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عَرَبٌ ('arab) (in Arabic)
Total population
c. 400 million[1][2][3] to 420 million[4]
Regions with significant populations
 Arab League
 BrazilEstimated 12–13 million with at least partial ancestry[7][8][a]
 France3.3[10] to 5.5[11] million people of North African (Arab or Berber) descent[12]
 Argentina4,500,000 at least partial ancestry[23]
 United States3,700,000[24]
 Chad1,536,000 (est.)[31]
 United Kingdom500,000[42]
 Ecuador250,000 [44]
 Honduras275,000 [45][46]
 Belgium800,000[citation needed]
 Sweden425,000[citation needed]
 Denmark121,000[citation needed]
 El SalvadorMore than 100,000[48][49][50][51][52]
Predominantly: Islam
(Sunni · Shia · Sufi · Ibadi · Alawite)
Sizable minority: Christianity
(Greek Orthodox · Greek Catholic)
Smaller minority: Other monotheistic religions (Druze · Bahá'í Faith)
Historically: Pre-Islamic Arabian polytheism
Related ethnic groups
Other Afroasiatic-speaking peoples, especially Semitic peoples such as Assyrians, Jews, Amharas and Tigrayans[53][53][54][55][56][57][58]

a Arab ethnicity should not be confused with non-Arab ethnicities that are also native to the Arab world.[58]
b Not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs. An Arab can follow any religion or irreligion.
c Arab identity is defined independently of religious identity.

Arabs (/ˈærəbz/;[59] Arabic: عَرَبٌ‎, ISO 233 ‘arab; Arabic pronunciation: [ˈʕarab] (About this soundlisten)) are a population inhabiting the Arab world. They primarily live in the Arab states in Western Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and western Indian Ocean islands (including the Comoros), as well as in significant numbers in the Americas, Western Europe, Indonesia, Israel, Turkey and Iran.[60] The Arab diaspora is established around the world.[61]

The first mention of Arabs is from the mid-ninth century BCE as a tribal people in eastern and southern Syria and the north of the Arabian Peninsula.[62] The Arabs appear to have been under the vassalage of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–612 BCE), and the succeeding Neo-Babylonian (626–539 BCE), Achaemenid (539–332 BCE), Seleucid, and Parthian empires.[63] Arab tribes, most notably the Ghassanids and Lakhmids, begin to appear in the southern Syrian Desert from the mid 3rd century CE onward, during the mid to later stages of the Roman and Sasanian empires.[64]

Before the expansion of the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661 C.E.), "Arab" referred to any of the largely nomadic and settled Semitic people from the Arabian Peninsula, Syrian Desert, and North and Lower Mesopotamia.[65] Today, "Arab" refers to a large number of people whose native regions form the Arab world due to the spread of Arabs and the Arabic language throughout the region during the early Muslim conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries and the subsequent Arabisation of indigenous populations.[66] The Arabs forged the Rashidun (632–661), Umayyad (661–750), Abbasid (750–1517) and the Fatimid (901–1071) caliphates, whose borders reached southern France in the west, China in the east, Anatolia in the north, and the Sudan in the south. This was one of the largest land empires in history.[67] In the early 20th century, the First World War signalled the end of the Ottoman Empire; which had ruled much of the Arab world since conquering the Mamluk Sultanate in 1517.[68] Culminating in the 1922 defeat and dissolution of the empire and the partition of its territories, forming the modern Arab states.[69] Following the adoption of the Alexandria Protocol in 1944, the Arab League was founded on 22 March 1945.[70] The Charter of the Arab League endorsed the principle of an Arab homeland whilst respecting the individual sovereignty of its member states.[71]

Today, Arabs primarily inhabit the 22 Arab states within the Arab League: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The Arab world stretches around 13 million km2, from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean in the southeast. Beyond the boundaries of the League of Arab States, Arabs can also be found in the global diaspora.[60] The ties that bind Arabs are ethnic, linguistic, cultural, historical, identical, nationalist, geographical and political.[72] The Arabs have their own customs, language, architecture, art, literature, music, dance, media, cuisine, dress, society, sports and mythology.[73]

Arabs are a diverse group in terms of religious affiliations and practices. In the pre-Islamic era, most Arabs followed polytheistic religions. Some tribes had adopted Christianity or Judaism, and a few individuals, the hanifs, apparently observed another form of monotheism.[74] Today, about 93% of Arabs are adherents of Islam,[75] and there are sizable Christian minorities.[76] Arab Muslims primarily belong to the Sunni, Shiite, Ibadi, and Alawite denominations. Arab Christians generally follow one of the Eastern Christian Churches, such as the Oriental Orthodox or Eastern Catholic churches.[77] Other smaller minority religions are also followed, such as the Bahá'í Faith and Druze.

Arabs have greatly influenced and contributed to diverse fields, notably the arts and architecture, language, philosophy, mythology, ethics, literature, politics, business, music, dance, cinema, medicine, science and technology[78] in the ancient and modern history.


Arabic epitaph of Imru' al-Qais, son of "Amr, king of all the Arabs", inscribed in Nabataean script. Basalt, dated in 7 Kislul, 223, viz. 7 December 328 CE. Found at Nemara in the Hauran (Southern Syria).

The earliest documented use of the word "Arab" referring to a people appears in the Kurkh Monoliths, an Akkadian language record of the Assyrian conquest of Aram (ninth century BCE), which referred to Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula under King Gindibu, who fought as part of a coalition opposed to Assyria.[79] Listed among the booty captured by the army of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III in the Battle of Qarqar are 1000 camels of "Gi-in-di-bu'u the ar-ba-a-a" or "[the man] Gindibu belonging to the Arabs" (ar-ba-a-a being an adjectival nisba of the noun ʿarab[79]).

The related word ʾaʿrāb is used to refer to Bedouins today, in contrast to ʿarab which refers to Arabs in general.[80] Both terms are mentioned around 40 times in pre-Islamic Sabaean inscriptions. The term ʿarab ("Arab") occurs also in the titles of the Himyarite kings from the time of 'Abu Karab Asad until MadiKarib Ya'fur. The term ʾaʿrāb is derived from the term ʿarab, according to Sabaean grammar. The term is also mentioned in Quranic verses referring to people who were living in Madina and it might be a south Arabian loan-word into Quranic language.[81]

The oldest surviving indication of an Arab national identity is an inscription made in an archaic form of Arabic in 328 using the Nabataean alphabet, which refers to Imru' al-Qays ibn 'Amr as "King of all the Arabs".[82][83] Herodotus refers to the Arabs in the Sinai, southern Palestine, and the frankincense region (Southern Arabia). Other ancient Greek historians like Agatharchides, Diodorus Siculus and Strabo mention Arabs living in Mesopotamia (along the Euphrates), in Egypt (the Sinai and the Red Sea), southern Jordan (the Nabataeans), the Syrian steppe and in eastern Arabia (the people of Gerrha). Inscriptions dating to the 6th century BCE in Yemen include the term "Arab".[84]

The most popular Arab account holds that the word "Arab" came from an eponymous father called Ya'rub who was supposedly the first to speak Arabic. Abu Muhammad al-Hasan al-Hamdani had another view; he states that Arabs were called gharab ("westerners") by Mesopotamians because Bedouins originally resided to the west of Mesopotamia; the term was then corrupted into arab.

Yet another view is held by al-Masudi that the word "Arab" was initially applied to the Ishmaelites of the Arabah valley. In Biblical etymology, "Arab" (in Hebrew arvi) comes both from the desert origin of the Bedouins it originally described (arava means wilderness).

The root ʿ-r-b has several additional meanings in Semitic languages—including "west, sunset," "desert," "mingle," "mixed," "merchant," and "raven"—and are "comprehensible" with all of these having varying degrees of relevance to the emergence of the name. It is also possible that some forms were metathetical from ʿ-B-R "moving around" (Arabic ʿ-B-R "traverse"), and hence, it is alleged, "nomadic."[85]



Pre-Islamic Arabia refers to the Arabian Peninsula prior to the rise of Islam in the 630s. The study of Pre-Islamic Arabia is important to Islamic studies as it provides the context for the development of Islam. Some of the settled communities in the Arabian Peninsula developed into distinctive civilizations. Sources for these civilizations are not extensive, and are limited to archaeological evidence, accounts written outside of Arabia, and Arab oral traditions later recorded by Islamic scholars. Among the most prominent civilizations was Dilmun, which arose around the 4th millennium BCE and lasted to 538 BCE, and Thamud, which arose around the 1st millennium BCE and lasted to about 300 CE. Additionally, from the beginning of the first millennium BCE, Southern Arabia was the home to a number of kingdoms, such as the Sabaean kingdom (Arabic: سَـبَـأ‎, romanizedSaba',[86] possibly Sheba),[87] and the coastal areas of Eastern Arabia were controlled by the Parthian and Sassanians from 300 BCE.

Origins and early history

According to Arab-Islamic-Jewish traditions, Ishmael was father of the Arabs, to be the ancestor of the Ishmaelites.[88]

Traditional Qahtanite genealogy

The first written attestation of the ethnonym Arab occurs in an Assyrian inscription of 853 BCE, where Shalmaneser III lists a King Gindibu of mâtu arbâi (Arab land) as among the people he defeated at the Battle of Qarqar. Some of the names given in these texts are Aramaic, while others are the first attestations of Ancient North Arabian dialects. In fact several different ethnonyms are found in Assyrian texts that are conventionally translated "Arab": Arabi, Arubu, Aribi and Urbi. Many of the Qedarite queens were also described as queens of the aribi. The Hebrew Bible occasionally refers to Aravi peoples (or variants thereof), translated as "Arab" or "Arabian." The scope of the term at that early stage is unclear, but it seems to have referred to various desert-dwelling Semitic tribes in the Syrian Desert and Arabia.[citation needed] Arab tribes came into conflict with the Assyrians during the reign of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, and he records military victories against the powerful Qedar tribe among others.

Old Arabic diverges from Central Semitic by the beginning of the 1st millennium BCE.[citation needed]

Nabataean trade routes in Pre-Islamic Arabia.

Medieval Arab genealogists divided Arabs into three groups:

  1. "Ancient Arabs", tribes that had vanished or been destroyed, such as ʿĀd and Thamud, often mentioned in the Qur'an as examples of God's power to vanquish those who fought his prophets.
  2. "Pure Arabs" of South Arabia, descending from Qahtan. The Qahtanites (Qahtanis) are said to have migrated from the land of Yemen following the destruction of the Ma'rib Dam (sadd Ma'rib).
  3. The "Arabized Arabs" (mustaʿribah) of Central Arabia (Najd) and North Arabia, descending from Ishmael the elder son of Abraham, through Adnan (hence, Adnanites). The Book of Genesis narrates that God promised Hagar to beget from Ishmael twelve princes and turn him to a great nation.(Genesis 17:20) The Book of Jubilees claims that the sons of Ishmael intermingled with the 6 sons of Keturah, from Abraham, and their descendants were called Arabs and Ishmaelites:

And Ishmael and his sons, and the sons of Keturah and their sons, went together and dwelt from Paran to the entering in of Babylon in all the land towards the East facing the desert. And these mingled with each other, and their name was called Arabs, and Ishmaelites.

— Book of Jubilees 20:13
Assyrian horsemen pursue defeated Arabs
Arab soldier (Old Persian cuneiform:
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