This term is widely considered to be
This term is generally agreed to be offensive toward a person or group of people. We strongly recommend you do not use this term and instead use a term not usually thought to be offensive. While it is possible that some people will not be offended by this term, just as some people will be offended by other terms when no harm is intended, it is best to avoid. Remember that what is considered offensive can also change over time, by scenario, and by relationship. We provide this library of terms for informational purposes and we welcome feedback to help us get it right.


Derogatory term to describe people with intellectual disabilities (often used as an insult). 


Journalist Mark Peters noted that the term’s usage goes back to the mid-1400s, where the word described “a blockage, holding back, or slowing.” Then, in the 20th century, it began to be used in medical contexts, and Terri Mauro reported that it was even used in the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM). However, she mentioned that it began to be evolve from a medical term that described those with intellectual disabilities to an informal way of belittling people’s intelligence.

In 2010, a federal law named “Rosa’s Law” was passed that removed the term from federal labor, health, and education policies. These terms were replaced with “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability.” The law’s text can be found on the U.S. Congress’s website. Terri Mauro also reported that the DSM-5 did not include this term.


The National Center on Disability and Journalism advised:

Always try to specify the type of disability being referenced. Otherwise, the term “intellectually disabled” is acceptable. Use people-first language. Ask the person which terms they prefer.

At times, words that are considered outdated may be appropriate because of the story’s historical context. In those cases, attribute the term or note its historic use. For example, “The doctor said he was retarded, a term widely used at the time.”