The Caucasian race (also Caucasoid or Europid) is a grouping of human beings historically regarded as a biological taxon, which, depending on which of the historical race classifications is used, has usually included ancient and modern populations from Europe, Western Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.
First introduced in the 1780s by members of the Göttingen School of History, the term denoted one of three purported major races of humankind (Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid). In biological anthropology, Caucasoid has been used as an umbrella term for phenotypically similar groups from these different regions, with a focus on skeletal anatomy, and especially cranial morphology, over skin tone. Ancient and modern "Caucasoid" populations were thus not exclusively "white," but ranged in complexion from white-skinned to dark brown.
Since the second half of the 20th century, physical anthropologists have moved away from a typological understanding of human biological diversity towards a genomic and population-based perspective, and have tended to understand race as a social classification of humans based on phenotype and ancestry as well as cultural factors, as the concept is also understood in the social sciences. Although Caucasian / Caucasoid and their counterparts Negroid and Mongoloid have been used less frequently as a biological classification in forensic anthropology (where it is sometimes used as a way to identify the ancestry of human remains based on interpretations of osteological measurements), the terms remain in use by some anthropologists.
In the United States, the root term Caucasian is often used, both colloquially and by the US Census Bureau, as a synonym for white. This usage is considered erroneous by anthropologists and other scientists, who note that it conflates an anthropologically valid category (Caucasoid) with the social construct of the "white race". The conflation of Caucasian with white is also demographically misleading since the category Caucasoid includes various populations, such as South Asians and Ethiopians, that are not considered white in a social sense.