- 1: conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated
Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term that refers to language, ideas, or policies that address perceived or actual discrimination against or alienation of politically, socially or economically disadvantaged groups. The term usually implies that these social considerations are excessive or of a purely "political" nature. These groups most prominently include those defined by gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability.
Historically, the term was a colloquialism used in the early-to-mid 20th century by Communists and Socialists in political debates, referring pejoratively to the Communist "party line", which provided for "correct" positions on many matters of politics. The term was adopted in the later 20th century by the New Left, applied with a certain humour to condemn sexist or racist conduct as "not politically correct". By the early 1990s, the term was adopted by US conservatives as a pejorative term for all manner of attempts to promote multiculturalism and identity politics, particularly in terms of attempts to introduce new terms that sought to leave behind discriminatory baggage attached to older ones, and conversely to try to make older ones taboo. This phenomenon was driven by a combination of the linguistic turn in academia and the rise of identity politics both inside and outside it. These led to attempts to change social reality by changing language, with attempts at making language more culturally inclusive and gender-neutral. These attempts (associated with the political left) led to a backlash from the right, partly against the attempts to change language, and partly against the underlying identity politics itself. "Political correctness" became a convenient rightwing label for both of these things it rejected.
In contemporary usage, the terms PC, politically correct, and political correctness are pejorative descriptors, whereas, the term politically incorrect is used by opponents of PC as an implicitly positive self-description, as in the cases of the conservative, topical book-series The Politically Incorrect Guide, and the liberal, television talk-show program Politically Incorrect.