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Wikipedia:Categorizing articles about people

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This guideline concerns the categorization of biographical articles about people. This includes:

General considerations[edit]

Categorize by characteristics of the person, not characteristics of the article: E.g., do not add [[Category:Biography]] to an article. Sub-categories of Category:Biography (genre) may legitimately contain articles about biographical films or biographical books, but should not contain articles about individual people. The article is a biography; the person is not.

Keep people categories separate. Categories with a title indicating that the contents are people, should normally only contain biographical articles and lists of people, and perhaps a non-biographical main article, though this can also be added at the top of the category. This is for clarity and ease of use, and to preserve the integrity of category tree of people articles.


In general, categories of articles about people must be:

  • Neutral – Use of terminology must be neutral. Note that neutral terminology may not necessarily be the most common term. And a term that the person or their cultural group does not accept for themselves is not neutral even if it remains the most widely used term among outsiders. See also: WP:NPOVTITLE. Try to avoid category names that could be seen in a stigmatizing way. When in doubt, err on the side of respect.
    For example, "Category:Prostitutes" would be a better name for a category than "whores" (which redirects to Prostitution). "Category:Sex workers", while possibly more neutral, would not necessarily be appropriate as a direct substitute, as it is an even broader term.
    Avoid using the word victim for anyone who is not specifically a victim of a crime. For example, "AIDS victims" is not an appropriate term for HIV-positive people.
    Using derogatory terms for people, such as racial slurs, is not to be tolerated under any circumstances, and should be considered grounds for speedy deletion.
  • Verifiable – Do not categorize people based upon deduction, inference, residence, surname, nor any partial derivation from one or more ancestors. Doing so would be original research. Inclusion of people in a category must be based on verifiability from reliable sources. And as with any category, it should have a main article that describes the contents. However, if the main article could never be anything more than a bulleted list of individuals who happen to meet the criteria, then a category is not appropriate. Please note that this does not mean that the main article must already exist before a category may be created, but that it must at least be reasonable to create one.
    For example, though an editor may have personal knowledge of a notable individual's sexual orientation, the article about that individual should be added to a sexuality-based category only if the article cites a reliable source in support of that fact.
    Also, while historical persons may be identified from sources by notable association with a particular ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability, living people should have self-identified.

  • Defining – Biographical articles should be categorized by defining characteristics. As a rule of thumb for main biographies this includes the reason(s) for the person's notability; i.e., the characteristics the person is best known for. The principle of "defining characteristics" applies to categorizing people, as it does to any other categorization. As the guideline on categorization says:

    The defining characteristics of an article's topic are central to categorizing the article. A defining characteristic is one that reliable sources commonly and consistently refer to[1] in describing the topic, such as the nationality of a person or the geographic location of a place.

    For example, a film actor who holds a law degree should be categorized as a film actor, but not as a lawyer unless their legal career was notable in its own right or relevant to their acting career. Many people had assorted jobs before taking the one that made them notable; those other jobs should not be categorized. Similarly, celebrities commercializing a fragrance should not be in the perfumers category; not everything a celebrity does after becoming famous warrants categorization.

Sensitive categories[edit]

Be aware that mis-categorizations are more sensitive for articles on people than for articles on other topics.

This includes categories that might suggest a person has a poor reputation, and categories that belong in the categorization tree of Category:Criminals. For example, Categorizing a politician involved in a scandal as a "criminal" would create much more controversy than categorizing a behaviour or act as "criminal".

Likewise, watch for category intersections where at least one of the categories of the intersection is sensitive. Failing to handle these categories appropriately can lead to external criticism, e.g. Kevin Morris (2013-05-01), "Does Wikipedia's sexism problem really prove that the system works?", Daily Dot.[2]

Also, not all categories are comprehensive. For some sensitive categories, it may be better to think of the category as a set of representative and unquestioned examples, while a list is a better venue for an attempt at completeness. Particularly for sensitive categories, lists can be used as a complement to categorization. See also Wikipedia:Categories, lists, and series boxes.

Double check: Always check after saving an article whether the categorization strikes you as offensive or indelicate. To avoid that, use discernment to find those categories you think are most to the point and inoffensive. If necessary, create a new category that better serves what you want to communicate, rather than using an existing category that is (partly) inconsistent with the content of the article. But bear in mind the principle that "Wikipedia is not censored", so if something is offensive but has encyclopedic value, it might still be appropriate. See also: Wikipedia:Categorization#Inappropriate categorization.

Note: This advice applies only to categorization of articles, and the categories, lists, navigation boxes, and templates, which are normally used in articles, and other mainspace pages such as disambiguation pages and redirects. It does not restrict categories that are used for WikiProjects, e.g., articles supported by Wikipedia:WikiProject LGBT studies, or other project pages.

Categorizing by ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability[edit]

In general, Categorization by ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability is permitted. However, these topics can be the subject of controversy, and because of this, when these types of categories are nominated at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion, the discussions can vary in their outcome.

Specific intersections[edit]

Examples from WP:CFD: Jewish mathematicians, LGBT murderers, Sportspeople by religion

Do not create categories that intersect a particular topic (such as occupation, place of residence, or other such characteristics) with an ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability, unless that combination is itself recognized as a defining topic that has already been established (in reliable sources showing substantial existing research specific to the topic), as academically or culturally significant in its own right. The mere fact that such people happen to exist is not a valid criterion for determining the legitimacy of a category.

And in general, when such categories are created, such sub-categorization is typically only implemented in order to split larger categories (e.g. Category:LGBT sportspeople is used to reduce the size of Category:LGBT people).

The basis for creating such categories is also not the number of individuals who could potentially be added to a category grouping such individuals, or whether such a grouping constitutes a positive or negative portrayal of a particular group of individuals.

At all times, the bottom line remains can a valid, encyclopedic main article be written for this grouping?

For example, when intersecting with occupation, people should only be so categorized if this has significant bearing on their career. Likewise, in criminology, a person's actions are more important than, for example, their race or sexual orientation.

Ethnicity and race[edit]

Ethnic groups are commonly used when categorizing people; however, race is not. Ethnic groups may be used as categorizations, even if race is a stereotypical characteristic of the ethnic group, e.g. with African-Americans or Anglo-Indians. See Lists of ethnic groups for groups that are typically considered ethnic groups rather than races.

For example, we do have Category:Jewish musicians, but we should not have Category:Semitic musicians.

When intersecting by country of residence, terminology must be appropriate to the person's cultural context.

For example, a Canadian of indigenous heritage is categorized at Category:Canadian people of Indigenous peoples descent, not Category:Native American people.

In addition, ethnicity-related categories (such as descent or diaspora), should not contain any individual migrant, emigrant, or immigrant; instead, that person should be diffused to an appropriate subcategory.

Also, the ethnicity of grandparents (or other ancestors) is never defining and rarely notable.

Citizenship, nationality (which country's laws the person is subject to), national origin, and national identity (which country the person feels closest to), although sometimes correlated with ethnicity, are not the same as ethnicity and are not addressed on this page.[3]


See also: Category:Gender – e.g. Category:Female bullfighters, Category:Male pornographic film actors, Category:Women composers

Use gender-neutral category names, unless there is a distinct reason to do otherwise (which should then be noted in the category description). For example, instead of a category for "Kings" and a different category for "Queens", use Category:Monarchs.

A gender-specific category could be implemented where gender has a specific relation to the topic. For example, Category:Women contains articles such as International Women's Day, Women's studies, and female-specific subcategories. Similarly, Category:Men contains articles such as father, men's studies, boy and human male sexuality, as well as male-specific subcategories. Neither category, however, should directly contain biographies of individual women or individual men.

As another example, a female heads of government category is valid as a topic of special encyclopedic interest, though it does not need to be balanced directly against a "Male heads of government" category, as historically the vast majority of political leaders have been male. Both male and female heads of government should continue to be categorized in the appropriate gender-neutral role category (e.g. Presidents, Monarchs, Prime Ministers, Governors General). Do not create separate categories for male and female occupants of the same position, such as "Male Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom" vs. "Female Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom".

As most notable organized sporting activities are segregated by gender, sportsperson categories constitute a case where "gender has a specific relation to the topic". As such, sportsperson categories should be split by gender, except in such cases where men and women participate primarily in mixed-gender competition. Example: Category:Male golfers and Category:Female golfers should both be subcategories of Category:Golfers, but Category:Ice dancers should not have gendered subcategories. Category:Male actors and Category:Actresses, and Category:Male models and Category:Female models are also divided by gender.


See also: Category:Religion – e.g. Category:Christian theologians, Category:Hindu poets, Category:Muslim writers

Categories regarding religious beliefs (or lack of such beliefs) of a living person should not be used unless the subject has publicly self-identified with the belief in question (see WP:BLPCAT), either through direct speech or through actions such as serving in an official clerical position for the religion. For a not-recently living person, there must be verifiable reliable published sources that, by consensus, support the information, and show that the description is appropriate. Religion is not heritable. Never categorize by a religion of any parents or other ancestors.

For example: "Atheist" can be used as an offensive term (people living under a Fatwa are still today sometimes called "atheist" by their condemnors, irrespective of whether the former consider themselves atheist). Some of the vague (and non-NPOV) edges of inclusion in an "Atheists" category is the unclear distinction between "strong" and "weak" atheism (see the atheism article) and about whether only outspoken followers of atheistic beliefs should be named or everyone generally considered to be an "Atheist". See Category:Atheists for how the category is currently defined.

This may include other categories with similar issues, such as Category:Critics of religions and Category:Conspiracy theorists, and other such categories.

Sexual orientation[edit]

See also: Category:Sexuality – e.g. Category:LGBT sportspeople, Category:Lesbian politicians, Category:Bisexual actors

Categories regarding sexual orientation of a living person are subject to Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons § Categories, lists and navigation templates: such categories should not be used unless the subject has publicly self-identified with the orientation in question, according to reliable published sources. For example, a living person who is caught in a gay prostitution scandal, but continues to assert their heterosexuality, may not be categorized as gay.

For a person who has died, but is not recently deceased, there must be verifiable reliable published sources that the description is appropriate. Historically, LGBT people often did not come out in the way that they commonly do today, so a person's own self-identification is, in many cases, impossible to verify by the same standards that would be applicable to a contemporary BLP. However, a broad consensus of academic and/or biographical scholarship about the topic is sufficient to describe a person as LGBT. For example, while some sources have claimed that William Shakespeare was gay or bisexual, there is not a sufficient consensus among scholars to support categorizing him as such—while such consensus does exist about the sexuality of Oscar Wilde or Radclyffe Hall.

Categories that make allegations about sexuality—such as "closeted homosexuals" or "people suspected of being gay"—are not acceptable under any circumstances. If such a category is created, it should be immediately depopulated and deleted. Note that as similar categories of this type have actually been attempted in the past, they may be speedily deleted (as a G4) and do not require another debate at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion.

Disability, intersex, medical, or psychological conditions[edit]

See also: Category:Disability – e.g. Category:Deaf musicians, Category:Sportspeople with limb difference, Category:Actors with dwarfism

People with disabilities, intersex conditions, and other medical or psychological states or conditions, should not be added to subcategories of Category:People with disabilities, Category:Intersex people or Category:People by medical or psychological condition unless that condition is considered WP:DEFINING for that individual. For example, there may be people who have amnesia, but if reliable sources don't regularly describe the person as having that characteristic, they should not be added to the category.

The final rung rule described below also applies to disability, or other medical or psychological-based intersection categories. Such categories should not be the final rung in a category tree, and should not be created if articles can't be otherwise diffused into sibling categories. For example, even if there are reliable sources that discuss Category:Deaf flight attendants, this category should not be created, since it would be a final rung category underneath Category:Flight attendants, which isn't otherwise able to be diffused.

Ghettoization: final rung[edit]

Try to avoid "ghettoizing" articles about people, but at the same time, Wikipedia rules about redundant categorization should also be respected. That is, a person should not be categorized only by ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability, without also being placed in other more general categories. In almost all cases, such categories should be non-diffusing. This means that membership of an article in the category will not require its removal from the non-gendered/non-ethnic/etc. parent category. Note, however, that the parent category may diffuse on other criteria under which the article in question may qualify for one or more additional subcategories.

Ethnicity example: Category:American politicians has been largely diffused into sub-categories such as Category:American politicians by state, but also has non-diffusing subcategories such as Category:African-American politicians. Membership in the non-diffusing subcategory Category:African-American politicians does not preclude membership in either diffusing subcategories such as Category:American politicians by state or other non-diffusing categories such as Category:20th-century American women politicians.
Gender example: A woman poet from the United States should not be categorized only in Category:American women poets, but should also be categorized in Category:Poets from Massachusetts; however, because the by-state category exists, the person does not need to also be categorized directly in Category:American poets. However, if a category isn't subdivided on other non-gendered grounds such as geography, genre or time period, then the person should be left in the un-gendered parent category alongside the gendered subcategory until some other relevant sub-categorization criterion is in place.
Disability example: Category:Blind musicians should not remove the article from Category:Musicians or any of its diffusing subcategories. All such intersection categories should be considered as "extra" categories, and people should still be placed in all other categories for which they would qualify if they didn't have this condition. A person in Category:Actors with dwarfism is first and foremost an actor, and should be categorized alongside other actors who don't have dwarfism.


  1. ^ in declarative statements, rather than table or list form
  2. ^ Kevin Morris (2013-05-01), "Does Wikipedia's sexism problem really prove that the system works?", Daily Dot, archived from the original on 2013-05-02, retrieved 2013-05-02
  3. ^ See: Categorize by defining characteristics.

See also[edit]