Nigger (racial slur)

racial slur towards/against black people

In the English language, nigger is a racial slur directed at black people. In the United States, the term was historically applied to enslaved African Americans and has recently been partially reappropriated by some of their descendants as nigga



Early use

  • She is a foole, that dare not wash her face, because she would not have her husband thinke she paints it so she is a nigger, that dare not laugh, least her husbande shoulde thinke shee is lascivious.

18th- and 19th-century United States

  • I jumped aboard de telegraph,
      And trabbled down de riber,
    De lectric fluid magnified,
      And killed five hundred nigger.
  • Eena, meena, mina, mo,
    Catch a nigger by his toe;
    If he squeals let him go,
    Eena, meena, mina, mo.
  • Ten little nigger boys went out to dine;
    One choked his little self, and then there were nine...
    One little nigger boy living all alone;
    He got married, and then there were none.
  • It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger—but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither.

20th-century United States

  • In the Deep South, you are dealing with a sheriff or a landlord or a landlady or a girl of the Western Union desk, and she doesn't know quite who she's dealing with—by which I mean, that if you're not a part of the town, and if you are a "Northern Nigger", it shows in millions of ways. So she simply knows that it's an unknown quantity, and she wants to have nothing to do with it. Because she won't talk to you, you have to wait for a while to get your telegram. Okay, we all know this. We've been through it, and by the time you get to be a man, it's very easy to deal with.
  • Then I come down to Houston, I went to a bowling alley. I couldn't go bowling, there were no bowling balls. The people here throw 'em all in the sea, thought they were nigger eggs... thought they were nigger eggs.
    • Kinky Friedman, from a 1980 tape, as reported on the Burnt Orange Report, an Austin-based Democratic blog, in September 2006; quoted in Texas Weekly, vol. 23, no. 13 (18 September 2006), Online
  • When I was in Africa, this voice came to me and said, "Richard, what do you see?" I said, "I see all types of people." The voice said, "But do you see any niggers?" I said, "No." It said, "Do you know why? 'Cause there aren't any." And it hit me like a shot, man. I started crying and shit. … And it made me say, "Oh my God, I've been wrong. I've been wrong. I've got to regroup my shit." I said, "I ain't gonna never call another black man a nigger." … I don't like it when black people say it to me. I really don't no more.
  • You fuckin' guys are acting like a bunch of fuckin' niggers! You work with niggers, huh? Just like you two, always sayin' they're gonna kill each other.
  • When you came pullin' in here, did you notice a sign on the front of of my house that said "Dead Nigger Storage"?
  • There's black people, and there's niggers. And niggers have got to go. Every time black people wanna have a good time, ign'ant-ass niggers fuck it up.

21st-century United States

  • Blacks stayed at home during the civil rights march. Niggers are the ones that marched.

Outside the United States

  • He never lost his appetite —
    He bigger grew and bigger;
    And proved, with every inch of height,
    A nigger is a nigger.
    • Henry Kendall, “My Piccaninny”, in The Australian Town and Country Journal (19 June 1880), p. 28, col. 4
  • The lady who dyes a chemical yellow,
    Or stains her grey hair puce,
    Or pinches her figger,
    Is blacked like a nigger
    With permanent walnut juice.
  • The nigger was calm, cool, towering, superb.
    • Joseph Conrad, The Nigger of the "Narcissus" (1897), Ch. 1
    • The titular character, James Wait, is a West Indian black sailor aboard the merchant ship Narcissus sailing from Bombay to London.
  • Oh, plain black's best for a nigger.
  • You wouldn't believe it now, but I've had forty niggers under me, doing what I told them to.

Quotes about nigger

  • I noticed that among this class of colored men the word "nigger" was freely used in about the same sense as the word "fellow," and sometimes as a term of almost endearment; but I soon learned that its use was positively and absolutely prohibited to white men.
  • If the slur is mentioned in key court decisions, it should not be taboo in law schools.
    • Randall Kennedy and Eugene Volokh, "The case for quoting the n-word in university classrooms", The Washington Post (13 May 2021), Online
  •   Encyclopedic article on Nigger on Wikipedia