Ethnic Groups

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

People who have a common language, race, religion, or cultural background are considered to be an ethnic group.


The native hunters and food gatherers of Australia are called aborigines, though the word refers to the first inhabitants of any region.

Aborigines have lived in Australia for 40,000 years. Today most of them are of mixed descent. There are about 50,000 full-blooded aborigines left.

A group of Aborigines, Australia


White people in South Africa who are descended from the Dutch and German settlers are Afrikaners.


These people live between Alaska and Siberia on the Aleutian Islands. They are fishermen and hunters and are related to the Eskimos.


The Amish are groups of people in the rural U.S. They live simply, according to a strict religious code, without electricity or motors. They travel by horse and wagon.

Amish Farmer


Arabs originated in the Arabian Peninsula. Today, an Arab is anyone who speaks the Arabic language—some 150 million people in Africa and the Middle East.

arab man


Barbarians were known to the Romans as anyone living outside the Roman Empire, A.D. 400–1000.


Basques live in the Pyrenees Mountains, between Spain and France. Their language is unrelated to any other in the world.


Bedouins are nomads; that is, they move from place to place as they herd sheep and cattle in the Arabian Desert.

Bedouin man with camel


A primitive nomadic people who live on the edges of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa, Bushmen roam the desert in search of berries, roots, and animals. The average Bushman is just over 4 feet tall.


Cajuns settled in Louisiana, far from their original home in Nova Scotia, Canada. Their music, dialect, and style of cooking remain distinctive.


The Celts date from the Iron Age. Though today their descendants are spread throughout Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man, their common Celtic language, such as Gaelic in Ireland, makes them an ethnic group.


Creoles include people born in the islands of the West Indies to European parents, people born in the U.S. Gulf states to French or Spanish parents, and people of mixed French or Spanish and African-American descent.


Originally from India, these nomadic people are found in various parts of Asia, Europe, and North America. They speak the language of Romany. Some 400,000 Gypsies live in the U.S. today.


Eskimo is the European name for Inuits, who live on the coasts in the northern parts of North America and Siberia. Their summer homes are tents; their winter homes are sod, wood, or stone huts. They rarely live in ice igloos. Eskimo-Aleut peoples, as they are also known, have their own language.


The Kurds have never had their own government. Their homeland, Kurdistan, extends through Iran, Syria, and Turkey. Kurds speak Kurdish and make their living by farming.


Lapps are nomadic people who used to follow the reindeer herds of northern Scandinavia and are known for their colorful clothing. Their territory is called Sennoscundia.


Mestizos are Latin American people who are usually a mixture of European and Native American descent.

Tribal People

A tribe is a group of families with a common way of life. Despite the customs of the countries in which they live, tribes resist cultural change, preferring to keep their own traditions.


The first inhabitants of New Zealand, Maoris may have traveled there by canoe from Polynesia. They are tall, broad-faced, brown-eyed people who speak the Maori language.

Maoris greet each other by pressing their noses together.


Masai are East African nomads who live by herding sheep and cattle. Teenage boys leave their families to train for war in a group; they may not marry until they have served as warriors. The tall and slender Masai live in mud houses.


The Pygmy tribe of The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Africa, is a peaceful, nomadic group that hunts and gathers its food. Pygmies' skin is a light yellow-brown. Adult male Pygmies are less than 5 feet tall. Pygmy tribes also live in the rain forests of India and the Philippines.


People who raise cattle in Burundi, Africa. They are among the tallest people in the world. Many of the adult males are more than 7 feet tall.

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