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An ethnicity or ethnic group is a group that shares a culture, which may include aspects such as shared language, history, myths, rituals, cuisine, dressing style, and art. An ethnicity often has a shared origin myth and similar genetics. Ethnicity, nation, and race are related terms, with ethnicity emphasizing cultural aspects, nation emphasizing political aspects, and race emphasizing genetic aspects.


The six components of ethnic identity as outlined by Smith (1986) are: an association with a territory, a collective name or title, a distinctive shared culture, a common history, a myth of descent and a sense of solidarity. These factors may be defined as follows:

  • Territory: A specific territorial familiarity and boundary, with an organic (as well as symbolic) symbiosis between the territory and its ethno-folk.
  • Name: A collective name, used to identify or distinguish ethnic members.
  • Culture: Shared knowledge, traditions, language, customs, laws and institutions.
  • History: A common record of past events which have built up close experienced memories. A common history unites successive generations within ethnic groups.
  • Myth: Ethnic groups have a myth of descent, which is essentially the sine qua non as it is an important factor which establishes common ancestry.
  • Solidarity: A sense of belonging within ethnic groups, created through the aforementioned factors of ethnic identity.

Additionally an ethnicity (ethnos) involves an aspect of common descent or ancestral heritage. Ethnic identity is also marked by recognition by others of the distinctiveness of a group which includes biological traits. Processes that result in the emergence of ethnicities are called ethnogenesis.

Further reading

  • Smith, Anthony D. (1986). The Ethnic Origins of Nations. Wiley.

See also