NEGRO Tracing its lineage to the Latin adjective niger, meaning black, the term Negro is derived from the Spanish and Portuguese adjective negro, also meaning black. When the Spanish and Portuguese first came into contact with black Africans, largely as the result of their slavetrading activities, the term was capitalized and used as a noun in reference to the Africans.
Until recently, the term Negro as used by members of both white and black races in the United States was considered "correct" and socially acceptable. During the first half of the twentieth century, the overwhelming majority of African Americans preferred to be called "Negro" rather than "black" or "colored." In fact, in many sections of the United States, to call an African American "black" was considered offensive and derogatory. With the renewed emphasis upon black pride and nationalism during the 1960's, however, "black" (or "Afro-American") replaced "Negro" as the most acceptable designation, at least for blacks themselves. The current preference, of course, is the unhyphenated "African American." The term Negro, with its connotation of slavery, fell into disrepute and is now generally avoided as a descriptive noun.