About this glossary

This glossary is intended to provide working definitions for terms that are often used in discussions of human rights and the individuals and groups that hold them. It will grow and change as our Office conducts more research and hears from more communities and as terminology changes over time.

Our Office recognizes that language evolves and that meanings change depending on context. We also recognize that language carries weight: words can foster inclusion or lead to alienation depending on how they are used. Our choice of words has real-world consequences.

Recognizing the weight of our language choices, we believe strongly that individuals and groups should be able to choose the terms used to describe them. This is a matter of autonomy, but it is also because you are best positioned to understand the nuances and implications of language that describes your own lived reality.
If there is language in this glossary—or on our websites, social media channels or publications—that you find problematic, out of date or otherwise in need of attention, please let us know! We welcome your feedback and will consider it carefully during our regular language reviews. Thank you for helping us be as respectful and accurate with our language as possible.

Terms