Student forces Merriam-Webster dictionary to change definition of 'racist' term

Over 800 people joined an online campaign to have the definition under the word 'nude' altered

Aftab Ali
Thursday 03 September 2015 13:34

We all have something that irks us from time to time, but one teenage student decided to take on one of the world’s oldest dictionaries to emerge victorious after he disagreed with its listed definition of a term.

Luis Torres from Connecticut was so bothered by Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word ‘nude’ that he started an online campaign to alter its meaning with the help of some 800 people.

The 150-year-old dictionary –which says it is America’s leading and most-trusted provider of language information – listed the definition of the word as “having the color of a white person’s skin.”

The student – who is set to enter his second year at Ithaca College in New York – took to the social change site,, urging people to flood Merriam-Webster’s site to pressure it into changing the ‘racist’ definition.

Hundreds of comments were posted onto the dictionary’s site and, after relentless campaigning, Merriam-Webster finally bowed to pressure and altered the meaning:


Describing how most white people – including himself – take this for granted, he told the site: “It blew my mind that an academic source was perpetuating this same racism.”

Race issues are something Luis is clearly very passionate about. Having done work at Ithaca around the topic, his most recent assignment centred on a photo project showing the diversity of Latinos in America.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments