In Spanish, Portuguese and French, the words used to describe the mixing of races are mestizaje, mestiçagem and métissage.
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).
Conversely, people classified in censuses as black, brow ("pardo") or indigenous have disadvantaged social indicators in comparison to the white population.
The concept of miscegenation is tied to concepts of racial difference.
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.
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.
The term's historical use in contexts that typically implied disapproval is also a reason why more unambiguously neutral terms such as interracial, interethnic or cross-cultural are more common in contemporary usage.