ITHACA, N.Y. — The Merriam-Webster dictionary has changed the definition of the word “nude” to be more inclusive of people of color — and an Ithaca College student was the driving force for change.

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Sophomore Luis Torres launched a petition to change the definition of the word on July 14, National Nude Day, as a project with the nonprofit organization Do Something, which promotes volunteerism for social change, according to the organization’s website.

About 820 people commented on the dictionary’s online definition, resulting in the officials change of the word’s definition.

The previous definition described “nude “as, “having the color of a white person’s skin.” The dictionary now lists the definition as “having a color (as pale beige or tan) that matches the wearer’s skin tones or  giving the appearance of nudity.”

Torres told The Ithacan,  “I definitely think it ties into the idea of Eurocentric beauty standards being detrimental to people of color and also just the overall marketing that’s geared toward white people. It’s a small microaggression, the word “nude” itself.”

He went on to say that he didn’t hear of any outright objection to the change, but several people questioned why the change was necessary.

“Language is the basis of how we connect to people…it’s important to not be overly sensitive but also to recognize that words do make a huge impact on the human psyche. As a white person, you might not understand why the word “nude” being defined that way is important, but you have to understand why it might be important to someone with a different perspective,” Torres told The Ithacan. 

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.