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Etymology 1[edit]

From red +‎ skin. References to indigenous Americans' skin being red can be found from the 1580s,[1] and ambiguous (disputed) instances of the term redskin or red skin exist from the 1690s,[1][2] perhaps as straightforward references to that, or perhaps in reference to tribes such as the Beothuk painting themselves with red paint.[2] However, the earliest unambiguous instances of the term are from the 1760s, apparently translating (via French peau-rouge) a native term from a tribe of the Mississippi Valley.[3][4]

Alternative forms[edit]


redskin (plural redskins)

  1. (now sometimes considered an ethnic slur and offensive) A Native American.
    • 1699?, Henry Smith or Samuel Smith or a relative, possibly quoting another colonist, in a letter quoted by a descendant (which, however, Ives Goddard argues is fake):
      Ye first Meeting House was solid mayde to withstande ye wicked onsaults of the Red Skins.
Usage notes[edit]

Previously used neutrally, the word began to be used as a term of contempt in the late 1800s; it is now often considered offensive.

Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “redskin”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. 2.0 2.1 redskin”, in Collins English Dictionary.
  3. ^ redskin”, in Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present.
  4. ^ redskin”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • redskin at OneLook Dictionary Search

Etymology 2[edit]

red +‎ skin, from skinhead.


redskin (plural redskins)

  1. (anarchism, communism) An anticapitalist skinhead.
    • The above is the coat of arms of the Red & Anarchist Skinheads, a left‐wing splinter of the SHARP group, formed in 1993. It grew out of influences from the redskin culture in England.