America, they would usually call themselves Hispanics. In English, both terms are considered correct. When referring to people in general, however, it’s best to use Latino because it doesn’t imply citizenship status or national origin. For example, Many Latinos live in my neighborhood. (NOT Many Hispanics live in my neighborhood.) I want to learn more about Latino/Hispanic history. (NOT I want to learn more about Hispanic history.) It’s important for businesses and organizations that serve Latinos/Hispanics to understand these differences so they don't offend anyone. If you're not sure which term someone prefers, just ask! They'll appreciate your interest in their culture.

Here are a few examples of how Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and other Latinos identify themselves (from Pew Research Center): About nine-in-ten Mexican immigrants describe themselves using one of three terms—Mexican (53%), Mexican American (27%) or Chicano (9%). A quarter self-identify as American. Only 5% identify only as Mexican or give no response at all when asked how they describe their identity.

The Main Difference Between Latino and Hispanic in Points

  • One of the biggest differences between Latino and Hispanic is that while Hispanic is a word used to describe people of Latin American origin, Latino is the term used to identify people from Spanish-speaking countries or regions.
  • For example, you may find Americans referring to themselves as Hispanic but Mexican-Americans calling themselves Latinos.
  • At the same time, Latino is also used to describe people from parts of America who speak the Spanish language (Argentina).
  • Another notable difference between both is that Hispanics are an ethnic group consisting mostly of south and central America.
  • While on other hand, Latinos are made up by mixing different races like Caucasians, Asians, etc.
  • In short, we can say that Latino is more broad term than Hispanic. Both terms have political overtones but they aren't always negative: Both groups want to celebrate their unique heritage without being treated as minorities within their own country.
  • The most important difference between both words is their spelling: It is worth noting that many U.S.-born citizens with Latin American ancestry prefer Latino over Hispanic because it reflects their identity better.
  • For instance, if someone is born in Mexico and lives there all his life then he/she will be called Mexican not Hispanic.
  • If he moves to the United States and becomes a citizen then he will be called Hispanic not Latino.
  • When someone writes these two words next to each other, one should remember that one describes where you were born whereas another describes where you live now.
  • This is the main reason why some Hispanics dislike being called Latinos because it denotes a foreignness that doesn't apply to them since they were born in the United States.
  • On the contrary, while the majority of Latinos are born outside the United States but the majority of them moved here after birth hence they feel more comfortable identifying themselves as Latinos rather than Hispanics.
  • Another key difference between both words is that Hispanic refers to people whose ancestors came from Spain and South America whereas Latino refers to those whose ancestors came from Central America, the Caribbean Islands, and any part of South America.
  • If your ancestors come from Puerto Rico then you would be considered Latino even though your last name sounds like a Spaniard surname.
  • On the contrary, if your last name sounds like Spanish surnames then you would be considered Hispanic even though your ancestors might have come from Brazil.


A Latin American origin means someone was born in Latin America, which includes countries like Mexico, Honduras, Chile, and Brazil. On the other hand, a person can be considered to be of Hispanic ethnicity even if they aren’t actually from one of these countries but come from regions in Europe with a heavy Spanish influence (such as Spain or Portugal). It’s also important to remember that neither Latino nor Hispanic are races but ethnicities. If you have any doubts about whether someone should be referred to as Latina or Hispanic because of their looks, it’s always better to ask rather than make assumptions. No matter what term is used, don’t forget that everyone has an individual story. People may identify themselves differently depending on where they were raised or what culture surrounds them at home.


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"Difference Between Latino and Hispanic." Diffzy.com, 2024. Sat. 24 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-latino-and-hispanic-788>.

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