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Race vs. Species — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on August 19, 2023
Race is a subgroup within a species sharing certain genetic traits, while species is a group of living organisms capable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring.
Race vs. Species — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Race and Species

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Key Differences

Race refers to populations within a species that have genetic, physical, or behavioral differences from other populations of the same species. The concept is most commonly applied to humans, where racial classifications often relate to shared ancestry, physical appearance, or cultural heritage. Species, on the other hand, is a fundamental classification in biology. Organisms belonging to the same species share a close genetic relationship and are capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.
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The term race is sometimes used in botany and zoology to describe distinct populations within a species that might have adapted to specific geographical regions or environments. In these contexts, races are not always visually distinct. Species, by contrast, refers to a larger group that is often visibly distinct and has unique genetic markers distinguishing it from other species.
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Race, in human contexts, is often a topic of societal, political, and historical discussions, especially as it pertains to identity, rights, and discrimination. There are debates over the biological basis of race, with many experts asserting that race is largely a social construct. Species, in biology, is more concrete. While there are debates about the specific boundaries between closely related species, the concept itself is fundamental to understanding biological diversity.
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Both terms, race and species, are vital to understanding biological variations and relationships. However, it's essential to distinguish between the two. A race is a more specific, potentially temporary subdivision of a species, reflecting certain genetic variations. A species is a more general, stable classification of organisms with a shared lineage and the ability to reproduce among themselves.
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Comparison Chart

Definition

A subgroup within a species with certain genetic traits.
A group of living organisms capable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring.
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Application

Mostly in humans, sometimes in plants and animals.
All living organisms.
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Genetic Similarity

High similarity within the species.
Distinct from other species.
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Reproduction

Can reproduce with any member of the species.
Can reproduce only within the species to produce fertile offspring.
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Temporality

Can be temporary based on environment or migration.
More stable, subject to evolutionary change over longer periods.
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Compare with Definitions

Race

A subgroup within a species sharing certain genetic or physical characteristics.
The Asian race is often distinguished by certain physical features.
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Species

A group of living organisms capable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring.
Lions and tigers are two different species of big cats.
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Race

A smooth ring-shaped groove or guide in which a ball bearing or roller bearing runs.
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Species

The form or shape given to materials; fashion or shape; form; figure.
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Race

To cause to compete in a race
She races horses for a living.
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Species

A kind or sort.
Patience is not a species of virtue I possess.
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Race

A progressive movement toward a goal.
The race to cure cancer
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Species

(Logic) A class of individuals or objects grouped by virtue of their common attributes and assigned a common name; a division subordinate to a genus.
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Race

(biology) a taxonomic group that is a division of a species; usually arises as a consequence of geographical isolation within a species
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Species

Coin, or coined silver, gold, or other metal, used as a circulating medium; specie.
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Race

A distinguishing or characteristic quality, such as the flavor of a wine.
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Species

The visible form of an individual.
He appeared in the species of a bird.
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Race

(Sports) To compete in a contest of speed.
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Species

(Christianity) Either of the two elements of the Eucharist after they have been consecrated.
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Race

A strong or rapid current of water, or the channel or passage for such a current; a powerful current or heavy sea, sometimes produced by the meeting of two tides; as, the Portland Race; the Race of Alderney.
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Species

An image, an appearance, a spectacle.
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Race

A breed or strain, as of domestic animals.
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Species

Coin, or coined silver, gold, or other metal, used as a circulating medium; specie.
There was, in the splendor of the Roman empire, a less quantity of current species in Europe than there is now.
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Race

To transport rapidly or at top speed; rush
Raced the injured motorist to the hospital.
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Species

A kind or sort
A species of invective at once tough and suave
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Race

A fast-moving current of water, such as that which powers a mill wheel.
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Species

(biology) taxonomic group whose members can interbreed
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Race

A water channel, esp. one built to lead water to or from a point where it is utilised.
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Species

In biology, a species is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction.
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Race

Competitive action of any kind, especially when prolonged; hence, career; course of life.
My race of glory run, and race of shame.
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Species

A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. The species is the principal natural taxonomic unit, ranking below a genus and denoted by a Latin binomial, e.g. Homo sapiens.
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Race

A competition of speed.
She participated in a foot race last weekend.
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Species

The visible form of each of the elements of consecrated bread and wine in the Eucharist.
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Race

A water channel, especially one built to lead water to or from a point where its energy is utilized, as in a mill or mine.
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Species

(Biology) A group of closely related organisms that are very similar to each other and are usually capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. The species is the fundamental category of taxonomic classification, ranking below a genus or subgenus. Species names are represented in binomial nomenclature by an uncapitalized Latin adjective or noun following a capitalized genus name, as in Ananas comosus, the pineapple, and Equus caballus, the horse.
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Race

(computing) A race condition.
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Species

(Chemistry) A set of atoms, molecules, ions, or other chemical entities that possess the same distinct characteristics with respect to a chemical process or measurement.
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Race

The bushings of a rolling element bearing which contacts the rolling elements.
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Species

A kind, variety, or type
"No species of performing artist is as self-critical as a dancer" (Susan Sontag).
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Race

A group of sentient beings, particularly people, distinguished by common ancestry, heritage or characteristics:
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Species

The outward appearance or form of the Eucharistic elements that is retained after their consecration.
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Race

To run rapidly when not engaged to a transmission.
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Species

Either of the consecrated elements of the Eucharist.
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Race

A large group of sentient beings distinguished from others on the basis of a common heritage compare species, subspecies.
A treaty was concluded between the race of elves and the race of men.
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Species

Type or kind. race.}}
The male species
A new species of war
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Race

A group or category distinguished from others on the basis of shared characteristics or qualities, for example social qualities.
The advent of the Internet has brought about a new race of entrepreneur.
Recent developments in artificial intelligence have brought about a new race of robots that can perform household chores without supervision.
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Species

A group of plants or animals having similar appearance.
This species of animal is unique to the area.
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Race

(animal husbandry) A breed or strain of domesticated animal.
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Species

A category in the classification of organisms, ranking below genus; a taxon at that rank.
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Race

To assign a race to; to perceive as having a (usually specified) race.
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Species

A particular type of atom, molecule, ion or other particle.
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Race

A large group of people distinguished from others on the basis of a common heritage compare ethnic group. See Wikipedia's article on historical definitions of race.
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Species

(mineralogy) A mineral with a unique chemical formula whose crystals belong to a unique crystallographic system.
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Race

A large group of people distinguished from others on the basis of common physical characteristics, such as skin color or hair type.
Race was a significant issue during apartheid in South Africa.
The Native Americans colonized the New World in several waves from Asia, and thus they are considered part of the same Mongoloid race.
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Species

(obsolete) The image of something cast on a surface, or reflected from a surface, or refracted through a lens or telescope; a reflection.
I cast the species of the Sun onto a sheet of paper through a telescope.
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Race

Peculiar flavor, taste, or strength, as of wine; that quality, or assemblage of qualities, which indicates origin or kind, as in wine; hence, characteristic flavor; smack.
Is it [the wine] of the right race ?
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Species

Visible or perceptible presentation; appearance; something perceived.
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Race

A particular quality or pace of movement.
He set a rapid race through the document.
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Species

A component part of compound medicine; a simple.
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Race

A strong or rapid current flowing through a narrow channel in the sea or a river
Angling for tuna in turbulent tidal races
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Species

Plural of specie
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Race

(zoology) Subspecies.
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Species

Visible or sensible presentation; appearance; a sensible percept received by the imagination; an image.
Wit, . . . the faculty of imagination in the writer, which searches over all the memory for the species or ideas of those things which it designs to represent.
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Race

An infraspecific rank, a pathotype, pathovar, etc.
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Species

A group of individuals agreeing in common attributes, and designated by a common name; a conception subordinated to another conception, called a genus, or generic conception, from which it differs in containing or comprehending more attributes, and extending to fewer individuals. Thus, man is a species, under animal as a genus; and man, in its turn, may be regarded as a genus with respect to European, American, or the like, as species.
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Race

(obsolete) Peculiar flavour, taste, or strength, as of wine; that quality, or assemblage of qualities, which indicates origin or kind, as in wine; hence, characteristic flavour.
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Species

A public spectacle or exhibition.
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Race

(obsolete) Characteristic quality or disposition.
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Species

A component part of a compound medicine; a simple.
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Race

Ancestry.
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Species

A specific kind of something;
A species of molecule
A species of villainy
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Race

A channel of watercourse.
Water flowed swiftly through the race.
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Species

The body or outward appearance.
The species of the tree was deceiving; it was hollow inside.
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Race

A competition between runners, horses, vehicles, etc. to see which is the fastest in covering a set course
Hill started from pole position and won the race
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Species

Coins or money.
He paid in species rather than in notes.
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Race

(in weaving) the channel along which the shuttle moves.
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Species

In science, a more or less permanent group of existing things or beings, associated according to attributes, or properties determined by scientific observation.
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Race

Move or progress swiftly or at full speed
I raced into the house
She spoke automatically, while her mind raced ahead
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Species

A sort; a kind; a variety; as, a species of low cunning; a species of generosity; a species of cloth.
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Race

A group of people identified as distinct from other groups because of supposed physical or genetic traits shared by the group. Most biologists and anthropologists do not recognize race as a biologically valid classification, in part because there is more genetic variation within groups than between them.
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Race

A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution
The Celtic race.
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Race

A genealogical line; a lineage.
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Race

Humans considered as a group.
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Race

A usually geographically isolated population of organisms that differs from other populations of the same species in certain heritable traits
An island race of birds.
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Race

Steady or rapid onward movement
The race of time.
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Race

The channel of such a current.
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Race

An artificial channel built to transport water and use its energy. Also called raceway.
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Race

See slipstream.
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Race

Of or relating to race; racial
Race relations.
Race quotas.
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Race

To cause (an engine with the gears disengaged, for example) to run swiftly or too swiftly.
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Race

A contest between people, animals, vehicles, etc. where the goal is to be the first to reach some objective. Example: Several horses run in a horse race, and the first one to reach the finishing post wins
The race around the park was won by Johnny, who ran faster than the others.
We had a race to see who could finish the book the quickest.
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Race

Swift progress; rapid motion; an instance of moving or driving at high speed.
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Race

Competitive action of any kind, especially when prolonged; hence, career; course of life.
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Race

(biology) A population geographically separated from others of its species that develops significantly different characteristics; a mating group.
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Race

A rhizome or root, especially of ginger.
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Race

A variety of such fixed character that it may be propagated by seed.
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Race

Hence, characteristic quality or disposition.
And now I give my sensual race the rein.
Some . . . great race of fancy or judgment.
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Race

A progress; a course; a movement or progression.
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Race

Esp., swift progress; rapid course; a running.
The flight of many birds is swifter than the race of any beasts.
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Race

Hence: The act or process of running in competition; a contest of speed in any way, as in running, riding, driving, skating, rowing, sailing; in the plural, usually, a meeting for contests in the running of horses; as, he attended the races.
The race is not to the swift.
I wield the gauntlet, and I run the race.
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Race

A contest of speed;
The race is to the swift
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Race

The flow of air that is driven backwards by an aircraft propeller
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Race

A canal for a current of water
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Race

Step on it;
He rushed down the hall to receive his guests
The cars raced down the street
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Race

Compete in a race;
He is running the Marathon this year
Let's race and see who gets there first
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Race

To work as fast as possible towards a goal, sometimes in competition with others;
We are racing to find a cure for AIDS
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Race

Cause to move fast or to rush or race;
The psychologist raced the rats through a long maze
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Race

The float between two water wheels.
The millrace powered both machines efficiently.
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Race

A fenced passageway in a stockyard through which animals pass singly for branding, loading, washing, etc.
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Race

Each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics
People of all races, colours, and creeds
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Race

A ginger root.
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Race

Compete with another or others to see who is fastest at covering a set course or achieving an objective
The vet took blood samples from the horses before they raced
Two drivers raced each other through a housing estate
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Race

A competition of speed, as in running or riding.
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Race

Races A series of such competitions held at a specified time on a regular course
A fan of the dog races.
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Race

An extended competition in which participants struggle like runners to be the winner
The presidential race.
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Race

A strong or swift current of water.
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Race

A groovelike part of a machine in which a moving part slides or rolls.
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Race

Of or relating to forms of popular entertainment made by and largely marketed to African Americans in the early 1900s
Race literature.
Race records.
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Race

To move rapidly or at top speed
We raced home. My heart was racing with fear.
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Race

To run too rapidly due to decreased resistance or unnecessary provision of fuel
Adjusted the idle to keep the engine from racing.
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Race

To compete against in a race.
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Race

(intransitive) To take part in a race (in the sense of a contest).
The drivers were racing around the track.
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Race

(transitive) To compete against in a race (contest).
I raced him to the car, but he was there first, so he got to ride shotgun.
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Race

(intransitive) To move or drive at high speed; to hurry or speed.
As soon as it was time to go home, he raced for the door.
Her heart was racing as she peered into the dimly lit room.
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Race

To raze.
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Race

To run swiftly; to contend in a race; as, the animals raced over the ground; the ships raced from port to port.
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Race

To run too fast at times, as a marine engine or screw, when the screw is lifted out of water by the action of a heavy sea.
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Race

To cause to contend in a race; to drive at high speed; as, to race horses.
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Race

To run a race with.
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Race

A root.
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Race

The descendants of a common ancestor; a family, tribe, people, or nation, believed or presumed to belong to the same stock; a lineage; a breed.
The whole race of mankind.
Whence the long race of Alban fathers come.
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Race

Company; herd; breed.
For do but note a wild and wanton herd,Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,Fetching mad bounds.
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Race

The current of water that turns a water wheel, or the channel in which it flows; a mill race.
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Race

A channel or guide along which a shuttle is driven back and forth, as in a loom, sewing machine, etc.
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Race

Any competition;
The race for the presidency
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Race

People who are believed to belong to the same genetic stock;
Some biologists doubt that there are important genetic differences between races of human beings
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Common Curiosities

How do scientists determine the boundary between species?

Scientists typically use a combination of genetic, morphological, and reproductive data to determine species boundaries. If two organisms cannot produce fertile offspring together, they're often considered separate species.
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What is a race in biology?

A race in biology refers to a subgroup within a species that possesses specific genetic, physical, or behavioral traits distinct from other members of the same species.
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How does a species differ from a race?

A species is a group of living organisms that can interbreed to produce fertile offspring, while a race is a subgroup within a species that has certain distinct genetic or physical characteristics.
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Can members of different races interbreed?

Yes, members of different races within the same species, especially humans, can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
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Is race a fixed or fluid concept?

Race can be fluid, especially in humans, as it often involves both biological and social constructs. Over time and generations, races can change or merge.
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Is it possible for two different species to interbreed?

While members of closely related species might occasionally interbreed, the offspring (like mules, a cross between horses and donkeys) are typically infertile.
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How has the understanding of race evolved over time?

Historically, race was often seen as a fixed biological reality. Modern understanding, especially concerning humans, recognizes race as a combination of biological, social, and cultural factors, with many experts emphasizing its social construct nature.
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Why is species a foundational concept in biology?

Species is foundational in biology because it helps scientists categorize and understand the immense diversity of life, its evolutionary relationships, and its reproductive capabilities.
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Can race be applied to plants and animals?

Yes, the term race can be applied to distinct populations within a species of plants or animals that have adapted to specific geographical regions or environments.
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Do all members of a species share the same genetic makeup?

No, while members of a species have a high degree of genetic similarity, there's still genetic variation within species, which can give rise to different races or subpopulations.
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Aug 19, 2023

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Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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