The Bosniaks (Bošnjaci/Бошњаци, feminine: Bošnjakinja/Бошњакиња) are South Slavic nation and ethnic group. They come from Old Bosnia, which is today Bosnia and Herzegovina, though many of them are from the other Balkan populations, especially Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia. They come from medieval Bosnians or Bošnjani, Slavic that lived in what was then Bosnia. Medieval Bosniaks or Bosnians (called Dobri bošnjani = Good Bosnians) practiced different religions but they all spoke the Bosnian language. Today, Bosniaks are mostly Bosnian-speaking, and write in the Latin alphabet or Cyrillic alphabet. Most modern Bosniaks are Muslims, and some are agnostic and atheists. They have both European and Islamic heritage. Both within the Balkans region and throughout the world, Bosniaks are often noted for their unique culture, which has been influenced by both eastern and western civilizations and schools of thought over the course of their history.
The Oxford English Dictionary says the ethnonym Bosniak was first used in English by the British diplomat and historian Paul Rycaut in 1680. He spelled it Bosnack to sound like the post-classical Latin Bosniacus (possibly earlier than 1682), the French word Bosniaque (1695 or earlier) or the German word Bosniak (1737 or earlier). An ethnonym is a name of a group of people. The 1836 version of Penny Cyclopaedia V. 231/1 uses the modern spelling:
"The inhabitants of Bosnia are composed of Bosniaks, a race of Sclavonian origin".
All Slavic languages use the suffix -ak for masculine nouns. For example, people from the ethnic group in Poland can be called Polak and people from Slovakia Slovaks (Slovák). Consequently, "Bosniak" is logic equivalent to its non-ethnic counterpart "Bosnian," which came to English from Middle French as Bosnien): a native of Bosnia.
English-speakers usually say Bosnian Muslims when they mean Bosniaks, but this is not completely correct because not all Bosniaks are Muslims. Partly because of this, ever since the country Yugoslavia broke up, people have started to say Bosniak instead of Muslim as an official way to talk about this group of people ethnic term to avoid confusion. They also say Bosnians, but this word can mean anyone from Bosnia or Herzegovina, not just members of the Bosniak ethnic group.
A few million Bosniaks live in the Balkans, and about one million other Bosniaks live in other parts of the world. Ethnic cleansing and genocide during World War II (1939-1945) and the Bosnian War (1993–95) killed many Bosniaks and drove others to move away from where they had been living. Partially because of this this, there has been a Bosniak diaspora in a number of countries, including Bosnian Austrians, Germany, Bosnian Australians, Sweden, Turkey, Canada, and the United States.
- "Bosniak". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.
- Charles Knight (1836). The Penny Cyclopaedia. V. London: The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. p. 231.
- "Bosnian". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.
- "Bosnia and Herzegovina: People", The World Factbook, American CIA, 2016 , ISSN 1553-8133, retrieved 2016-04-13
- Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate, The Ethnic Cleansing of Bosnia-Hercegovina, (US Government Printing Office, 1992)
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