Examples of ethnicities include African-American, Serbian, Catalan, Han Chinese, and Native American. A wide range of ethnic groups coexists within most modern multicultural societies.
Ethnicity is a cultural classification based on the language, traditions, and cultural origins of a group of people. It differs from race because race is a biological classification (such as Caucasian or Asian) whereas ethnicity refers to cultures and traditions of groups of people.
The differences between the two can be hard to identify, especially because people use race and ethnicity interchangeably.
In general, an ethnic group is usually a subpopulation with a unique culture and traditions, whereas a race is usually a broader classification based on skin color (among other factors).
List of Ethnicities in America
African American refers to a person with origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. There are about 40 million African Americans living in the United States which is about 13% of the total population. The US states with the largest numbers of African American people are Texas, New York, Georgia, and Florida. Many African Americans were brought to the United States forcibly during the slave trade.
2. Asian American
Asian-American refers to a person whose family originates from the Asian continent. The could include anywhere from the Far East, Southeast Asia, or Indian. It can include places like Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 22 million Asians living in the United States which is about 6.5% of the total population. They are also the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States.
The states with the largest Asian populations are California, New York, Hawaii, and New Jersey.
Cajun refers to a person with French ancestry who lives in Louisiana. According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 1 million Cajuns living in the United States which is about 0.3% of the total population. Some Cajuns continue to speak French and maintain many of their traditional customs.
Cajun culture is unique in its own way, with customs and traditions that have been passed down for generations. Cajun-influenced foods include gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, and beignets. These dishes are usually made with a roux, which is a flour and fat mixture that is used to thicken the dish.
Caucasian refers to a person with origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Caucasus region between Europe and Asia, North Africa, or the Middle East. According to Statistica, there are about 250 million Caucasians living in the United States, making this the single largest ethnic group in the United States. The states with the largest Caucasian populations are California, Texas, New York, and Florida.
5. Hispanic or Latino
Hispanic people are generally of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish descent (regardless of race). There are about 57 million Hispanics living in the United States which accounts for about 18% of the total population. The state with the most Hispanic people is California followed by Texas, Florida, and New York.
6. Middle Eastern
Middle Eastern American refers to a person with origins in the region which is located in southwest Asia and northeast Africa including, for example, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
There are about 3.5 million Middle Eastern Americans living in the United States which is about 1.1% of the total population, although this is considered a dramatic undercount due to poor census questioning.
The states with the largest Middle Eastern American populations are California, New York, Florida, and Michigan.
7. Mixed Ethnicity
Mixed race or ethnicity refers to a person with origins in two or more racial/ethnic groups. There are about 9 million people living in the United States who identify as mixed race which is about 3% of the total population.
8. Native American
A Native American is a person who belongs to one of the many indigenous peoples of the Americas. There are about 6.8 million Native Americans living in the United States which is about 2% of the total population. The states with the largest Native American populations are California, Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico. Some of the largest Native American groups include the Cherokee, Navajo, and Sioux.
9. Pacific Islander
Pacific Islander refers to a person whose ancestors were the native inhabitants of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. According to the US Department of Health, there are about 1 million Pacific Islanders living in the United States which is about 0.3% of the total population. The states with the largest Pacific Islander populations are California, Hawaii, and Texas.
10. Vietnamese American
Vietnamese Americans are a sub-group of Asian Americans with their own unique culture, language, values, traditions, and food, making them a distinct ethnic group. Many came to the United States to flee Vietnam following the end of the Vietnam war. There are about 1.7 million Vietnamese living in the United States which is about 0.5% of the total population.
Examples of Ethnicities from Around the World
Region: North America
African-American people are considered a unique ethnic group within the United States of America and Canada.
Many African-Americans were brought to the continent against their will and have developed a unique culture that has contributed to music, food, spirituality, and entertainment around the world.
Note that ‘black’ is a race, while African-American is a distinct ethnic group with their own cultural affiliations. For example, many Caribbean-Americans are also black, but not of the same ethnic group as African-Americans.
Region: South Africa
Afrikaners are a South African ethnic group. They are descendants of Dutch settlers who arrived in South Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were the colonizing ethnic group that maintained control throughout the apartheid years.
The language of Afrikaners, Afrikaans, is a combination of Dutch, Indonesian, and other languages of immigrants. It is South Africa’s third most widely spoken language.
Afrikaners make up about 5.2% of the population of South Africa.
Region: Arabian Peninsula
Arabs are an ethnic group originating from the Arabian Peninsula. There are about 400 million Arabs in the world. They share a unique language (Arabic), alphabet, and a common culture. Islam, one of the world’s great religions, also originates from the Arabic people. It is one of the oldest ethnic groups in the world.
4. Arawak People
The Arawak people are indigenous peoples of South American and the Caribbean. They were the first native peoples encountered by Christopher Columbus when he travelled to the South American continent.
Due to colonization and interbreeding between Europeans and indigenous people, the Arawak population has declined, although a new ethnicity of mixed-race descendants called the Mestizos thrives.
5. Assyrian People
Region: Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey
The Assyrian people are a group of 2 – 5 million Christians from the Middle East (including Iraq and Turkey) who continue to speak Neo-Aramaic languages that are the closest living languages to the language Jesus spoke (Aramean). The Assyrian people are a persecuted group, with a significant number of them having been displaced during Syrian and Iraqi religious conflicts in the years 2015 – 2020.
Region: Bali, Indonesia
The Balinese people are an ethnic group of Indonesia who predominantly live on the island of Bali. There are about 4.2 million Balinese people. They celebrate Hindu and Buddhist religious practices and known for their unique Legong dance moves and gamelan music.
7. Bantu People
Region: Central and Southern Africa
Language: Bantu languages including Xhosa and Zulu
The Bantu people are often designated as an ethnic group in demographic data. However, there are several hundred ethnic groups that speak Bantu. Two of the largest groups are the Hutu and Tutsi people who live in Rwanda. The Hutu government of Rwanda attempted to perpetrate anti-Tutsi genocide in the 1990s.
Region: Northern Spain
The Basques are an ethnic group in northern Spain and southern France. They speak their own language and have their own cultural traditions, although like many in Spain, are predominantly Catholic.
Alongside the Catalans (another Spanish ethnic group), the Basques have long attempted to achieve independence from Spain, sometimes through violent means.
Region: North-Eastern Spain, Catalonia
The Catalans are an ethnic group from north-eastern Spain. Their capital is Barcelona and they speak Catalan. During the reign of Francisco Franco, https://theconversation.com/the-rebirth-of-catalan-how-a-once-banned-language-is-thriving-47587
their language was banned, although today it is still widely spoken and has returned to classrooms.
The Catalans have attempted to succeed from Spain and create their own nation-state on several occasions. On average, Catalans are wealthier than other Spanish regions, which may be one reason the Spanish government refuses to allow succession.
There are about 16.5 million ethnic Cebuano people in the Philippines, making them the second largest ethnolinguistic group (following the Tagalogs). They are the dominant ethnic group in the city of Cebu. Their language is Cebuano.
Region: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama
The Cherokee people are one of the largest Native American ethnic groups who had a complex cultural and agricultural system by the time white Europeans arrived in the United States.
The Cherokees are concentrated around North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. The Cherokee Nation today has over 400,000 registered members.
Note that while ‘Native American’ is often used as an ethnic grouping in census data, in fact there are many different Native American tribes with their own cultures, languages, and traditions. In other words, there are many unique Native American ethnicities.
12. Han Chinese
Region: China, Taiwan, Singapore
The Han Chinese people are the largest single ethnic group in the world. They comprise of 1.4 billion people or about 18% of the world’s population. They are the dominant ethnic group in China, Taiwan, and Singapore.
The Han dynasty was the most powerful dynasty in Asia between 202 BC and 220 AD.
13. Hutu People
Region: Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Hutu people primarily live in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are the dominant demographic group and political force in Rwanda and Burundi.
The Hutus speak Rwanda-Rundi and are a sub-group of the Bantu peoples. They’re most widely known for their civil wars against the Tutu people in Rwanda during the 1990s.
14. Ilocano People
There are about 7 million Ilocano people in the Philippines, making up about 8.8% of the nation’s population.
Ilocanos are a primarily agricultural people, farming rice, garlic, and tobacco. They’re well known for their high savings rates and strong worth ethic. They are predominantly Catholics.
Most Ilocanos speak the Ilocano language as well as Tagalog and English.
15. Kongo People
Region: Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and Gabon
The Kongo people are from the Atlantic coast of central Africa, including the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and Gabon. Their native language is Kikongo.
The Kingdom of Kongo was a powerful and unified kingdom up until the 1850s. They had an uncomfortable trade relationship with the Portuguese during early years of colonization. By 1853, the Portuguese had incorporated it as a vassal state.
Region: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran
The Kurds are a relatively liberal and progressive ethnic group who live in the border regions of Turkey, Syria and Iraq. They were rendered stateless after the distribution of land after WWII.
Despite their lack of recognition as a state, there are several regions where they operate relatively autonomously with free elections, power over taxation, and their own standing armies.
In Turkey, their military group that seeks independence (called the PKK) is considered terrorist organization, and this designation is also recognized by western nations including the USA, UK, and Canada.
Region: Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras
While the Mayan dynasty is long gone, there are still about 8 million Mayan people living in Mesoamerica (including Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador).
In fact, it is estimated that there are about as many Mayans alive today as there were at the peak of the Mayan empire.
There are many ethnic groups that fit under the umbrella of ‘Mayan’ each with their own culture and language. Notable ethnic groups include the Tzotzil and Tzeltal of the Chiapas region, many of whom only speak their traditional language.
Region: New Zealand
The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. They had complex political and economic systems prior to the arrival of Europeans, which in part enabled them to sign the Treaty of Waitangi which is considered the founding document of modern New Zealand. The treaty’s terms remain disputed and has led to ongoing disputes between the Maori and European colonizers.
The Maori are well-known for their fierce warrior culture, including tribal dances such as the haka and their face tattoos. Their language has been intertwined into New Zealand English, with terms such as wahanu (roughly translating to “beloved community”) and Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand) becoming part of mainstream New Zealand lexicon.
Region: Latin America
Language: Spanish, Portuguese
The Mestizos are the mixed-race descendants of Spanish and indigenous peoples throughout Central and South America. They are especially prevalent in Latin America where they make up large portions of the population in countries such as Mexico (60%), Peru (37%), Guatemala (40%), and Bolivia (30%).
While they share a common Spanish colonial heritage, Mestizos have diverse cultures and traditions depending on their location and particular mix of indigenous and European ancestry.
20. Native American / American Indian
Region: United States and Canada
Language: English, Spanish, French, Navajo, Cherokee
The ethnic designation of Native American is commonly used for demographic data. However, it is a crude and inefficient way to understand the diversity of indigenous peoples across the USA and Canada.
Within the Native American grouping are many ethnicities such as Cherokee, Sioux, and Apache, each with their own unique culture, language, and history. For example, the Cherokee speak an Iroquoian language and have a matrilineal kinship system. In contrast, the Sioux are Plains Indians who speak a Siouan language and have a patrilineal kinship system.
The Native American population in the USA is about 5 million, with the Cherokee being the largest group (850,000). In Canada, the indigenous population is about 1.6 million with the Cree being the largest group (200,000).
21. Native Hawaiian
Language: Hawaiian, English
The Native Hawaiian people are the indigenous Polynesian people of the Hawaiian Islands. Their rich culture and history have mainly been passed down through oral traditions.
Hula is a complex dance form that uses the entire body to express the story being told by the chant or song.
22. Nùng People
Language: Nùng, Chinese
The Nùng people are an ethnic group native to the mountainous regions of northern Vietnam. They are closely related to the Han Chinese and have been heavily influenced by Chinese culture. The Nùng people have their own unique language and culture, but many also speak Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese fluently. An identifying cultural robe of is their indigo-dyed outfits which are somewhat less colorful than those of neighboring ethnic groups.
Region: Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand
Language: Hawaiian, Tahitian, Samoan, Maori
The Polynesians are a group of indigenous peoples who inhabit the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Polynesian cultures are diverse, but they share many common features such as a strong emphasis on family and community and a belief in ancestral spirits. They are excellent fishermen and canoe makers. The males are also known to be fierce warriors.
Language: Rohingya, Bengali
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group who live in the Buddhist-majority country of Myanmar (formerly Burma). They have their own language and culture, but many also speak Bengali. The Rohingya people have been persecuted by the Myanmar government for decades and almost all are currently living in refugee camps in Bangladesh following attempted genocide by the Myanmar military junta.
25. Romani People
Region: Europe, North America, South America, and Australia
Language: Romani, English, Spanish, French
The Romani people are an ethnic group of Indo-Aryan origin who migrated from the Indian subcontinent to Europe. They have their own unique language and culture, but many also speak the dominant language of the country they live in.
The Romani people have been discriminated against and persecuted for centuries due to their nomadic lifestyle and dark skin color. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Romani culture and traditions among the general population.
Region: Samoa, American Samoa, New Zealand, Australia
Language: Samoan, English
The Samoans are the indigenous people of the Samoa Islands. They have a rich culture and history that has been passed down through oral traditions. Samoan traditions include both folkloric and modern practices such as the traditional Samoan dance called the siva, which is performed by both men and women. The siva is a complex dance form that uses the entire body to express the story being told by the chant or song.
Region: Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia
Language: Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin
The Serbs are an ethnic group of Slavic origin who live in the Balkans. The Serbs have a long history of conflict with their neighbors, which has led to a strong sense of nationalism among the Serbian people. Unique Serbian cultural traits include the Cyrillic alphabet, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and the slava, a traditional Serbian festival that celebrates the patron saint of a family.
Region: United States and Canada
Language: Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, English
The Sioux are a group of Native American tribes who inhabit the Great Plains region of North America. They have a rich culture and history, and many Sioux people still live on reservations today.
The Sioux are known for their skill in buffalo hunting, their traditional music and dance, and their art, which is characterized by intricate geometric patterns.
Region: Eastern Europe and Russia
Language: Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian
The Slavs are an ethnic group of Indo-European origin who migrated to Eastern Europe in the 6th century CE. Slavic traditions include Orthodox Christianity, Slavic paganism, and Cyrillic script. Countries of Slavic majority include Russia, Poland, and Ukraine. Slavs are stereotyped as appearing grumpy and stoic and suspicious of strangers. However, they’re also known to be very family-oriented and hospitable to people they invite to their home.
30. Tagalog People
Language: Tagalog, English
The Tagalog people are the largest ethnic group in the Philippines.The Tagalog language is the basis for the Filipino national language. Traditional Tagalog music includes the kulintang, a type of gong instrument, and the kundiman, a traditional love song. Tagalog foods include the Philippine national dish, adobo, as well as lumpia, a type of spring roll.
31. Tamil People
Region: India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius
Language: Tamil, English, Sinhalese, Malay
The Tamil people are an ethnic group of Dravidian origin who live in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the northern island of Sri Lanka. The Tamil language is one of the oldest living languages in the world. Tamil music is characterized by its use of Carnatic scales and ragas, and Tamil dance includes classical forms such as Bharatanatyam. Traditionally, they also embraced a caste-based social system which has been broken-down in recent decades.
Region: Tibet, China, Nepal, India
Language: Tibetan, Chinese, Nepali, Hindi
The Tibetans are an ethnic group of Tibetan-Burman origin who live in the Tibetan Plateau region of Asia. The Tibetan language is a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family and is closely related to Burmese and Mandarin Chinese.
Tibetan music is characterized by its use of throat singing. Their main religion is Tibetan Buddhism and their spiritual leader is the Dali Lama.
Region: Algeria, Niger, Mali, Libya
Language: Tamasheq, French, Arabic
The Tuareg are an ethnic group of Berber origin who live in the Sahara Desert region of North Africa. The Tuareg language is a member of the Berber branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family.
Traditional Tuareg music includes the use of guitars and drums, and traditional instruments such as the tidinit. The Tuareg people are known for their traditional nomadic lifestyle and their unique form of dress, which includes the use of veils.
Region: Xinjiang, China
Language: Uyghur, Mandarin Chinese, Turkish
The Uyghurs are an oppressed ethnic group of Turkic origin who live in the Xinjiang region of China. The Uyghur language is a member of the Turkic language family and is closely related to Uzbek and Kazakh. Traditional Uyghur music includes the use of dutars and tamburs, and traditional instruments such as the komuz. Uyghur cuisine is characterized by its use of lamb and mutton, and traditional dishes such as polo (a type of rice pilaf) and lagman (a type of noodle soup). Due to their Islamic faith, they are seen with suspicion by the communist government.
35. Warlpiri People
Region: Northern Territory, Australia
Language: Warlpiri, English
The Warlpiri people are an indigenous Australian people who live in the Northern Territory. The Warlpiri language is a member of the Pama-Nyungan language family. Traditional Warlpiri music includes the use of didgeridoos and clapsticks, and traditional dances such as the Warlpiri Rain Dance. Warlpiri culture is characterized by its focus on spiritual Dreamtime stories about how the land was created.
36. Yamato People
Region: Honshu, Japan
The Yamato people are an ethnic group of East Asian origin who live in the island of Honshu in Japan. The Yamato language is a member of the Japonic language family. Traditional Yamato music includes the use of taiko drums and koto, and traditional dances such as Bon Odori. Yamato culture is characterized by its emphasis on honor and tradition. The Yamato people have a long history of conflict with the Ainu, another indigenous group in Japan.
37. Yi People
Region: Sichuan, Yunnan, China
Language: Yi, Mandarin Chinese
The Yi people are an ethnic group of Tibeto-Burman origin who live in the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces of China. The Yi language is a member of the Tibeto-Burman language family. Traditional Yi music includes the use of lusheng and bimo, and traditional dances such as the Dragon Dance. Yi culture is characterized by its animistic beliefs and its focus on ancestor worship.
Region: Nigeria, Benin, Togo
Language: Yoruba, English, French
The Yoruba people are an ethnic group of West African origin who live in the countries of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. The Yoruba language is a member of the Niger-Congo language family. Yoruba music is characterized by its use of drums and percussion instruments, and traditional instruments include the talking drum and the shekere. The Yoruba people are known for their traditional beliefs in Orisa, a pantheon of gods and goddesses.
39. Zhuang Chinese
Region: Guangxi, China
Language: Zhuang, Mandarin Chinese
The Zhuang people are an ethnic group of Han Chinese origin who live in the Guangxi province of China. The Zhuang language is a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Traditional Zhuang music includes the use of erhu and pipa, and traditional dances such as the Dragon Dance.
40. Zulu People
Region: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Language: Zulu, English, Afrikaans
The Zulu people are an ethnic group of Bantu origin who live in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The Zulu language is a member of the Niger-Congo language family. Traditional Zulu dances include the Ingoma and Indlamu.
Race vs Ethnicity
Race is a biological classification based on a person’s genetic makeup. Traditionally, race was classified based on the place of origin of your ancestors dating back over 4000 years.
Generally, we think of race in terms of skin color. However, skin pigmentation isn’t the only way to think about race. Facial features, hair color, and bone structure are all genetic components that contribute to race.
Examples of race include Caucasian, Black, and Asian.
Ethnicity is a cultural classification based on a family’s cultural background, traditional language, and traditions.
Ethnicities are generally seen as sub-groups of cultures within a society. In general, your ethnicity is not your nationality, but rather a cross-section of people who share a common culture and traditions.
Race and ethnicity often overlap so efficiently to the extent that the terms are interchangeable.
Furthermore, if an ethnic group has a nation-state that they call their home, then your ethnicity may be described by a country (e.g. “Puerto Rican culture”).
Generally, today, we ask people how they would like to be referred to and classified and respect their wishes for self-identification.
There are many different ethnicities around the world, each with their own unique culture and traditions. Race and ethnicity often overlap, but they are not the same thing. Race is a biological classification, while ethnicity is a cultural classification. In today’s multicultural world, most societies have many ethnic groups living together in harmony.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.