Denotation vs. Connotation


[red-skin] /ˈrɛdˌskɪn/
noun, Older Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
a contemptuous term used to refer to a North American Indian.
Origin of redskin
?1760-70; red1 + skin; probably loan translation of French peau rouge, itself translated from an American Indian term
Usage note
The date and origin of this term is in dispute. Evidence seems to show that in the 1760s, French colonists in the Mississippi Valley translated a Native American spoken term into the French language as peau rouge, which was then translated into English as redskin. Through the early part of the 19th century, American Indians continued to use their native word self-referentially, and it was translated into spoken and written English as redskin with no derogatory connotations, even as a term of respect. However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, within the historical context of white-Indian hostilities, use of the term redskin was associated with attitudes of contempt and condescension. By the 1960s, redskin had declined in use; because of heightened cultural sensitivities, it was perceived as offensive. Yet use of the term survives in the names of some sports teams. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for redskin
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • When they got a whiff of redskin on the chilly mountain breeze.

    Frontier Ballads Joseph Mills Hanson
  • In his guttural tongue the redskin appealed to Dan for a drink of water.

    For the Liberty of Texas Edward Stratemeyer
  • The redskin seems to have a good horse, and knows we are at his heels.

    The Red Man's Revenge R.M. Ballantyne
  • "Sit down," invited the redskin, motioning toward the ground at his side.

    Frank Merriwell's Pursuit Burt L. Standish
  • They fell not on redskin savages, but on a party of white men, well aimed with rifles and pistols, and broadswords or cutlasses.

  • The redskin's face was full of the most bitter animosity it is possible to imagine.

    The Boy Land Boomer Ralph Bonehill
  • Sure enough up he came, on horseback, at a slow walk, looking as careless and easy as if no blood of a redskin rested on his hand.

    The Wild Man of the West R.M. Ballantyne
  • Gazing around he saw that neither girl nor redskin was in sight.

    The Boy Land Boomer Ralph Bonehill
British Dictionary definitions for redskin


an old-fashioned informal name, now considered taboo, for a Native American
Word Origin
C17: so called because one particular tribe, the now extinct Beothuks of Newfoundland, painted themselves with red ochre
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 redskin

"American Indian," 1690s, from red (adj.1) + skin (n.). Red as the skin color of Native Americans is from 1580s; red man is from 1580s. Cf. red cent.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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