Santa Clara University

Office for Multicultural Learning

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Welcome to the website for the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations at Santa Clara University. 

May is designated by the United States Congress as national Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. 

The month is a time to recognize the contributions that people of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry have made to enrich the history and culture of this country. 

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the first Japanese immigrant to the United States on May 7, 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad which was built mainly thanks to the work of many Asian Pacific American immigrants.

The initiative began in 1977 with a joint resolution by Representatives Frank Horton (R-NY) and Norman Y. Mineta (D-CA) proclaiming the first ten days of May as Pacific/Asian Heritage Week.

In 1992 President George Bush signed the legislation into law designating May of every year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which the 102nd Congress unanimously approved in the same year. The month May is now celebrated nationally as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.


Check out all the events and activities during the Month of May. Unless noted otherwise, all events and programs are open to the public free of charge:

APA Month Calendar of Events Go

Asian American English Class

American Words Borrowed from Asian Languages
(by Ann-Marie Imbornoni)

From Amoy (eastern China)
tea- originally pronounced like "tay," can be traced to Dutch thee, from Malay and Amoy.

From Cantonese (southern China, Hong Kong)
chop suey
, from a word meaning "miscellaneous bits."
kumquat, a small citrus fruit.
typhoon, from the words for "great wind."

From Mandarin (Beijing, China; official national standard)
kung fu
, from gong fu, meaning "skill, art."

From Korean
tae kwon do
, meaning "trample-fist-way."

From Japanese
, a type of mattress
, from gei, meaning "art" and sha, "person."
, from a word meaning "squad leader."
, is translated literally as "divine wind," from the name of a
typhoon that saved Japan by destroying the Mongol navy in 1281.
karaoke, from kara, meaning "void, empty" and oke(sutora), meaning"orchestra." In a case of reverse borrowing, the Japanese word okesutora came from the English word orchestra.
karate, from words meaning "empty hand."
, meaning a "large ocean wave."

From Malay (Malaysia and Indonesia)
, from kicap, meaning "fish sauce."

From Tagalong (northern Philippines)
, from bundok, meaning "mountain." During the U.S. occupation of the Philippines, the word was adopted by American soldiers, who used it to refer to any far-off or wild place. Later it passed into the general

From Hawaiian
, from words meaning "flea jumping."

From Tahitian
, introduced to the English-speaking world by Capt. James Cookin his account of his voyage around the world from 1768 to 1771. Sailors later brought
the actual custom to Europe.

From Tongan
, like tattoo, occurs for the first time in Capt. James Cook's journals


Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

This is the official website for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month hosted by the Library of Congress. Here you can find information about the history of this celebration, videos, images, historical stories and much more information.

National Register of Historic Places

This website is hosted by the National Park Service and gives a list of historic locations that are important in the history of Asian-Pacific Americans. This list includes many locations in California thanks to the large population of Asian-Pacific immigrants to this part of the country.


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