Language Glossaries


General Terms

Asset Based Language

Ensuring equity for a diverse student population relies on viewing student differences as assets that add value and strength to classrooms and communities. The following features key asset-based understandings and terminology in support of greater educational and societal equity.


Favoring adults by dismissing young people. It is also the addiction to the attitudes, ideas, beliefs, and actions of adults. Because adultism is a bias towards adults, it inherently and obviously leads to discrimination against children and youth.

Cultural Humility

Cultural Humility is a dynamic and lifelong process focusing on self-reflection, acknowledging one’s own biases. It recognizes the shifting nature of intersecting identities and encourages ongoing curiosity rather than an endpoint.


Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law scholar and professor and civil rights activist, who coined the term, says Intersectionality is:

“A lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigration status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.”

Student Agency

Students have an active role in their learning through voice, and choice. Building Equitable & Inclusive practices requires working in partnership with students, creating an environment where students can lead their education journey.

Responsive Planning

In Responsive Planning you are intentionally planning lessons that are inclusive, and equitable, and hold space for flexibility and adjustments based on observation, assessment, reflection and students’ input and feedback.

Disability Terms & Language

These terms and definitions are sourced from the following:

Teach with GIVE
NCDJ – Style Guide
NDRN – Resource
APA – Resource
Accessible Yoga – Resource

No individual is only their diagnosis – so unless there is a specific need for someone’s disability to be mentioned – focus on the individual student.

Person-first language is a good place to begin when referring to individuals or groups of individuals with disabilities. Instead of “disabled students”, say “students with disabilities”. This puts the focus on the individual over their diagnosis. Start by using person-first language, then check in with individuals about how they would like to be identified. A growing number of people prefer identity-first language. Examples include “autistic man,” “deaf woman,” and “disabled person.” So always check in with the individual and then use the preferred language.

Social Model of Disability In the social model of disability, disability exists in the interaction between the individual and society or societal barriers are what disables individuals. In the medical model of disability, disability is a personal issue, and the barriers are within the person. Currently the Social Model of Disability is the most inclusive option – for now. Learn about other models of Disability here: The Four Most Recognized Models of Disability in Disability Studies or Disability Public Health

Ableist Language is common. Consider what language might be shifted to be more inclusive. Not all disabilities are visible, so lead with sensitive language.  Language is also nonverbal. Body language and paralanguage often communicate more than what we are saying verbally. You may pair certain words with a change in your tone of voice or a shift in body language – which can lead to stigmas or biases developing or being passed onto others.

Avoid language that:

  • Assumes an individual with a disability is having a negative experience (i.e. victim, challenged, problem, suffers). This assumption is ableist.
  • Sensationalizes an individual with a disability (i.e. special, superhuman, courageous, brave, etc.).
  • Uses disabled as an adjective.
  • Is perpetuating stereotypes like “crazy” or “insane”. Additionally, do not use “crazy or insane” to describe students or classrooms who are energetic, silly, or chaotic. Instead use “energetic, silly, or chaotic”.
  • Is patronizing and condescending – describe the person’s accomplishments without value, judgment, or interpretation.
  • Is outdated or offensive.

Racial Equity Terms

These terms and definitions are sourced from the following:

Racial Equity Tools Glossary
Learning for Justice – Accomplice vs Ally
Pacific University Office of EDI – Glossary
White Supremacy Culture 

Ally | Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they may benefit in concrete ways. Allies commit to reducing their own complicity or collusion in oppression of those groups and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.

Accomplice(s)| The actions of someone who focuses on dismantling the structures that oppress that individual or group— by directly challenging institutionalized racism, colonization, and white supremacy by blocking or impeding racist people, policies, and structures. They are led by members of the marginalized group(s).

BIPOC: An acronym for Black, Indigenous, People of Color.

Cultural Racism | Cultural racism refers to representations, messages and stories conveying the idea that behaviors and values associated with white people or “whiteness” are automatically “better” or more “normal” than those associated with other racially defined groups. Cultural racism shows up in advertising, movies, history books, definitions of patriotism, and in policies and laws. Cultural racism is also a powerful force in maintaining systems of internalized supremacy and internalized racism. It does that by influencing collective beliefs about what constitutes appropriate behavior, what is seen as beautiful, and the value placed on various forms of expression. All of these cultural norms and values in the U.S. have explicitly or implicitly racialized ideals and assumptions.

Implicit Bias | Also known as unconscious or hidden bias, implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness. Many studies have indicated that implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. Notably, implicit biases have been shown to trump individuals’ stated commitments to equality and fairness, thereby producing behavior that diverges from the explicit attitudes that many people profess. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is often used to measure implicit biases with regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, and other topics.

Individual Racism | Individual racism refers to the beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism. Individual racism can be deliberate, or the individual may act to perpetuate or support racism without knowing that is what he or she is doing.

Institutional Racism | Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color.

Internalized Racism | Internalized racism is the situation that occurs in a racist system when a racial group oppressed by racism supports the supremacy and dominance of the dominating group by maintaining or participating in the set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures and ideologies that undergird the dominating group’s power. It involves four essential and interconnected elements: Decision Making, Resources, Standards, Naming the Problem.

Interpersonal Racism | Interpersonal racism occurs between individuals. Once we bring our private beliefs into our interaction with others, racism is now in the interpersonal realm. Examples: public expressions of racial prejudice, hate, bias and bigotry between individuals

Structural Racism | The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal – that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Structural racism encompasses the entire system of White domination, diffused, and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics, and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. Structural racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism emerge from structural racism.

Multicultural Competency | A process of learning about and becoming allies with people from other cultures, thereby broadening our own understanding and ability to participate in a multicultural process. The key element to becoming more culturally competent is respect for the ways that others live in and organize the world and an openness to learn from them.

Oppression | Systemic devaluing, undermining, marginalizing, and disadvantaging of certain social identities in contrast to the privileged norm; when some people are denied something of value, while others have ready access.

Power | Power is unequally distributed globally and in U.S. society; some individuals or groups wield greater power than others, thereby allowing them greater access and control over resources. Wealth, whiteness, citizenship, patriarchy, heterosexism, and education are a few key social mechanisms through which power operates. Although power is often conceptualized as power over other individuals or groups, other variations are power with (used in the context of building collective strength) and power within (which references an individual’s internal strength). Learning to “see” and understand relations of power is vital to organizing for progressive social change.

Prejudice | A pre-judgment or unjustifiable, and usually negative, attitude of one type of individual or groups toward another group and its members. Such negative attitudes are typically based on unsupported generalizations (or stereotypes) that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics.

Privilege | Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group (e.g. white privilege, male privilege, etc.). Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it because we are taught not to see it, but nevertheless it puts them at an advantage over those who do not have it.

Race | A political/social construction created to concentrate power with white people and legitimize dominance over non-white people.

Racial and Ethnic Identity | An individual’s awareness and experience of being a member of a racial and ethnic group; the racial and ethnic categories that an individual chooses to describe him or herself based on such factors as biological heritage, physical appearance, cultural affiliation, early socialization, and personal experience.

Racial Equity | Racial equity is the condition that would be achieved if one’s racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares. When we use the term, we are thinking about racial equity as one part of racial justice, and thus we also include work to address root causes of inequities, not just their manifestation. This includes elimination of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race or fail to eliminate them.

Racial Justice | The proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes, and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts and outcomes for all.

White Privilege | Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.

Structural White Privilege | A system of white domination that creates and maintains belief systems that make current racial advantages and disadvantages seem normal. The system includes powerful incentives for maintaining white privilege and its consequences, and powerful negative consequences for trying to interrupt white privilege or reduce its consequences in meaningful ways. The system includes internal and external manifestations at the individual, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels. The accumulated and interrelated advantages and disadvantages of white privilege that are reflected in racial/ethnic inequities in life-expectancy and other health outcomes, income and wealth and other outcomes, in part through different access to opportunities and resources. These differences are maintained in part by denying that these advantages and disadvantages exist at the structural, institutional, cultural, interpersonal, and individual levels and by refusing to redress them or eliminate the systems, policies, practices, cultural norms and other behaviors and assumptions that maintain them.

Interpersonal White Privilege | Behavior between people that consciously or unconsciously reflects white superiority or entitlement.

Cultural White Privilege |  A set of dominant cultural assumptions about what is good, normal or appropriate that reflects Western European white world views and dismisses or demonizes other worldviews.

Institutional White Privilege | Policies, practices and behaviors of institutions — such as schools, banks, non-profits or the Supreme Court — that have the effect of maintaining or increasing accumulated advantages for those groups currently defined as white and maintaining or increasing disadvantages for those racial or ethnic groups not defined as white. The ability of institutions to survive and thrive even when their policies, practices and behaviors maintain, expand, or fail to redress accumulated disadvantages and/or inequitable outcomes for people of color.

White Supremacy | White supremacy is a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.

Gender Identity Terms

Sourced from

Human Rights Campaign Human Rights Campaign – Glossary of Terms

Transgender Training Institute’s resources

Ally | A person who is not LGBTQ but shows support for LGBTQ people and promotes equality in a variety of ways.

Androgynous | Identifying and/or presenting as neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine.

Asexual | The lack of a sexual attraction or desire for other people.

Biphobia | Prejudice, fear or hatred directed toward bisexual people.

Bisexual | A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree.

Cisgender | A term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.

Closeted | Describes an LGBTQ person who has not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Coming out | The process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts and appreciates their sexual orientation or gender identity and begins to share that with others.

Dead name  | A trans person’s name that they no longer use.

Gay | A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender.

Gender-expansive | Conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system.

Gender expression | External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

Gender-fluid | According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a person who does not identify with a single fixed gender; of or relating to a person having or expressing a fluid or unfixed gender identity.

Gender identity | One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Gender non-conforming | A broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category.

Genderqueer | Genderqueer people typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and often, though not always, sexual orientation. People who identify as “genderqueer” may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male nor female or as falling completely outside these categories.

Gender transition | The process by which some people strive to more closely align their internal knowledge of gender with its outward appearance. Some people socially transition, whereby they might begin dressing, using names and pronouns and/or be socially recognized as another gender. Others undergo physical transitions in which they modify their bodies through medical interventions.

Homophobia | The fear and hatred of or discomfort with people who are attracted to members of the same sex.

Intersex | An umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, these traits are visible at birth, and in others, they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal variations of this type may not be physically apparent at birth.

LGBTQIA+ | An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Queer, Intersec, Asexual, and more”

Living openly | A state in which LGBTQ people are comfortably out about their sexual orientation or gender identity – where and when it feels appropriate to them.

Lesbian | A woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women.

Non-binary | An adjective describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or as falling completely outside these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do.

Outing | Exposing someone’s lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity to others without their permission. Outing someone can have serious repercussions on employment, economic stability, personal safety or religious or family situations.

Pansexual | Describes someone who has the potential for emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to people of any gender though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree

Pronouns | For the most part, pronouns are words that we use to replace nouns in a sentence. There are many different kinds of pronouns in the English language, but when we’re talking about inclusive and affirming pronouns for trans and non-binary people, we are specifically talking about personal third-person pronouns (she, her, he, him, they, them, ze, zir etc)

Queer | A term people often use to express fluid identities and orientations. Often used interchangeably with “LGBTQ.”

Questioning | A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Same-gender loving | A term some prefer to use instead of lesbian, gay or bisexual to express attraction to and love of people of the same gender.

Sex assigned at birth | The sex (male or female) given to a child at birth, most often based on the child’s external anatomy. This is also referred to as “assigned sex at birth.”

Sexual orientation | An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.

Transgender | An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.