According to PIV, negro and nigrulo are synonymous meaning a person from the black race. However, they sound derogative to my Scandinavian ears.

Are they? Is there a less offensive word?

8 Answers 8


There is a danger in importing sensitivities from our national cultures because in cases like this, sensitivity varies so much. I think nigrulo is fine - and if it's not fine, I would hope that people who come to Esperanto would cut me a little slack for saying it.

It seems to me a more important question is whether it's important in any given situation to even mention race. In some cases it may be - and I'd say blankulo, nigrulo, etc.. I suppose you could also say afrik-devena.

  • 4
    Your answer does not say anything about negro, which the question also asks about. Dec 16, 2016 at 15:10
  • 2
    "There is a danger in importing sensitivities from our national cultures because in cases like this, sensitivity varies so much." -- i think the same applies to "negro". "nigrulo" sounds just as offensive to an american as negro, but it doesn't mean it's offensive in Esperanto. "farti" sounds like juvenile joke to us too, but it doesn't mean it is in Esperanto.
    – masukomi
    Dec 17, 2016 at 16:31
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    I refer indirectly to "negro" under "importing sensitivities." Use it if you must. Don't freak out if others do and you do not. I don't have a strong opinion on it either way. I didn't mention it explicitly because my personal preference is for "nigrulo" - which corresponds to blankulo. Since there's no white version of "negro", I find it to be unnecessary ballast at best. Dec 17, 2016 at 17:42

The common word nowadays is nigrulo. The word negro used to be the common word until a few decades ago, but nowadays many Esperantists consider it to have a slight negative connotation (comparable to the English negro, not to the English word nigger).

The word nigrulo literally means 'black person', and it is just as neutral and non-derogative a term as black person is in English.


I do not think there is anything wrong with nigrulo, this is just a word for someone of the black race. In the same way, there is blankulo in PIV, for people of the white race. Those are just colours with a person-suffix. They (in my opinion) do not carry the same baggage that English or any other language would put on them.

As some side info, I can add that in my native Bulgarian, the N-word (негър) is a perfectly normal word for a black-skinned person, that doesn't carry the same derrogative meaning that the English has. It is used on TV an everywhere. For that reason, I would avoid implying something from one language to another. And because of that, I would say that negro is also a normal word in Esperanto.

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    ”Blank-ulo” and ”nigr-ulo” both sound fine to me. I think the problem with the word Esperanto ”negro” is that it’s a separate word that marks Black people as ”the other”. Imagine if there only were the words ”nigrulo” and ”blenko” (instead of ”blankulo”). I’m sure many Whites would object to being called ”blenkoj”?
    – Bjørn
    Oct 28, 2016 at 15:51
  • BTW, are there any Black Esperantists reading this? What do you think? Cetere, ĉu iuj nigraj Esperantistoj legas ĉi tion? Kion pensas vi?
    – Bjørn
    Oct 28, 2016 at 15:53
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    @Bjørn Well, it's not like white and black are all there are; and other ethnic groups are not referred to by color (rugxulo? flavulo?), so why should Blacks and Whites be? Just because they're usually called that in English?
    – kristan
    Nov 1, 2016 at 7:25
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    I would say: They do not carry the same baggage, because it's not as much about what the words mean as about how they have been used and what connections have been made to them throughout history. Esperanto is lucky in that it is a new language and the history just happened elsewhere. So we have a chance to start afresh and do it right this time :-)
    – La Vo-o
    Dec 12, 2016 at 23:05
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    From my experience, nowadays the only people still actively using negro are white people who are not really sensitive for the issue of racial discrimination against black people. The last time I have seen it was in an article by an old Dutch Esperantist who defended the Dutch tradition of "Zwarte Piet", claiming it to not include any elements of racism (which seems to me to be a clearly false statement). Dec 16, 2016 at 15:15

I don't think the word in itself is problematic, I'll admit it sounds off to my western ears, but I don't think there's anything insidious there. I'm a black female esperantist -- yes a 'nigrulino' -- and I have had people tell me the language is "racist" and "sexist" because of certain words and the -in suffix. I however don't find it to be so.

In fact, what language isn't racist or sexist on some levels, and would that be because us humans are indeed racist and sexist. The good thing about Esperanto is that, I think, it tries to put people on equal footing, despite having been invented more than a century ago, in Eastern Europe, before the Holocaust when I'm sure tensions were rife, Esperanto itself seems to have a pretty noble cause. Now people... that's another matter

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    Your answer does say anything about "negro", which the question is also about. Dec 16, 2016 at 15:15
  • Marcos, the question is about both negro and nigrulo, and the answer is relevant to both words. Dec 17, 2016 at 20:18

Nigrulo literally means "Black person" so I think you are in the clear with that one

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    Your answer does say anything about "negro", which the question is also about. Dec 16, 2016 at 15:15

What do you think about this word malhelhaŭtuloj? I saw it in one dictionary.


Do uzu "estimatan nigrulon" ;)

Jes, tio estas sxerco. Serioze, en Esperanto simple uzu "nigrulon", tio ja estas la gxusta vorto.

Kial en la angla oni evitas la vorton "negro"-n? La vorto mem estis neuxtrala sed en historio tio vaste uzigxis de sklavoposedantoj, do la vorto kunportas maldolcxan memoron kaj malamon. Unu vorto, malgraux kiel bela gxi aspektas, se gxi kunportas malamon, estas ofenda vorto. Se ne, gxi tauxgas por egala komunikado.

Esperantujo ne havas tian trsitan memoron kaj kulpan kulturon, do oni nenecesas esti sentema pri tio.

Respondo de iu flavulo ;)


It is not offensive for most Esperanto speakers because black is nothing more than a color.

However, for English speakers like me, it sounds terrible. Maybe you could say: Li havas Afrik-koloron.

  • No doubt most people would understand what you intend to say with Li havas Afrik-koloron… :-) But you should also expect a lot of language-focused Esperantists commenting things like Sed kontinento ne havas koloron!Sed ankaŭ la blankaj sudafrikanoj kaj la brunaj (arabaj kaj berberaj) nordafrikanoj havas Afrik-koloron! ;-)
    – Bjørn
    Dec 13, 2016 at 8:38
  • I think it's a quite universal term :-)
    – La Vo-o
    Dec 13, 2016 at 9:50
  • Well, most of those photos show multicoloured things like flags and African textiles. Hm, when was the last time I saw a human with green, yellow, red and black skin? :-P
    – Bjørn
    Dec 13, 2016 at 11:41
  • You'll want to be careful saying "afrik-koloron" because a lot of "nigruloj" don't come from Africa and there is even a large population of "blankuloj" who do live in Africa.
    – Evildea
    Dec 19, 2016 at 2:45
  • @Evildea Yah. Maybe there is no good alternative.
    – Lumo5
    Dec 19, 2016 at 8:42

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