Intended for healthcare professionals


The language of ethnicity

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 23 November 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4493
  1. Kamlesh Khunti, professor of primary care diabetes and vascular medicine1,
  2. Ash Routen, research associate1,
  3. Manish Pareek, associate clinical professor in infectious diseases2,
  4. Shaun Treweek, professor of health services research3,
  5. Lucinda Platt, professor of social policy and sociology4
  1. 1Diabetes Research Centre and Centre for Black Minority Health, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  2. 2Department of Respiratory Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  3. 3Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  4. 4London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: K Khunti kk22{at}

Collective terms BAME and BME should be abandoned

The disproportionate impact of covid-19 on ethnic minority groups12 has attracted global attention, causing journalists, broadcasters, politicians, the public, and academics to grapple with the most appropriate way to describe people of minority ethnic backgrounds.34 This issue is critical if we are to identify, understand, and resolve the enduring inequalities in life chances affecting these communities.

Various collective terms have been used to describe ethnic minority groups, including BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic), BME (black and minority ethnic), ethnic minority, non-white, and people of colour. BAME and BME, both commonly used in the UK,5 are problematic as they indiscriminately combine people from different geographical, behavioural, social, and cultural backgrounds. They also focus on skin colour. Few minority people identify with these acronyms,3 and in one Twitter poll only 13% of 7775 respondents, selected BAME or BME as an appropriate term.6 So what terms should we use?

Some historical context may be …

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