Habesha peoples

ethnic or pan-ethnic identifier used to refer to Ethiopians
(Redirected from Habesha Community)

Habesha peoples (Ge'ez: ሐበሠተ, romanized: Ḥäbäśät or Ḥabäśät[1]; Amharic: ሐበሻ, አበሻ, romanized: Häbäša, 'äbäša; Tigrinya: ሓበሻ, romanized: Ḥabäša; etymologically related to English exonyms "Abyssinia" and "Abyssinians" by way of Latin) in its most general sense is a community and supra-ethnic identifier among Eritreans, Ethiopians, and their descendants in the diaspora. The identifier has a diverse array of usage depending on situational context, cultural perspective, socio-political ideology, geographic location, point of view, and era in time, among other influences.

Habesha people
Ge'ez: ሐበሠተ, romanized: Ḥäbäśät or Ḥabäśät
Amharic: ሐበሻ, አበሻ, romanized: Häbäša, 'äbäša
Tigrinya: ሓበሻ, romanized: Ḥabäša
Habesha Community.jpg
Regions with significant populations
 Eritrea and Eritreans
 Ethiopia and Ethiopians
Languages of Ethiopia
Languages of Eritrea
Religion in Ethiopia
Religion in Eritrea
Related ethnic groups
Related Concepts:

Panethnicity, Supraethnicity, Hyphenated ethnicity, Diaspora, Community, Self-Identification/Self-Concept, Multi-ethnic, Meta-ethnicity, Multiculturalism. Transnationalism, Symbolic ethnicity, Metroethnicity, Cultural mosaic

Related Terminology:

Desi, Latin American (Hispanic, Latino/a, La Raza), Horn of Africa (Horn African), MENA, Yugoslavs (Yugoslav Americans)
Habesha traditional historical music


In one sense, Habesha has historically been used as a meta-ethnicity to refer to peoples found in the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea between Asmara and Addis Ababa of largely Ethiosemitic language-speaking populations (e.g. the modern-day Amhara, Tigrayan, Tigrinya peoples, among others)[1] as well as in some cases including Central Cushitic language-speaking peoples (e.g. the modern-day Agaw, Qemant, Bilen, Awi),[2] all of which have had constant contact with each other and share ethnic homelands within the Ethiopian Highlands and Eritrean Highlands geographic area.

In another sense, Habesha as a pan-ethnicity is used in reference to all Ethiopians and Eritreans, encompassing all constituent ethnic groups,[3][4] and their diaspora populations,[5] within a transnational[6] cultural mosaic community[7] consisting of the peoples, cultures, and products of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the cultural practices adopted by diaspora populations in the countries in which they have migrated to. The concept of Habesha as a pan-ethnicity is largely held by diaspora communities as well as among people in urban centers in the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea between Asmara and Addis Ababa (especially those with access to social media).[8]

Terminological HistoryEdit

Historically, the term "Habesha" represented northern Ethiopian Highlands which consisted of populations that are predominantly Orthodox Tewahedo Christians, while the Oromo and other ethnic groups, as well as Semitic-speaking Muslims, were considered the periphery. Its is frequently employed to refer to Semitic language-speaking peoples mainly found in the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Historically, the term was applied to predominantly Christian groups, and this usage remains common today. The term is used in varying degrees of exclusion and inclusivity: Most commonly, it includes all highland Semitic language-speaking Christians; sometimes it is employed in an expanded sense to include Muslim communities as well as Christians. At the extremes, the term is currently sometimes employed in a restrictive sense to only refer to speakers of Tigrinya, while recently, some within diasporic communities have adopted the term to refer to all people of Eritrean or Ethiopian origin.[9][10][11][12]

According to Gerard Prunier, one very restrictive use of the term today by some Tigrayans refers exclusively to speakers of Tigrinya, however it is noteworthy that Tigrayan oral traditions and linguistic evidence bear witness to ancient and constant relations with Amharas.[13][14] Some Gurage societies, such as Orthodox Christian communities where Soddo is spoken, identify as Habesha and have a strong sense of Ethiopian national identity, due in part to their ancient ties with the northern Habesha.[15]

Predominately Muslim ethnic groups in the Eritrean Highlands such as the Tigre have historically opposed the name Habesha; Muslim Tigrinya-speakers are usually referred to as Jeberti people while in some records Jebarti is described as a Muslim ethno-religious sub-group or alternative to Habesha.[1] At the turn of the 20th century, elites of the Solomonic dynasty employed the conversion of various ethnic groups to Orthodox Tewahedo Christianity and the imposition of the Amharic language to spread a common Habesha national identity.[16]

Within Ethiopian and Eritrean diasporic populations, some second generation immigrants have adopted the term "Habesha" in a broader sense as a supra-national ethnic identifier inclusive of all Eritreans and Ethiopians. For those who employ the term, it serves as a useful counter to more exclusionary identities such as "Amhara" or "Tigrayan". However, this usage is not uncontested: On the one hand, those who grew up in Ethiopia or Eritrea may object to the obscuring of national specificity.[3]:186–188 On the other hand, groups that were subjugated in Ethiopia or Eritrea sometimes find the term offensive.[17]


The modern term derives from Semitic languages: Ge'ez: ሓበሠት, romanized: Ḥabäśät, first written in unvowelled script as Ge'ez: ሐበሠተ, romanized: ḤBŚT; Template:Lang-xsa; Arabic: حبش, romanized: ḥabaš.[18][19] The earliest known use of the term dates to the second or third century Sabaean inscription recounting the defeat of the nəgus ("king") GDRT of Aksum and ḤBŠT. The early Semitic term appears to refer to a group of peoples, rather than a specific ethnicity.

Egyptian inscriptions refer to the people that they traded with in Punt as Template:Lang-egy, "the bearded ones." Francis Breyer believes the Egyptian demonym to be the source of the Semitic term.[19]

The first attestation of late Latin Abissensis is from the fifth century CE. Modern Western European languages, including English, appear to borrow this term from the post-classical form Abissini in the mid-sixteenth century. (English Abyssin is attested from 1576, and Abissinia and Abyssinia from the 1620s.)[20]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Prunier, Gérard; Ficquet, Éloi (2015-09-15). Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia: Monarchy, Revolution and the Legacy of Meles Zenawi. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-1-84904-618-3.
  2. Magn, Nyang. "The difference between being an Ethiopian and being Habesha". Sudan Tribune.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Goitom, Mary (2017). "'Unconventional Canadians': Second-generation 'Habesha' youth and belonging in Toronto, Canada". Global Social Welfare. Springer. 4 (4): 179–190. doi:10.1007/s40609-017-0098-0. S2CID 157892263.
  5. Goitom, M. (2012). Becoming habesha: The journey of second-generation ethiopian and eritrean youth in canada (Order No. NR91110).
  6. "Abstract: Identity in a Globalized World: How Second Generation Ethiopian and Eritrean Youth Expand Social Work Education and Research Agendas (Society for Social Work and Research 20th Annual Conference - Grand Challenges for Social Work: Setting a Research Agenda for the Future)". sswr.confex.com. Retrieved 2022-06-01.
  7. Tecle, Samuel (October 2021). "BLACK GRAMMARS: ON DIFFERENCE AND BELONGING" (PDF). York University in Toronto, ON.
  8. Afeworki, and Niat. “Eritrean Nationalism and the Digital Diaspora: Expanding Diasporic Networks via Twitter.” EScholarship, University of California, 1 Feb. 2018
  9. Makki, Fouad (2006). Eritrea between empires: Nationalism and the anti-colonial imagination, 1890–1991 (PhD). SUNY Binghamton. pp. 342–345.
  10. Epple, Susanne (2014). Creating and Crossing Boundaries in Ethiopia: Dynamics of Social Categorization and Differentiation. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 194. ISBN 9783643905345.
  11. Historical Dictionary of Eritrea. Scarecrow Press. 14 October 2010. p. 279. ISBN 9780810875050.
  12. Making Citizens in Africa: Ethnicity, Gender, and National Identity in Ethiopia. Cambridge University Press. 20 May 2013. p. 54. ISBN 9781107035317.
  13. Prunier, Gérard; Ficquet, Éloi, eds. (2015). Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia: Monarchy, Revolution and the Legacy of Meles Zenawi. London: C. Hurst & Co. p. 19. ISBN 9781849042611.
  14. Hetzron, Robert (1972). Ethiopian Semitic: Studies in Classification. Manchester University Press. pp. 124. ISBN 9780719011238.
  15. Prunier, Gérard; Ficquet, Éloi, eds. (2015). Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia: Monarchy, Revolution and the Legacy of Meles Zenawi. London: C. Hurst & Co. pp. 39, 440. ISBN 9781849042611.
  16. Jalata, Asafa (16 May 2019). Cultural Capital and Prospects for Democracy in Botswana and Ethiopia. Routledge. ISBN 9781000008562.
  17. Habecker, Shelly (2012). "Not black, but Habasha: Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants in American society". Ethnic and Racial Studies. 35 (7): 1200–1219. doi:10.1080/01419870.2011.598232. S2CID 144464670.
  18. Uhlig, Siegbert, ed. Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: D-Ha. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005. p. 948.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Breyer, Francis (2016). "The Ancient Egyptian Etymology of Ḥabašāt "Abessinia"". Ityop̣is. Extra Issue II: 8–18.
  20. "Abyssin, n. and adj". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 25 September 2020.