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Dago vs. Guinea: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on September 27, 2023
"Dago" and "Guinea" are both derogatory slurs aimed at Italians or people of Italian descent, though "Guinea" also refers to a West African country and a former British coin.

Key Differences

"Dago" and "Guinea" are two terms that have been historically used in a derogatory manner, especially in the context of the United States, to describe individuals of Italian descent. The origins of these slurs stem from various sources, but over time, they have both been used with negative intent, emphasizing prejudice and discrimination against Italian immigrants and their descendants.
The term "Dago" is believed to be derived from Spanish names like Diego, which was used to describe Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian laborers in the early 19th century. It evolved into a derogatory term, particularly in English-speaking countries, for anyone of Mediterranean descent. This label thus paints a rather broad stroke, but it has been predominantly associated with Italians, especially in the U.S.
On the other hand, "Guinea" originally referred to the Guinea coast of West Africa. When used as a slur, it's a derogatory term specifically for Italians, suggesting that they are non-white or of mixed race. This term was especially used during periods when Italian immigrants faced significant discrimination in the U.S. Beyond its derogatory use, "Guinea" also denotes a former British gold coin and is the name of a West African nation.
It's essential to recognize the offensive nature of these terms when referring to individuals. Using such terms perpetuates harmful stereotypes and discriminates against a particular ethnic group. Modern discourse aims to eliminate or reduce the use of such slurs, promoting understanding and respect for all individuals, regardless of their ethnic or national backgrounds.

Comparison Chart

Basic Definition

A derogatory term for Italians.
A slur for Italians; also a West African country.


Derived from names like Diego.
Refers to the Guinea coast of West Africa.

Grammatical Role

Primarily used as a noun.
Used as a noun.

Associated Stereotypes

Targets those of Mediterranean descent.
Suggests non-whiteness or mixed race.

Additional Meanings

Former British coin; a country

Dago and Guinea Definitions


A derogatory term for someone of Italian descent.
Many found his use of the term Dago offensive and inappropriate.


A word pointing to discrimination faced by Italian immigrants.
Many Italian immigrants in the past were derogatorily labeled as Guinea.


A slur aimed at Mediterranean people.
Despite his Spanish origins, he was called a Dago in the early 1900s.


A name for the West African nation located on the Guinea coast.
She traveled to Guinea last summer for a research project.


An offensive label for those perceived as non-Anglo-Saxon.
He faced discrimination with people using the term Dago against him.


A term suggesting non-white or of mixed race when used as a slur.
The offensive implication of calling an Italian Guinea was clear to those in the early 20th century.


A term rooted in Spanish or Portuguese names like Diego.
The nickname Dago was once common for people named Diego.


A derogatory term specifically targeting Italians.
The old man muttered Guinea under his breath, revealing his biases.


A word highlighting discrimination against southern European immigrants.
Italian workers were often demeaningly called Dago in historical American contexts.


Historically, a British gold coin.
In classic literature, one might come across references to transactions made in Guineas.


Used as a disparaging term for a person of Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese descent.


A gold coin issued in England from 1663 to 1813 and worth one pound and one shilling.


A person of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, or other Mediterranean descent.


The sum of one pound and one shilling.


A person of Italian descent.


Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a person of Italian birth or descent.


A nickname given to a person of Spanish (or, by extension, Portuguese or Italian) descent.


A gold coin originally worth twenty shillings; later (from 1717 until the adoption of decimal currency) standardised at a value of twenty-one shillings.


Offensive terms for a person of Italian descent


Synonym of guinea fowl


A person of Italian descent.


A district on the west coast of Africa (formerly noted for its export of gold and slaves) after which the Guinea fowl, Guinea grass, Guinea peach, etc., are named.


A gold coin of England current for twenty-one shillings sterling, or about five dollars, but not coined since the issue of sovereigns in 1817.
The guinea, so called from the Guinea gold out of which itwas first struck, was proclaimed in 1663, and to go for twenty shillings; but it never went for less than twenty-one shillings.


A former British gold coin worth 21 shillings


Offensive terms for a person of Italian descent


A republic in eastern Africa on the Atlantic; formerly a French colony; achieved independence from France in 1958


A west African bird having dark plumage mottled with white; native to Africa but raised for food in many parts of the world


How did "Guinea" become a derogatory term for Italians?

As a slur, "Guinea" suggests Italians are non-white or of mixed race, emphasizing discrimination they faced.

Is "Dago" considered offensive?

Yes, "Dago" is considered offensive and derogatory.

Is "Dago" used only for Italians?

Predominantly for Italians, but it was also used for other Mediterranean people.

What's the origin of "Dago"?

It's believed to have originated from Spanish or Portuguese names like Diego.

What was the Guinea coin?

The Guinea was a British gold coin used historically.

What does "Dago" mean?

"Dago" is a derogatory term historically used for Italians or those of Mediterranean descent.

Is "Guinea" also a country's name?

Yes, Guinea is a country located in West Africa.

Were these terms widely used in the past?

Yes, especially during periods of significant Italian immigration to countries like the U.S.

Should I use "Dago" or "Guinea" in conversation?

No, both terms are derogatory and offensive. Avoid using them.

Why is awareness of these terms important?

Awareness helps avoid unintentional offense and promotes understanding and respect.

Why are these terms considered offensive today?

Both terms perpetuate negative stereotypes and were used discriminatively against Italian or Mediterranean immigrants.

How can I respond if someone uses these terms inappropriately?

Educate them about the offensive nature of the words and encourage respectful language.

Can I find these terms in literature?

It's possible, especially in older literature that reflects the biases of its time.

Are there positive connotations to either word?

No, in the context of referring to people, both words carry negative and derogatory connotations.

How can I address someone of Italian descent respectfully?

Simply referring to them as "Italian" or by their name is respectful.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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