They form a number of culturally distinct groups and were legally considered a separate group under Apartheid's racial classification legislation. Most speak Afrikaans as their mother tongue, and are Christian, belonging to a branch of the Dutch Reformed Church. They are spread across the country but the largest and most distinctive group is that of the Cape Coloureds in the Western Cape where there was strong influence from Malay slaves brought by Dutch colonists. This had led to a slightly different language use and a strongly Muslim heritage among Cape Malays.
The term 'coloured' is also used to describe people of mixed race in Namibia and Zimbabwe. In a British context it is used to refer to black people, although this is increasingly regarded as offensive.