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Race is a categorization of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into groups generally viewed as distinct within a given society. The term came into common usage during the 16th century, when it was used to refer to groups of various kinds, including those characterized by close kinship relations. By the 17th century, the term began to refer to physical (phenotypical) traits, and then later to national affiliations. Modern science regards race as a social construct, an identity which is assigned based on rules made by society. While partly based on physical similarities within groups, race does not have an inherent physical or biological meaning. The concept of race is foundational to racism, the belief that humans can be divided based on the superiority of one race over another.
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Social conceptions and groupings of races have varied over time, often involving folk taxonomies that define essential types of individuals based on perceived traits. Modern scientists consider such biological essentialism obsolete, and generally discourage racial explanations for collective differentiation in both physical and behavioral traits.
Even though there is a broad scientific agreement that essentialist and typological conceptions of race are untenable,
Since the second half of the 20th century, race has been associated with discredited theories of scientific racism, and has become increasingly seen as a largely pseudoscientific system of classification. Although still used in general contexts, race has often been replaced by less ambiguous and/or loaded terms: populations, people(s), ethnic groups, or communities, depending on context. Its use in genetics was formally renounced by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2023.