The following terms and definitions are often associated with and provide a common, working language for ADL’s educational anti-bias programs and resources. The definitions are written for older youth to adult reading levels, unless otherwise specified, and some include age-appropriate versions for younger ages.
Ability: Having the mental and/or physical condition to engage in one or more major life activities (e.g., seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, or caring for oneself).
Ableism: Prejudice and/or discrimination against people with mental and/or physical disabilities.
Activist: Someone who gets involved in activities that are meant to achieve political or social change; this also includes being a member of an organization which is working on change.
Ageism: Prejudice and/or discrimination against people because of their real or perceived age. Although ageism is often assumed to be bias against older people, members of other groups, such as teens, are also targets of prejudice and/or discrimination based on their age.
Aggressor: Someone who says or does something harmful or malicious to another person intentionally and unprovoked.
- Elementary-age version: Someone who says or does hurtful things.
Ally: Someone who speaks out on behalf of someone else or takes actions that are supportive of someone else.
- Elementary-age version: Someone who helps or stands up for someone who is being bullied or the target of prejudice.
Anti-bias: An active commitment to challenging prejudice, stereotyping and all forms of discrimination.
Anti-Semitism: Prejudice or discrimination that is directed towards Jews. Anti-Semitism is based on stereotypes and myths that target Jews as a people, their religious practices and beliefs, and the Jewish State of Israel.
Bias: An inclination or preference either for or against an individual or group that interferes with impartial judgment.
- Elementary/Middle/High school version: A preference either for or against an individual or group that affects fair judgment.
Bigotry: An unreasonable or irrational attachment to negative stereotypes and prejudices.
- Elementary/Middle/High school version: Prejudice and/or discrimination against a person or group based on stereotypes.
Bisexual: A person who is emotionally, physically and/or romantically attracted to some people of more than one gender.
Brave: Doing something you would not normally do that may be physically or emotionally hard. (Elementary school age)
Bullying: Repeated actions or threats of action directed toward a person by one or more people who have (or are perceived to have) more power or status than their target in order to cause fear, distress or harm. Bullying can be physical, verbal, psychological or any combination of these three. Bullying behaviors can include name-calling, obscene gesturing, malicious teasing, rumors, slander, social exclusion, damaging a person’s belongings, threats and physical violence.
- Elementary school version: When a person or a group behaves in ways—on purpose and over and over—that make someone feel hurt, afraid or embarrassed.
Bystander: Someone who sees something happening and does not say or do anything.
All forms of bias can be both explicit (aware, voluntary and intentional) and implicit (unaware, involuntary and unintentional). All manifestations of bias and discrimination can be both personal (an individual act of bias, meanness or exclusion) or institutional (supported and sanctioned by power and authority that confers privilege on members of a dominant group while disadvantaging members of other groups).