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[in-dee-uh n] /ˈɪn di ən/
Also called American Indian, Amerind, Amerindian, Native American. a member of the aboriginal people of America or of any of the aboriginal North or South American stocks, usually excluding the Eskimos.
any of the indigenous languages of the American Indians.
Abbreviation: Ind.
a member of any of the peoples native to or inhabiting India or the East Indies.
a citizen of the Republic of India.
Slang. a person who performs a required task or carries out the instructions of superiors:
We have too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
Astronomy. the constellation Indus.
of, relating to, or characteristic of the American Indians or their languages.
of, relating to, or characteristic of India or the East Indies.
made of Indian corn:
Indian meal.
Zoogeography. oriental (def 3).
Phytogeography. belonging or pertaining to a geographical division comprising India south of the Himalayas, and Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Origin of Indian
1350-1400; < Medieval Latin Indiānus; replacing Middle English Indien < Old French < Medieval Latin as above. See India, -an
Related forms
non-Indian, adjective, noun
pre-Indian, noun, adjective
pro-Indian, adjective
pseudo-Indian, adjective, noun
trans-Indian, adjective
Usage note
Because Christopher Columbus mistakenly believed that the Caribbean island on which he had landed was the subcontinent of India, he called the inhabitants Indians. Eventually, that name was applied to almost all the indigenous, non-European inhabitants of North and South America. In modern times Indian may refer to an inhabitant of the subcontinent of India or of the East Indies, to a citizen of the Republic of India, or to a member of an aboriginal American people.
In the 18th century the term American Indian came to be used for the aboriginal inhabitants of the United States and Canada; it now includes the aboriginal peoples of South America as well. (When necessary, further distinctions are made with such terms as North American Indian and South American Indian.) The terms Amerindian and Amerind subsequently developed in the attempt to reduce ambiguity. For some, especially among North American Indians, the preferred designation is Native American. All these terms appear in edited writing. Whether one or several will gain ascendancy over the others remains to be seen.
The only pre-European inhabitants of North America to whom Indian or other terms using the word Indian are not applied are the Eskimos or Inuit. See Eskimo. See also honest Injun, Indian giver. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for indians
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Callack stood in front of the tent from which the captives were led by the indians.

    The Young Treasure Hunter Frank V. Webster
  • The indians gathered about in wonder as Jim knelt beside his friend.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • I came to Minnesota in 1848 and was later purveyor to the indians.

  • They had shared with the indians the belief that the Little Boss could not be killed.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • We never thought of following the trail of the indians to recover our horses.

    The Hunters' Feast Mayne Reid
British Dictionary definitions for indians


a native, citizen, or inhabitant of the Republic of India
(old-fashioned, taboo) a Native American
(not in scholarly usage) any of the languages of Native Americans
of, relating to, or characteristic of India, its inhabitants, or any of their languages
(Not in scholarly usage) of, relating to, or characteristic of Native Americans or any of their languages
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for indians


"inhabit of India or South Asia," c.1300 (noun and adjective); applied to the native inhabitants of the Americas from at least 1553, on the mistaken notion that America was the eastern end of Asia. Red Indian, to distinguish them from inhabitants of India, is first attested 1831 (Carlyle) but was not commonly used in North America. More than 500 modern phrases include Indian, most of them U.S. and most impugning honesty or intelligence, e.g. Indian giver, first attested 1765 in Indian gift:

An Indian gift is a proverbial expression, signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected. [Thomas Hutchinson, "History of Massachusetts Bay," 1765]
Meaning "one who gives a gift and then asks for it back" first attested 1892.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for indians
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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