The term Creole and its cognates in other languages — such as crioulo, criollo, creolo, créole, kriolu, criol, kreyol, kreol, kriol, krio, etc. — have been applied to people in different countries and epochs, with rather different meanings. Typically, creole peoples are fully or almost fully descended from white European colonial settlers. Their language, culture and/or racial origin represents the creolization resulting from the interaction and adaptation of colonial-era emigrants from Europe with non-European peoples, climates, cuisines, etc.
The development of creole languages is attributed to, but independent of, the emergence of a creole ethnic identity.
Etymology and overview
The English word creole derives from the French créole, which in turn came from Portuguese crioulo, which in turn came from Spanish criollo. This word, a derivative of the verb criar ("to raise"), was coined in the 15th century, in the trading and military outposts established by Spain and Portugal in West Africa. It originally referred to descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese settlers who were born and raised overseas. While the Spanish and Portuguese may have originally reserved the term criollo and crioulo for people of strictly European descent, the criollo population came to be dominated by people of mixed ancestry (mestizos). This mixing happened relatively quickly in most Spanish and Portuguese colonies. The growth of a mixed population was due to both the scarcity of Spanish and Portuguese women in the settlements, and to the Spanish and Portuguese Crown policy of encouraging mixed marriages in the colonies to create loyal colonial populations.