The vocabulary below is to support ongoing learning, but it is not all-inclusive. It is fluid and will continue to evolve over time, and these vocabulary words and definitions are meant to aid in the broadening of our understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. 

Diversity & Inclusion Glossary/Language Guide


Diversity refers to the range of human differences that includes the primary or internal dimension such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, physical and mental ability and sexual orientation; and the secondary or external dimension such as thought styles, religion, nationality, socio-economic status, belief systems, military experience and education

Source: Boston College Office for Institutional Diversity - Diversity and Inclusion Statement


Historically, equity refers to the process of creating equivalent outcomes for members of historically underrepresented and oppressed individuals and groups. Equity is about ending systematic discrimination against people based on their identity or background

Source: Strategic Diversity Leadership by Damon A. Williams  


Inclusion involves the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement of our diversity, where each person is valued, respected and supported for his or her distinctive skills, experiences and perspectives, to create a working and learning environment where everyone has an opportunity to experience personal fulfillment and participate fully in creating a successful and thriving Boston College. It is a means of creating value from the differences of all members of our community, in order to leverage talent and foster both individual and organizational excellence

Source: Boston College Office for Institutional Diversity - Diversity and Inclusion Statement 


Belonging is the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group. It is when an individual can bring their authentic self to work

Source: Cornell University - Sense of Belonging

Additional Terms A-F


AHANA is an acronym used to describe individuals of African, Hispanic, Asian and Native American descent

Source: Boston College Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center - AHANA Defined

BIPoC is an acronym used to refer to Black, Indigenous, and people of color. It is based on the recognition of collective experiences of systemic racism. As with any other identity term, it is up to individuals to use this term as an identifier 

Source: University of Washington - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Glossary

Antiracism is the practice of actively identifying and opposing racism. The goal of anti-racism is to actively change policies, behaviors, and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions

Source: Boston University Community Service Center - What is Anti-Racism?

Ally is someone who supports a group other than one’s own (in terms of multiple identities such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.). An ally acknowledges oppression and actively commits to reducing their own complicity, investing in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression

Source: University of Washington - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Glossary

Bias is a form of prejudice that results from our need to quickly classify individuals into categories

Source: University of Washington - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Glossary

Culture is the shared patterns of behavior and interactions, cognitive constructs and affective understanding that are learned through socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group. People within a culture usually interpret the meaning of symbols, artifacts, and behaviors in the same or similar ways

Source: University of Berkeley - Equity Fluent Leaders Glossary of Key Terms

Cultural Appropriation is the non-consensual/misappropriate use of cultural elements for commodification of profit purposes - including symbols, art, language, customs, etc. - often without understanding, acknowledgment or respect for its value in the context of its original culture 

Source: University of Washington - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Glossary

Decolonize is the active and intentional process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of Western thought and approaches that have been historically viewed as superior and privileged. It involves dismantling structures that perpetuate the status quo and addressing unbalanced power dynamics. It is the ongoing process of examining one’s own beliefs and requires all of us to be collectively involved and responsible 

Source: BCcampus Open Publishing - Decolonization and Indigenization

Discrimination is the unfair or prejudecial treatment of people and groups based on characteristics such as race, gender, age, sexual oprientation, socioeconomic status, education, etc.

Source: American Psychological Association - Discrimination: What it is, and how to cope

Ethnicity is a social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group memberships, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, and ancestral geographical base

Source: Racial Equity Tools - Racial Equity Tools Glossary

Additional Terms G-L

Identity is an individual’s sense of self defined by (a) a set of physical, psychological, and interpersonal characteristics that is not wholly shared with any other person and (b) a rance of affiliations (e.g. ethnicity) and social roles. Identity involves a sense of continuity or the feeling that one is the same person today that one was yesterday or last year (despite physical or other changes). Such a sense is derived from one’s body sensations; one’s body image; and the feeling that one’s memories, goals, values, expectations, and beliefs belong to the self. Also called personal identity

Source: American Psychological Association - Dictionary

Inclusive excellence - The Office for Institutional Diversity supports the mission of Boston College by promoting a culture of inclusion that values each individual. We believe that diversity fuels excellence, and that the best ideas are discovered when people—from different backgrounds, who have lived different realities, who have overcome different challenges—work together to expand their authentic perspectives

Source: Boston College Office for Institutional Diversity - Mission

Institutional Racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes and opportunities for different groups based on racial discrimination

Source: University of Washington - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Glossary

Intercultural competence is the capability to shift cultural perspective and appropriately adapt behavior to cultural differences and commonalities

Source: The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI)

Intersectionality is the simultaneous experience of social categories such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation and the ways in which these categories interact to create systems of oppression, domination and discrimination

Source: NASP - Intersectionality and School Psychology: Implications for Practice

Additional Terms M-R

Macro-Aggression is an act of racism towards everyone of a race, gender or group

Source: YWCA - Eliminating Racism Empowering Women

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment 

Source: Derald Wing Sue - “Microaggression: More Than Just Race”

Micro-Affirmation is a small gesture of inclusion, caring of kindness. They include listening, providing comfort and support, being an ally, and explicitly valuing the contributions and presence of all. It is particularly helpful for those with greater power of seniority to “model” affirming behavior

Source: Harvard Diversity, Equity, Access, Inclusion & Belonging - Foundational Concepts & Affirming Language

Nationality is the fact or status of being a member of a group of people who share the same history, traditions, and language, or citizen of a particular nation

Source: The Britannica Dictionary - Nationality 

Oppression is a system that allows access to the services, rewards, benefits and privileges of society based on membership in a particular group. It involves the abuse of power whereby a dominant group engages in unjust, harsh, or cruel activities that perpetuate an attitude or belief that is reinforced by society and maintained by a power imbalance. It involves beliefs and actions that impose undesirable labels, experiences, and conditions on individuals by virtue of their cultural identity

Source: Psychology - Oppression

Patriarchy is a form of social organization in which cultural and institutional beliefs and patterns accept, support, and reproduce the domination of women and younger men by older or more powerful men

Source: Sociology - Patriarchy

Power can be defined as the degree of control over material, human, intellectual, and financial resources exercised by different sections of society. The control of these resources becomes a source of individual and social power. Power is dynamic and relational, rather than absolute - it is exercised in the social, economic, and political relations between individuals and groups. It is also unequally distributed - some individuals and groups having greater control. The extent of power of an individual or group is correlated to how many different kinds of resources they can access and control

Source: Nonprofit Online News Journal - Dynamics of Power, Inclusion, and Exclusion

Positionality refers to the way in which the individual identity and affiliations we have are positioned by others. Positionality is, therefore, a cultural concept relating to gender, ethnicity, and so on. There are different kinds of positionality: ascribed positionality (as is generally the case with gender); selective positionality (as in the case of those who opt for a particular position) and enforced positionality (where others forcibly define the position whether it means with subjective criteria or not)

Source: Journal of International Women’s Studies - Feminisms and cross-ideological Feminist Social Research: Standpoint, Situatedness and Positionality - Developing Cross-ideological Feminist Research

Prejudice is a preconceived judgment, opinion or attitude directed toward certain people based on their membership in a particular group. It is a set of attitudes, which supports, causes, or justifies discrimination

Source: SpringerLink - Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

Privilege refers to certain social advantages, benefits, or degrees of prestige and respect that an individual has by virtue of belonging to certain social identity groups

Source: University Libraries at Rider University - Privilege and Intersectionality

Race a social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups base on characteristics such a physical appearance (particularly race), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time

Source: University of Washington - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Glossary

Additional Terms S-Z

Social Justice is a communal effort dedicated to creating and sustaining a fair and equal society in which each person and all groups are valued and affirmed. It encompasses efforts to end systemic violence and end racism and all systems that devalue the dignity and humanity of any person. It recognizes that the legacy of past injustices remains all around us, so therefore promotes efforts to empower individual and communal ation in support of restorative justice and the full implementation of human and civil rights

Source: Central Connecticut State University - John Lewis Institute for Social Justice

Stereotype is a form of generalization rooted in blanket beliefs and false assumptions, a product of processes of categorization that can result in a prejudiced attitude, critical judgement and intentional or unintentional discrimination. Stereotypes are typically negative, based on little information and does not recognize individualism and personal agency

Source: University of Washington - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Glossary

Tokenism the practice of doing something (such a hiring a person who belongs to a minority group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly

Source: The Britannica Dictionary - Tokenism

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

Source: What is White Supremacy?