Because of the term's historical use in contexts that typically implied disapproval, more unambiguously neutral terms such as interracial, interethnic or cross-cultural are more common in contemporary usage.The term miscegenation has been used since the 19th century to refer to interracial marriage and interracial sexual relations, The Latin term entered historical records during European colonialism and the Age of Discovery, but societies such as China and Japan also had restrictions on marrying with people whom they considered to be of a different race.In the present day, the word miscegenation is avoided by many scholars, because the term suggests a concrete biological phenomenon, rather than a categorization imposed on certain relationships.
In Spanish, Portuguese and French, the words used to describe the mixing of races are mestizaje, mestiçagem and métissage.
These words, much older than the term miscegenation, are derived from the Late Latin mixticius for "mixed", which is also the root of the Spanish word mestizo.
Portuguese also uses miscigenação, derived from the same Latin root as the English word.
These non-English terms for "race-mixing" are not considered as offensive as "miscegenation", although they have historically been tied to the caste system (Casta) that was established during the colonial era in Spanish-speaking Latin America.
Some groups in South America, however, consider the use of the word mestizo offensive because it was used during the times of the colony to refer specifically to the mixing between the conquistadores and the indigenous people.
Today, the mixes among races and ethnicities are diverse, so it is considered preferable to use the term "mixed-race" or simply "mixed" (mezcla).
In Portuguese-speaking Latin America (i.e., Brazil), a milder form of caste system existed, although it also provided for legal and social discrimination among individuals belonging to different races, since slavery for blacks existed until the late 19th century.
Intermarriage occurred significantly from the very first settlements, with their descendants achieving high rank in government and society.
To this day, there are controversies if Brazilian class system would be drawn mostly around socio-economic lines, not racial ones (in a manner similar to other former Portuguese colonies).