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The term Asian can refer to something or someone from Asia. Its precise use varies depending on who is using it.

In the United Kingdom and Anglophone Africa, the term Asian usually refers to people from Asian Continent and also whose ethnic heritage is from the Indian subcontinent. Since approximately 1990 in the United States and Australasia, "Asian" has been considered a more politically correct term for "Oriental", which previously referred to people from China, Japan, and Korea. The term "South East Asian" is used to some extent, but some Britons do not take care to distinguish between "South Asia" and "India", and others make a clear distinction between India and Pakistan or Bangladesh. This is partially due to the fact that the term "Orientalism" in academia became associated with European colonial attitude toward the Ottoman East.

In the U.S., the term "Asian" is now used to also describe people from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Tibet, the Philippines, and other nations which have similar a racial appearance. It is sometimes also used more formally to refer to people from the entire Asian continent, including Indians, Southeast Asians, Persian and Arabs.

To avoid the confusion that sometimes occurs, the term "East Asian" is sometimes used to distinguish people from China, Japan, and Korea from other peoples such as Indians who are also technically considered Asian. It should be noted that "East Asian" is a relatively formal term and is used only when it is necessary to make a distinction between them and other Asian peoples. The term "South Asian" is used very formally and politely to refer to people from India. These people are also sometimes formally referred to as "Asian Indians". The term "West Asian" is used in very rare occasions to refer to people from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and other Middle Eastern nations. The term "West Asian" is often considered overly formal and may be considered by some to be overly politically correct. Although some Russians hail from the Asian continent, most are genetically closer to Europeans and therefore not referred to as "Asian".

Despite the fact that they reside on the same land mass, Asia and Europe have traditionally been considered two different continents by Europeans. This may perhaps be due to cultural differences between the peoples of Asia and Europe. Earth science, with a more precise definition of continent, more frequently considers Eurasia to be a single continent encompassing both Asia and Europe.

Arabs, Persians, Ottomans, Indians, East Asians (Orientals), Indo-Chinese and many other ethnic and cultural groups are often referred in one category as Asian and this can cause considerable confusion. Some believe that the idea that "Asians" form a coherent cultural group is outmoded and therefore the term should be replaced by use of separate term for each Asian cultural or geographical group. For this reason, some East Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) prefer to be referred to as Orientals rather than being referred to as "Asian". Orient in classical European usage referred to Ottoman however, linguistically, orient literally refers simply to the rising of the sun, hence give the most accurate geographical attribution to East Asia in term of the Eurasian continent. Another reverse argument is to call European as West Eurasian, which may be other extreme of political correctness.

In modern times, Asian youths have written "AZN" as Internet shorthand for the word "Asian".

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