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[awr-ee-en-tl, ohr‐] /ˌɔr iˈɛn tl, ˌoʊr‐/
(usually initial capital letter) of, relating to, or characteristic of the Orient, or East; Eastern.
of the orient or east; eastern.
(initial capital letter) Zoogeography. belonging to a geographical division comprising southern Asia and the Malay Archipelago as far as and including the Philippines, Borneo, and Java.
  1. (usually initial capital letter) designating various gems that are varieties of corundum:
    Oriental aquamarine; Oriental ruby.
  2. fine or precious; orient:
    oriental agate; oriental garnet.
  3. designating certain natural saltwater pearls found especially in the Orient.
(usually initial capital letter) Older Use: Usually Disparaging and Offensive. a native or inhabitant of the Orient.
Origin of oriental
1350-1400; Middle English < Middle French < Latin orientālis = orient- the east (see orient) + -ālis -al1
Related forms
orientally, adverb
anti-Oriental, adjective, noun
half-oriental, adjective
nonoriental, adjective, noun
pro-Oriental, adjective, noun
pseudooriental, adjective
pseudoorientally, adverb
quasi-oriental, adjective
quasi-orientally, adverb
semioriental, adjective
semiorientally, adverb
unoriental, adjective
unorientally, adverb
Can be confused
Asian, Asiatic, oriental.
Usage note
Asian is the most commonly used term referring to people in or from Asia, especially East Asia. In American English, Oriental as a noun or adjective applied to people is outdated and has become a sensitive term to be avoided. It is associated with a bygone era in which Asians had subordinate status and their culture was perceived as strange and exotic. Also, the origin of the term Oriental represents a Eurocentric view of geography, since the Orient, or East, is east of Europe.
However, Oriental is a neutral, inoffensive term when used as an adjective describing Asian culture or things from Asia. Similarly, the term Asiatic is usually offensive when referring to people, but neutral when referring to Asian culture, animals, etc. Though Asian is an acceptable ethnic designation in most contexts, it is best to be as specific as possible, rather than to group all Asians into a single cultural identity. In general, people of South, Southeast, and East Asian origin prefer to be identified by their country of origin: for example, Indian, Pakistani, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, or Chinese. The people of the Middle or Near East and Polynesia are not referred to as Asian. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for oriental
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was an outrage on oriental custom; and as such the narrative sets it before us.

    Modern Skepticism C. J. Ellicott
  • Now, God and his father's fate made him intellectually inferior to the oriental.

    American Notes Rudyard Kipling
  • It was an oriental ballad all about poniards, flowers, and stars.

    Sentimental Education Vol 1 Gustave Flaubert
  • There was in this man an oriental nobility choked by Western fashion and customs.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • This clearly signifies that the Lizard is an oriental migrant.

  • You remember the oriental bloke that always asked, 'Who is she?'

    Henry Dunbar M. E. Braddon
  • Historical incidents occur which show that oriental porcelain was by slow degrees making its way Westwards.

    Chats on Oriental China J. F. Blacker
British Dictionary definitions for oriental


another word for eastern Compare occidental


(sometimes not capital) of or relating to the Orient
of or denoting a zoogeographical region consisting of southeastern Asia from India to Borneo, Java, and the Philippines
a breed of slender muscular cat with large ears, long legs, and a long tail
(sometimes not capital) an inhabitant, esp a native, of the Orient
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 oriental

late 14c., from Old French oriental "eastern, from the east" (12c.) and directly from Latin orientalis "of the east," from orientem (see Orient (n.)). Originally in reference to the sky, geographical sense is attested from late 15c.; oriental carpet first recorded 1868 (in C.Latin Eastlake).



"native or inhabitant of the east," 1701, from oriental (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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