The Oxford English Dictionary defines race as "A group of persons, animals, or plants connected by common descent or origin," ("Race" 69), though this is not the way the word was always viewed. In 1570, race was defined as "The offspring or posterity of a person; a set of children or descendants," ("Race" 69), but defined as "One of the great divisions of mankind, having certain physical peculiarities in common," ("Race" 69) in 1774. So what happened during those 204 years that gave rise to this new idea of race? Why is it that when the word race was first used, there was no basis on physical appearance, yet in 1774 the word obtained a newfound basis on appearance? There is no one specific answer, but Omi and Winant do construct a theory in Racial Formation in the United States. According to Omi and Winant, .
"We define racial formation as the sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed. Our attempt to elaborate a theory of racial formation will proceed in two steps. First, we argue that racial formation is a process of historically situated projects in which human bodies and social structures are represented and organized. Next we link racial formation to the evolution of hegemony, the way in which society is organized and ruled," (55-56). .
This is just one of many theories that have been formulated over the years dealing with the notion of race; and it will not be the last theory formulated either. The concept of race has always been in a process of formation, beginning in the 15th century, and drastically changing in the 17th and 18th centuries due to the desire of the Europeans/European-Americans to exert their power over those people who looked different from themselves and also to distinguish between slaves and free men. .
From 1492 until 1684, race was mainly thought of as an order of royalty or simply as a structure of society, rather than focusing on physiognomy.