World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Hyphenated American


Hyphenated American

Cartoon from Puck, August 9, 1899. Uncle Sam sees hyphenated voters and asks, "Why should I let these freaks cast whole ballots when they are only half Americans?"

In the United States, the term hyphenated American is an epithet commonly used from 1890 to 1920 to disparage Americans who were of foreign birth or origin, and who displayed an allegiance to a foreign country. It was most commonly used to disparage German Americans or Irish Americans (Catholics) who called for U.S. neutrality in World War I. Former President Theodore Roosevelt was an outspoken anti-hyphenate and Woodrow Wilson followed suit.[1]

The term "hyphenated American" was published by 1889,[2] and was common as a derogatory term by 1904. During World War I the issue arose of the primary political loyalty of ethnic groups with close ties to Europe, especially German Americans and also Irish Americans. Former President Theodore Roosevelt in speaking to the largely Irish Catholic Knights of Columbus at Carnegie Hall on Columbus Day 1915, asserted that,[3]

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all … The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic … There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.

President Woodrow Wilson regarded "hyphenated Americans" with suspicion, saying, "Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready."[4][5][6]


  • Usage 1
    • In American English 1.1
    • In relation to Latin America 1.2
  • Hyphenated-American identities 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


Modern style guides most often recommend dropping the hyphen between the two names except when the compound is used as an adjective; some recommend dropping the hyphen even for the adjective form.[7] On the other hand, compounds with name fragments, such as Afro-American and Indo-European, are recommended to be hyphenated.

In American English

The first term typically indicates a region or culture of origin ancestry paired with "American". Examples:

The hyphen is employed when the compound term is used as an adjective.[8] Hence, correct forms include an African American and an African-American man.

The linguistic construction functionally indicates ancestry, but also may connote a sense that these individuals straddle two worlds—one experience is specific to their unique ethnic identity, while the other is the broader multicultural amalgam that is Americana.

In relation to Latin America

Latin America includes most of the Western Hemisphere south of the United States, including Mexico, Central America, South America and (in some cases) the Caribbean. U.S. nationals with origins in Latin America are often referred to as Hispanic or Latino Americans, or by their specific country of origin, e.g., Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans and Cuban Americans.

Hyphenated-American identities

Some groups recommend dropping the hyphen because it implies to some people dual nationalism and inability to be accepted as truly American. The Japanese American Citizens League is supportive of dropping the hyphen because the non-hyphenated form uses their ancestral origin as an adjective for "American."[9]

By contrast, other groups have embraced the hyphen, arguing that the American identity is compatible with alternative identities and that the mixture of identities within the United States strengthens the nation rather than weakens it.

'European American,' as opposed to White or Caucasian, has been coined in response to the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S., as well as to this diversity moving more into the mainstream of the society in the latter half of the 20th century. The term distinguishes whites of European ancestry from those of other ancestries. In 1977, it was proposed that the term "European American" replace "white" as a racial label in the U.S. Census, although this was not done. The term "European American" is not in popular use in the U.S. among the general public or in the mass media, and the terms "white" or "white American" are commonly used instead.

See also


  1. ^ John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925 (1955) online text p 198
  2. ^ Charles William Penrose (July 6, 1889), "'"Letter from 'Junius, The Deseret Weekly (Deseret News Co) 39 (2): 53–54 
  3. ^ "Roosevelt Bars the Hyphenated".  
  4. ^ Woodrow Wilson: Final Address in Support of the League of Nations,
  5. ^ Di Nunzio, Mario R., ed. (2006). Woodrow Wilson: Essential Writings and Speeches of the Scholar-President. NYU Press. p. 412.  
  6. ^ "Explains our Voting Power in the League". New York Times. September 27, 1919. 
  7. ^ Editorial Style Guide, California State University at Los Angeles, archived from the original on 2008-06-26, retrieved 2007-12-13 
  8. ^ Erica S. Olsen (2000), Falcon Style Guide: A Comprehensive Guide for Travel and Outdoor Writers and Editors, Globe Pequot,  
  9. ^ See Strasheim (1975).

Further reading

  • Bronfenbrenner, Martin (1982). "Hyphenated Americans. Economic Aspects". Law and Contemporary Problems 45 (2): 9–27.   on economic discrimination
  • Higham, John (1955). Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925. pp. 198ff. 
  • Steiner, Edward A. (1916). Confessions of a Hyphenated American. 
  • Miller, Herbert Adolphus (1916). "Review of Confessions of a Hyphenated American. by Edward A. Steiner".  
  • Strasheim, Lorraine A. (1975). "‘We're All Ethnics’: ‘Hyphenated’ Americans, ‘Professional’ Ethnics, and Ethnics ‘By Attraction’". The Modern Language Journal 59 (5/6): 240–249.  

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.