Is The Word ‘Dwarf’ Derogatory?

Status: Not to my knowledge.
Since my upcoming book is titled Hippo Eats Dwarf, this brief article in The Sun caught my attention:

PANTOS of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs are being censored — to outlaw the word DWARF. A shocked village drama group sent off for a script and found Dopey and his pals — played by kids — had to be called “gnomes” instead. Ray Lionet, 73, of the Coxheath Players in Kent, said the ban was to avoid offending short people. He said: “It’s madness.”

I never thought the word dwarf was considered to be derogatory. I hope it's not, because it's way too late to change the title of my book. Though when I was considering the title, I kept thinking that no one has ever claimed "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" to be offensive, so the word must be okay. Now, that's no longer true. But anyway, wouldn't it have to be less offensive to call a little person a dwarf, than to call them a gnome?


Posted on Mon Oct 17, 2005


Dwarf is probably considered offensive in the context of Snow White because the "dwarves" of Snow White were fantasy creatures and dwarves in real life are not. So the change to "gnomes" would be meant to show that these are not meant to be little people stereotypes but rather mythical creatures. Your book title is probably fine.
Posted by Dean  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  12:25 AM
The Sun... how can I explain this newspaper to somebody in the US?

It is read by semi-illiterates and puts its focus on "story" rather than "news".

It states "they sent off for a script", sent off to whom? That silent gap in itself speaks volumes.

"Had" to called Gnomes or the script refered to Gnomes? Who says "had"? They don't say, I wonder why?

Alex, what the "Sun Says" (One of their slogans) and reality are not even on a nodding acquaintance - I'd give it no more thought... after-all they don't 😊

I wouldn't think dwarfs are as humourless as the Sun is amyway.

Keep up the good work.
Posted by Peter  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  04:24 AM
Isn't this offensive to Underwear Gnomes???
Posted by Moi  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  06:17 AM
This link should address your concerns, and the question regarding Snow White:

Apparently midget is more offensive than dwarf.
Posted by Chris Carlisle  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  06:42 AM
this is kind of strange, PC run amok...dwarfism is a medical condition in which a person, animal or plant is much below the ordinary size of the species. Some of the best resources have the word dwarfism in their title. Yet, dwarfism is now rarely used as a medical term and is sometimes (but not always) considered impolite or pejorative. Today, the term little person tends to be preferred. (unless it's some D&D freak talking about how is an 18th level dwarf with a +8 war hammer)

*bits and pieces of above stolen from Wikipedia*
Posted by Chuck  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  06:48 AM
Chuck, this is not "PC run amuk" it is a British tabloid newspaper nonsense.

It is a fantasy, it is not true, it is contrived.

I realise there is some dificulty here as there isn't really a parallel newspaper in the USA - but please don't base any opinion on what the Sun newspaper writes.

It is shameful that such a thing as the Sun exists
Posted by Peter  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  07:10 AM
Found this on the "Tongue Tied" site:

So apparently it is true.
Posted by Frederick J. Barnett  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  07:47 AM
There's an organization called Little People of America. They oppose the term "midget" but, the last I heard, had no problem with "dwarf."
Posted by Mark  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  07:51 AM
The Richmond, Virginia newspaper printed a letter from a woman complaining of the term "mental patients" to describe, well, mental patients. She felt it was derogatory! We have seen and will continue to see an endless parade of euphemisms for various disabilities. Shortly after each term is considered the acceptable name, the PC police begin to reject it because essentially it describes a condition that NO ONE wants or would, given a choice, accept. Thus each term or euphemism gradually acquires an offensive connotation.
Posted by Tom  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  10:59 AM
I often wonder if euphemisms for various human conditions really serve the people in question.
In my youth (which wasn't all THAT long ago), it was generally considered much more polite to refer to a smaller-than-usual person as a "midget" than as a "dwarf." Now we're being told from some quarters that "midget" is insulting, but there's nothing wrong with "dwarf." To me, "dwarf" is a value-neutral term: it just means that the person in question is smaller than the great majority of others the same age. I don't think of that as being inherently good or bad.
Of course, in many contexts it's more appropriate to refer to a person by name than by a reference to size (or race, national origin, etc.). But there are other terms when the fact that somebody is little is important to the story ... such as when you're trying to convey in a headline how a hippo was able to swallow the guy.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  01:02 PM
Tom said:
"The Richmond, Virginia newspaper printed a letter from a woman complaining of the term "mental patients" to describe, well, mental patients. She felt it was derogatory!"

I have a hunch that a person being treated for a persecution complex would find the term especially offensive.
Posted by Big Gary, late for his meds again  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  01:05 PM
I believe that the term "dwarf" is okay since it is technically the name for the medical condition that little people have, ie: "pituitary dwarfism".
Posted by Rain  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  01:53 PM
I think we all know that it should be "Snow White and the Seven Dwarrows". Stupid Disney and Tolkien.
Posted by TheMatt  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  02:53 PM
I think this whole thing is ridiculous. I know it would bother me if I were a little person, but to censor a story that has been around for years and has even been made into a childrens' movie is just ignorant. They are just showing how ignorant they are as to let a five-letter-word bother them that much. They're just bringing more attention to them. I think everyone should just shut up and let art be what it was made to be. Censoring art is like taking out a peice of the artist's brain... it was meant to be the way it was when it was written. Plus, the story isn't referring to them in a bad way.
Posted by alex  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  03:03 PM
You guys seriously need to watch Blue Collar TV reruns.
Posted by Craig  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  03:52 PM
I am a vertically-challenged, lipid-storage-gifted, differently-brained, religion-free, gender-expansive organism, and if you refer to me any other way, I will sue.

Posted by Steph  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  04:55 PM
you hear lots of these stories in england, usually accompanied by the line "political correctness gone mad!" one i heard in class was that the term brainstorm is offensive because epileptics might find it offensive.... a bit of a strech, but we call them "mind showers" now

my latest theory its a conspiracy by the extreme right, see they start up political correctness as a nice thing to make peoples lives less miserable by stopping all the name callin, then they layer on rule after rule intil it gets ridiculous with stories like this one, then the whole system collapses and the extreme right laugh happly because its now ok to beat up people due to their skin colour again

i know im paranoid, but i prefer the term cautious-excessive
Posted by joeodd  on  Wed Oct 19, 2005  at  12:04 AM
I do agree the story is bogus. But just because "dwarf" is part of the medical term doesn't mean it can't be derogatory. As an example, a woman over 35 who has a child is technically an "elderly gravida." I think you'll find that women who are that age do not appreciate being called 'elderly'.

JK, what's "gender-expansive?"
Posted by cvirtue  on  Wed Oct 19, 2005  at  07:10 AM
I don't know if this is off the subject, but isn't "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" wrong?
The correct plural of "dwarf" is "dwarves."
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  on  Wed Oct 19, 2005  at  04:45 PM
My father was an electrical engineer and I spent twenty years as an electronic technician, thus I learned that it is impossible to solve a problem unless you know the details of the problem. Euphemisms get in the way of solving any problem. Especially when the euphemism is so convoluted as to defy comprehension. The left-wing extremists who thought up political corectness said their goal was to prevent anyone from having their feelings hurt. Ain't no way that will ever happen but meanwhile, people waste brainpower thinking up euphemisms instead of solving problems.

As one of the AD&D players who specializes in playing a Dwarf, I have looked up the plural - either term is acceptable. And at 6'2" I am the world's tallest Dwarf.
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Wed Oct 19, 2005  at  06:51 PM
For the issues around plural of "dwarf" see:
Posted by cvirtue  on  Thu Oct 20, 2005  at  05:07 AM
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  on  Thu Oct 20, 2005  at  04:20 PM
I heard this one on the tv news today, except they claimed that they were supposed to be changing it to "little people" or something similar, not gnomes.
Posted by Anne  on  Fri Oct 21, 2005  at  12:16 PM
The people i know are not offended by dwarf, but are greatly offended by midget.
Posted by tIm  on  Sun Oct 23, 2005  at  10:23 AM
little people sounds more offensive to me... i dont know why its just "oooh look at the tiny little people"

lets just call em wee folk
Posted by joeodd  on  Sun Oct 23, 2005  at  01:47 PM
On the LPA's FAQ they specifically state that dwarf is an acceptable term.


"Such terms as dwarf, little person, LP, and person of short stature are all acceptable, but most people would rather be referred to by their name than by a label."

Personally, if I was a little person, I think I'd rather be called a midget than "little", as I find the latter to be more derogatory, but since I'm NOT vertically challenged, I suppose my opinion on it doesn't count for beans, lol. I guess it's the freak show association of the word that deems it offensive to them.
Posted by MadCarlotta  on  Wed Oct 26, 2005  at  08:46 AM
Both "dwarfs" and "dwarves" are correct plural forms.

"Dwarf" is both medically and socially the correct term for an adult who's less than 4'10" tall or any person afflicted with one of the more than 500 types of dwarfism. "Midget" did not come into use to describe a small adult until around the 1870s, before which time it was a term of endearment for a child. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries "midget" was considered the proper term for a person of short stature who lacks the typical physical characteristics of a person with achondroplasia (the condition we commonly associate with dwarfism). "Dwarf" implied a person who was deformed or poorly proportioned, whereas a "midget" was a perfect small adult.

The term "little person" was coined by Billy Barty in 1957 and has come to be viewed by many dwarfs as condescending and unnecesarily quaint. "Midgets" are properly called pituitary dwarfs and there are very few of them nowadays because hormone therapy can allow these people to attain average height. Most dwarfs object to the term "midget" because of its circus connotations, but not to "dwarf".

I hope this clarifies it a bit. I hate political correctness, but in this case the politically correct term also happens to be the medically correct one.
Posted by Elizabeth  on  Tue Nov 01, 2005  at  09:21 PM
I reckon the word dwarf isn't that offensive because that's the offical name of the term but calling them dwarf instead of just "mate" or by their name can be a bit offending in some ways but calling them little man/boy is like calling a 17 year old a little child (as if they had the brains of little kids)
I reckon the terms "midget" "gnome" "ommpa lummpa" -including the theme tune from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" "little man/person" (as if you were talking to them (Hi little boy)
I would find it all so offensive.
Little people feels like the meaning dwarfs with a mind of a 5 year old which is obviously not true.
If they make strict terms for bullying/abusing a black/asian man why can't they toughen the law for bullying/discrimination against dwarfism.
You all think it's a joke.
Treat people by their actual age, NOT THEIR SIZE.
This whole world seems to have such a problem with dwarfism.
It's just the way we are!!
Why do so many of you people judge other people on the outside as to on the inside.
It's just so mad!!
Why can't you just respect them more and treat them by their age, not their size.
If your a bouncer, don't ask a dwarf for I.D just because of their size even if their face looks like they're over 18 and if you ask them for proof of I.D it is offensive to dwarfs so stop it!! PLEASE!
Posted by Chris Amor  on  Mon May 22, 2006  at  06:17 AM
The way people act to dwarfs like me is completly awful.
It's not just name calling, making jokes over our height but treating us, talking to us the way you'd talk to a 5 year old as to a 17 year old and believing the dwarf is incapable JUST because of their height.
We are normal human beings, everyone knows what dwarfism is, even if there aren't that many dwarfs compared to the total population they are still popularly known and still should yet get the same respect, the same rights as everyone else. For education, employment, family, friends, socialising, living whatever.
It is sick why people can't just treat us by our age. I do act like my age.
So come on you taller people.
Show the shorter people some more respect and yes the films Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and several others like are totally offensive and should be banned of TOTALLY!!!
Also the terms little boy/man, darling, sweetheart, are just as offensive words against dwarfs as midget, ommpa lummpa, gnomes, etc because that's offending them as if you believe they are little kids and would for the rest of their lives only have the brains of little kids.
WRONG!! Totally WRONG!!
Posted by Chris Amor  on  Thu Jul 20, 2006  at  07:40 AM
Isn't 'mind shower' offensive to people who have lost their minds and don't have showers?

Let's just call them 'halflings' and be done with it. It has a much better ring to it than.

But you're right about the 'Sun'. Can I add the 'mirror' and the 'daily record' to that. Everyone who works for them should be shot, removing them from the gene pool. But don't worry, they won't be dead, they'll be 'living impaired' or 'biologically challenged' or 'metabolically challenged'

can we poke fun at the fat people now please?
Posted by Paul Cunningham  on  Mon Oct 16, 2006  at  03:23 PM
Dwarf is the actual medical term, so it can't be derogatory. Give me a break. Midget? Now, that's derogatory. If dwarf is going to be now derogatory, let's just make the words people, men, women, humans, etc. derogatory. They ARE dwarves. I'm an interpreter for the Deaf, and the word Deaf is becoming "derogatory". Are you kidding me???????? They ARE deaf! It won't be long before we simply won't be able to SPEAK!!

If you're a dward, you're a dwarf. If you're deaf, you're deaf. It's just a word, and a REAL word at that, not something made up in an attemtp to offend, with a real English meaning. Get over it.
Posted by Shannon  on  Thu Aug 16, 2007  at  05:23 PM
i am currently doing a study on design for those dealing with Dwarfism. I would be really happy if those with the direct experience of dealing with Dwarfism would contact me. im simply looking for advise and also to make sure i do not offend anyone by using incorrect terms.

Many thanks

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Posted by Niki  on  Fri Apr 25, 2008  at  06:55 AM
I am a short person--not a 'little person' by any means but if you call an african american the n word--this is how it is when you call a 'little person' a drawf!! Think of how they feel--they are human beings just like you and have human emotions. Come on people
Posted by rasmine  on  Mon Jun 21, 2010  at  06:24 PM
'dwarf' i mean
Posted by rasmine  on  Mon Jun 21, 2010  at  06:26 PM
I'd like to know as many words used to describe a normal sized person that a angry dwarf would use to insult a tall person. Like maybe a BIGGER! There has to be angry little people out there that hate normal sized people...if so, I am looking for your perspective for a possible film.
Posted by Vito  on  Sun Aug 22, 2010  at  07:16 PM
If anyne taliking here is actually short you would know the differnece. A dwarf and a midget are both under 4'10". The difference is a midget is properly(legs, arms and mid section). A dwarf has smaller limbs compared to there mid-section.
Posted by askum68  on  Sun Dec 19, 2010  at  07:54 AM
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