Ethnic cleansing


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Ethnic cleansing'?

The expression ‘ethnic cleansing’ is a euphemism for the ruthless removal or killing of an ethnic or religious group from areas that have been taken over by opposing forces.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Ethnic cleansing'?

Although the process has been engaged in since antiquity the term didn’t enter the English language until the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The earliest citation of a phrase similar to it is from the New York Times, July 1982:

“The nationalists have a two-point platform, according to Becir Hoti, an executive secretary of the Communist Party of Kosovo, first to establish what they call an ethnically clean Albanian republic and then the merger with Albania to form a greater Albania.”

The precise phrase appears first in the Indianna Gazette, January 1991:

They [the Bosnian Army] are widely considered responsible for the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II, including the “ethnic cleansing” of Bosnia and Croatia.

See other phrases that were coined in the USA.

Trend of ethnic cleansing in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.