Colored is an ethnic descriptor historically used in the United States (predominantly during the Jim Crow era) and the United Kingdom. In the US, the term initially denoted non-"white" individuals generally. The meaning was essentially the same in the UK, with "coloured" thus equivalent to "people of colour". However, usage of the appellation "colored" in the American South gradually came to be restricted to "negroes". Following the Civil Rights Movement, "colored" and "negro" gave way to "black" and (in the US) "African American". According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word colored was first used in the 14th century, but with a meaning other than race or ethnicity.In other English-speaking countries, the term – often spelled coloured – has varied meanings. In South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the term coloured (often capitalized) refers both to a specific ethnic group of complex mixed origins, which is considered neither black nor white, and in other contexts (usually lower case) to people of mixed race. In British usage, the term refers to "a person who is wholly or partly of non-white descent" and its use may be regarded as antiquated or offensive, and other terms are preferable, particularly when referring to a single ethnicity.
In South Africa, the term coloureds is used to describe people of a mixed parentage. Thus South Africa has people broadly classified as four races, namely Blacks, Whites, Coloureds and Indians.
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