According to the United Nations, these are the criteria to identify a minority – numerical inferiority to the rest of the population of a state; being a group in a non-dominant position; being a group whose members – being nationals of the state – possess ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics differing from those of the rest of the population; and being a group that shows, perhaps only implicitly, a sense of solidarity, directed towards preserving their culture, traditions, religion or language (Francesco Capotorti, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 1977).
So for example, a minority might consist of people of a particular nationality or ethnic group; people who belong to a particular religion or people who speak a particular language.
But being in a non-dominant position is perhaps the most crucial part of this definition. Lacking power in their society, members of minority groups are often unable to change their own situation, or to play the roles in society they might wish to. This dimension is sometimes not even connected with numbers. For example, women possess less power than men, even though there are actually more women than men in the world.