Labelling or labeling is describing someone or something in a word or short phrase. For example, describing someone who has broken a law as a criminal. Labelling theory is a theory in sociology which ascribes labelling of people to control and identification of deviant behavior.
It has been argued that labelling is necessary for communication. However, the use of the term labelling is often intended to highlight the fact that the label is a description applied from the outside, rather than something intrinsic to the labelled thing.
This can be done for several reasons:
- To provoke a discussion about what the best description is
- To reject a particular label
- To reject the whole idea that the labelled thing can be described in a short phrase.
This last usage can be seen as an accusation that such a short description is overly-reductive.
Giving something a label can be seen as positive, but the term label is not usually used in this case.