Definition of oriental in English:


(also Oriental)


  • 1Of, from, or characteristic of Asia, especially East Asia.

    ‘oriental countries’
    ‘oriental rugs’
    • ‘Lethargic and lacking self-confidence, he was a quiet dreamer, with interests in theology, art history, and oriental religions.’
    • ‘After getting some noodles and watching some martial arts (how oriental!) we got bored and decided to head into town.’
    • ‘To stir-fry is not much different from the French sauter but it is done in a wok, not a sauté pan, and using a frying medium such as peanut oil, which is characteristic of oriental cookery, rather than butter or olive oil.’
    • ‘Acting as passionate guardian of the memory of her mentor, Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin has interpreted his work to a lusty backing of Arabic, Andalusian and oriental influences for this concert recording.’
    • ‘Visitors can take along their own picnic tea or there will be refreshments to buy and those who want to join in the Eastern theme with oriental costume can take part in a special prize draw.’
    • ‘Had a brief listen to the two other tracks Jake had given me: oriental pieces which I recognised from somewhere and which are beautiful.’
    • ‘Through other parents at her son Louis's school where they then lived on the outskirts of London, Clara started learning about the oriental art of Chi Kung.’
    • ‘As a young girl, I saw a Bharatanatyam recital on television I was enchanted by the precision and grace of movement and the expression and costume that I made up my mind to learn that mysterious oriental dance.’
    • ‘Many of these can be found during the second week in November with a celebration of Asian Art in London when Bonhams, Christie's and Sotheby's hold a number of sales of oriental fine art and antiques.’
    • ‘Besides western art and literature, many volumes dealt with the oriental world: its history, religion, writings, sculpture, painting, ceramics.’
    • ‘The taste of his subjects tended towards the antiquarian rather than the purely decorative, and their collecting interest widened to embrace traditional crafts, archaeology, and oriental art.’
    • ‘Subsequent years saw the character of Sofia change from an oriental outpost to a European city, a trend that continues.’
    • ‘Experience the ancient mystical city of Ho Chi-Minh and its Eastern traditions, Buddha temples, towering pagodas and colorful oriental river markets.’
    • ‘The most important addition to the cultural life of Dublin Castle in recent times has been the relocation there of the Chester Beatty library, with its world famous collection of oriental art and manuscripts.’
    • ‘Fenellosa, on the other hand, continually said that there were also outstanding arts in the oriental tradition.’
    • ‘I used to travel quite a bit, because I had a gallery in London dealing with oriental art, and it was important to visit areas that held such a fascination for me.’
    • ‘The works involve extremely simple figures, outlined by elegant and light curves, typical of oriental art.’
    • ‘The oriental chicken, described as shredded lettuce and crispy angel hair tossed with various veggies in a spicy sweet-and-sour sesame dressing, tasted to us like nail-polish remover.’
    • ‘Older people in the north Cotswolds have been taking part in a pilot project to assess the best way of bringing them the health benefits of T'ai Chi - the oriental art of meditation and movement.’
    • ‘After years of practise, he has mastered an ancient oriental art that allows him to live his life using the minimum amount of energy possible.’
    eastern, chinese, japanese
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Zoology Relating to or denoting a zoogeographical region comprising Asia south of the Himalayas and Indonesia west of Wallace's line. Distinctive animals include pandas, gibbons, tree shrews, tarsiers, and moonrats.
      • ‘The Oriental Crested Ibis used to have a wide distribution in eastern China, Russia, Japan and Korea, but clearance of the forests, pesticides and changes in rice-farming practices led to a dramatic decline.’
  • 2(of a pearl or other jewel) orient.

    • ‘The most spectacular consisted of a ‘large round cup in oriental onyx, mount and ornaments in fine chased, enamelled gold.’
    • ‘The green lion symbolizes an emerald or an oriental sapphire and means stature and robust person, wealth, cool and courageous, stable and sincere, unconditional love.’


  • A person of East Asian descent.


The term oriental has an out-of-date feel as a term denoting people from Asia; it tends to be associated with a rather offensive stereotype of the people and their customs as inscrutable and exotic. In US English Asian is the standard accepted term in modern use; in British English, where Asian tends to denote people from the Indian subcontinent, specific terms such as Chinese or Japanese are more likely to be used


Late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin orientalis, from orient- (see orient).