The Etymology, Evolution and Social Acceptability of 'Nigger', 'Negro', and 'Nigga'

28 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2013

Date Written: September 1, 2013


Current understanding of the epithets (slurs) 'nigger', 'negro', and 'nigga' associated with social acceptability is based primarily from subjective sources. Usage of such terms has shifted from a cultural phenomenon to a social phenomenon. This exploratory analysis presented an evolutionary and comparative analysis of the original usage, classical, slavery (antebellum), and civil rights era perspectives of the racial epithets as well as the first term’s usage by African Americans and perspectives concerning probable future uses and meanings of the word. A quantitative survey was employed to gain a clearer understanding of associated perceptions regarding the usage of the racial epithets cultural and social suitability. Studies suggest users of these terms perceive a transformation from an opprobrious connotation into a positive reclamation of a cultural identity occurs. The objective of this study was to assess the beliefs, and acceptability regarding the origins to the usage of the term in America from a contemporary perspective. A comparative analysis explored the historical, sociological, political, literary, psychological and societal factors that influence how the words have been used and how they have evolved. The results of this study suggest a false perception of the terms racial epithets as socially acceptable. Additionally, the findings of the study raise awareness of cultural implications and provide insight for social context from historical and contemporary views. These findings highlight the need for further research to determine the extent of the social acceptance in the United States.

Keywords: epithets, nigger, negro, nigga, social acceptance, race, diversity

JEL Classification: Z00, I00, I20, I29

Suggested Citation

Fogle, Calvin D., The Etymology, Evolution and Social Acceptability of 'Nigger', 'Negro', and 'Nigga' (September 1, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Calvin D. Fogle (Contact Author)

Western Governors University ( email )

4001 S 700 E #700
Salt Lake City, UT 84107
United States

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