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This article is about the term "Aryan". For "Arian", a follower of the ancient Christian sect, See Arianism.

Aryan is an English word derived from the Sanskrit, Avestan and Vedic term arya, meaning noble.

One of the meanings of this term in modern English refers to a hypothetical single group of people who spoke the parent language of the Indo-European languages. It has at times been believed that these people formed an ethnic group; in particular, a school of German and Soviet scholarship at one time believed that this ethnic group originated in the Russian steppes. German philologists believed that the Germanic group originated from the steppes north of Uzbekistan, and this Germanic group followed the Aryan group into Iran before splitting from Arya. It then migrated north to the Black Sea, where they again moved north to the Baltic lake. Thus, German philologists concluded, the German people have a direct ancestry with the people of the Arya region in Iran.

Another meaning refers to the Aryan race, a presumedly more or less directly descendant ethnic group of this original Aryan group. This meaning was, and still is common in theories of European racial superiority, some of which have spread to North American and to India. In Nazi ideology, the Germanic race is believed to be the purest representative of the Aryan race with its diametrical opposite being the Semitic race, represented by the Jews. Nazism portrays the Aryan race as the only race capable of creating culture and civilizations, while other races are merely able of some preservation, or destruction of, culture.

It has been argued that the term *arya was originally used to denote kinfolk or clansmen, and later used as a general term of respect, signifying nobility (as in ari-stocracy). It has also been argued that the supposition that the term referred to an ethnic group arose as the result of speculative translation.

Table of contents
1 The Aryan Invasion Theory
2 Irano-Aryans
3 Etymology and Semantics
4 See also
5 External link

The Aryan Invasion Theory

Since the mid 19th century it has been claimed that Aryans migrated into India, around 1800BCE-1500 BCE, possibly waging war against the declining Harappan civilization. The Rig-Veda certainly describes warfare and struggle for control of territory, but whether this resulted from a migration or not is unclear. However the archaeological and historical record can be interpreted to indicate a gradual migration around the end of the 2nd millennium BC of Indo-Aryan speakers to the east from the vicinity of Kurdistan. Nevertheless, the evidence is weak. It is also possible to argue that the Indo-Aryan speaking cultures had much older roots in the area. At any rate, modern India is divided into two language families, one Indo-European, and the other Dravidian, thought to be the linguistic descendents of the Harappans.


Ancient Iranians used the term Aryan to describe their lineage and their language. Darius the Great, King of Persia (521 - 486 BC), in an inscription in Naqsh-e-Rostam (near Shiraz in present-day Iran), proclaims: "I am Darius the great King... A Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage...". The name Iran is a modern cognate of Aryan. The term has become a term of art in the Zoroastrian, Buddhist, and Jain, and Hindu religions.

The Aryan tribes in the Indian subcontinent called their land Aaryaa varta or Aryan expanse / Aryan land. When the ancient Persians lived in the Inner Asian Steppes and moved south into today's Iran, they named the place Airyanem Vaejah, or The Iranian Expanse, and today the word survives as Iran. Many present day Iranian boy and girl names reflect this ancient relation: names like Aryana, Iran-dokht (Aryan Daughter), Arayn, Aryan-Pur, Aryaramne, ...

Etymology and Semantics

It has traditionally been claimed that the root word *ar- or *arya- is one of the most widely distributed names of people and places in the Indo-European world. It gave a name not only to the Aryans of India, but also to the aristocrats, the aristoi, the "most noble," of Greece, and the Irish of Éire;. Another grade of the root appears in Latin ordo, meaning "order." However, these etymologies are speculative. The original meaning of the word possibly suggested a union, league, or confederacy.

In its original sense, "aryan" may or may not have had any racial meaning, certainly not in the sense that we define race today. Rather the term more likely grew from a tribalist self-identity, until more recent racialist distortions, attempting to justify eugenics policies, such as colonialism and genocide. (See also Aryan race and Dravidian race).

See also

External link