"Ethnicity" redirects here. For other uses, see Ethnicity (disambiguation).
"Ethnicities" redirects here. For the academic journal, see Ethnicities (journal).
An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups such as a common set of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation, religion, or social treatment within their residing area. Ethnicity is sometimes used interchangeably with the term nation, particularly in cases of ethnic nationalism, and is separate from, but related to the concept of races.
Ethnicity can be an inherited status or based on the society within which one lives. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language or dialect, symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, art or physical appearance. Ethnic groups often continue to speak related languages and share a similar gene pool.
By way of language shift, acculturation, adoption and religious conversion, individuals or groups may over time shift from one ethnic group to another. Ethnic groups may be subdivided into subgroups or tribes, which over time may become separate ethnic groups themselves due to endogamy or physical isolation from the parent group. Conversely, formerly separate ethnicities can merge to form a pan-ethnicity and may eventually merge into one single ethnicity. Whether through division or amalgamation, the formation of a separate ethnic identity is referred to as ethnogenesis.
The nature of ethnicity is still debated by scholars. 'Primordialists' view ethnic groups as real phenomena whose distinct characteristics have endured since the distant past. Others view ethnic groups as a social construct, an identity which is assigned based on rules made by society.