Half-caste  is a term used to describe people of mixed race or ethnicity. Caste comes from the Latin castus, meaning pure, and the derivative Portuguese and Spanish casta, meaning race. The term originates from the Indian caste system, where a person of ‘lesser’ or half-caste would be deemed to be of a ‘lower class’. While the origins of the term are derogatory, its usage has evolved to give it the more objective meaning described above.

Half caste is a term used in the United Kingdom and other English-speaking parts of the world. An example is a child of black African and white European parentage. The term mulatto (from Spanish “Mulato”) has also been used for this particular mixture. Both terms are considered impolite and potentially offensive in the U.S., as the words have been used pejoratively in the past to ostracize and isolate the offspring of such unions. For example, “children of the plantation” (the children of African-American slaves and their European-American masters in the U.S. Southern states) were not accepted as heirs, and in most cases, the relationship was never acknowledged, and “half-caste” conveyed the deliberate exclusion. The term ‘half caste’ was once commonly used in the U.K. and remains in occasional use today.