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Alternative forms[edit]


From Sanskrit आर्य (ā́rya, noble; noble one) +‎ -n. The Sanskrit word is from Proto-Indo-Iranian *áryas (the original Indo-Iranian autonym). Borrowed into English in the 19th century, at first as a term for the Indo-Iranian languages, and later partly extended to the Indo-European languages and peoples following a theory by Friedrich Schlegel that connected the Indo-Iranian words arya/ā́rya with German Ehre (honor) and some older Germanic names, thus assuming that it was the original Indo-European autonym meaning "the honorable people". The original meaning of the Indo-Iranian autonym and its possible Indo-European origin/cognates are disputed (see the Wikipedia article for further details).

The same Proto-Indo-Iranian root is the ultimate source of the country name Iran.



Aryan (plural Aryans)

  1. (theosophy, Germanic mysticism, Nazism) A member of an alleged master race with no fixed definition, comprising people of Germanic descent (in the narrowest sense), or all non-Jewish Caucasians (in the broadest sense)
    • 1925–26, Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translation from German to English by James Murphy, 1939
      This short sketch of the changes that take place among those races that are only the depositories of a culture also furnishes a picture of the development and the activity and the disappearance of those who are the true founders of culture on this earth, namely the Aryans themselves.
  2. (Nazism or white supremacy, informal) A person of Caucasian (white / European) ethnicity; a white non-Jew.
    • 2001, Robert J. Sternberg, James C. Kaufman, The Evolution of Intelligence, page 300:
      One transmission advantage may have been that espousing Aryan-supremacist and overtly Nazi ideology could have been a roundabout way of announcing, []
    • 2002, David R. Goldfield, Still Fighting the Civil War: The American South and Southern History[1], page 263:
      The point is not that southern Republicans are edging toward Aryan-supremacist views but that the rhetoric of their campaigns and some of their political []
  3. (chiefly US, informal, euphemistic) A Caucasian racist, often one who is an Aryan in the first sense.
    • 2004, John Lawton, Bluffing Mr. Churchill:
      Cal tried to think of words that would convey Wolfgang Stahl to the ears and hands of a woman who’d never seen him and never, until now, had to imagine him.
      ‘Why not . . . why not think of your chap as a type? Tell me what type you’d sort of put him into.’
      ‘Sort of?’
      ‘You know . . . roughly.’
      ‘He’s an Aryan.’
      ‘Ah, one of those, eh? Odd when you think about it. I mean. How did they arrive at blue-eyed blonds as a racial type? Hitler’s short and dark and looks like Charlie Chaplin. Goebbels is short and ugly and looks like a rat. And as for Goering – well is that what Billy Bunter grew up to be?’
  4. (dated) An Indo-European, a Proto-Indo-European.
    • 1905, Rossiter Johnson, LL.D., chief editor, The Great Events by Famous Historians, volume IV
      We have seen that when the Goths first entered Roman territory they were driven on by a vast migration of the Asiatic Huns. These wild and hideous tribes then [] appeared upon the Rhine, and in enormous numbers penetrated Gaul. No people had yet understood them, none had even checked their career. The white races seemed helpless against this "yellow peril", this "Scourge of God", as Attila was called. Goths and Romans and all the varied tribes which were ranging in perturbed whirl through unhappy Gaul laid aside their lesser enmities and met in common cause against this terrible invader. The battle of Châlons, 451, was the most tremendous struggle in which Turanian was ever matched against Aryan, the one huge bid of the stagnant, unprogressive races, for earth’s mastery.
  5. (dated) An Indo-Iranian.
  6. (ethnography, dated) A subdivision of the Caucasian racial and linguistic grouping, when that grouping is defined as consisting of Aryans, Semites, and Hamites.
    • 1892, Charles Morris, The Aryan Race: Its Origins and Its Achievements:
      [The] Caucasian race includes two sub-races, — the Xantho-chroic and Melanochroic of Huxley. The seat of this race is Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern Asia, its linguistic division being into Aryans, Semites, and Hamites.
    • 1900, Frank Moore Colby, Outlines of General History:
      The surest principle of classification is based on language, but the results must be tested by a study of the physical characteristics of the various races. According to this method of classification, the races of the world may be divided as follows: Aryan, Semitic, Hamitic, Turanian, Negroid. The name Caucasian is generally applied to the first three divisions, — Aryans, Semites, and Hamites. Aryan. — This includes the ancient Hindus [] the Persians, Greeks, Italians, Celts, Teutons, and Slavs.

Usage notes[edit]

  • In popular conception, the Aryan racial type is marked by blond hair and blue eyes, but these are not criteria of any of the technical racial definitions.
  • The Nazi and neo-Nazi racial senses are the only ones familiar to most speakers. The other senses ("Indo-Iranian", "Indo-European, Proto-Indo-European", and "subdivision of Caucasian") are not likely to be understood. Because of this, and because the term carries a strong emotional charge, the technical senses are perhaps best avoided outside of academic contexts where they are certain to be understood, and the racial senses connected with Nazism are perhaps best avoided altogether.
  • Neo-Nazis generally do not intend Aryan to be pejorative, but it can be taken as such outside of the neo-Nazi community, because of the term’s heavy use by and association with the Nazis. Indeed, because neo-Nazis are the main users of the term, it is sometimes used by non-Nazis as a euphemism for ‘white racist’.

Derived terms[edit]



Aryan (not comparable)

  1. Pertaining, in racial theories, to the (alleged) Aryan master race.
    • 1925–26, Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translation from German to English by James Murphy, 1939
      Look at the ravages from which our people are suffering daily as a result of being contaminated with Jewish blood. Bear in mind the fact that this poisonous contamination can be eliminated from the national body only after centuries, or perhaps never. Think further of how the process of racial decomposition is debasing and in some cases even destroying the fundamental Aryan qualities of our German people, so that our cultural creativeness as a nation is gradually becoming impotent and we are running the danger, at least in our great cities, of falling to the level where Southern Italy is to-day.
    Antonym: non-Aryan
  2. (neo-Nazi or white supremacist ideology, informal) Pertaining to the Caucasian ethnicity.
    • 2003, Kathleen M. Blee, Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement[2], page 172:
      Neo-Nazis use Nordic religions to fashion a more noble Aryan past and a modern Pan-Aryan community. Symbols from and references to ancient spirituality pepper neo-Nazi literature.
  3. (US, informal, euphemistic) Pertaining to Caucasian racists or their organisations, theories, etc.
    • 2006, Margaret Kleffner Nydell, Understanding Arabs: A Guide for Modern Times, Intercultural Press,, →ISBN, page 106:
      Imagine our outrage if the foreign press depicted Aryan groups as representing mainstream Christianity.
  4. Of or pertaining to Indo-Iranian peoples, cultures, and languages.
    • 1872-79: John Beames, A Comparative Grammar of the Modern Aryan Languages of India: to wit, Hindi, Panjabi, Sindhi, Gujarati, Marathi, Oriya and Bangall
      [W]ith all due deference to the opinions of scholars, it may be urged that much of this elaborate development arose in an age when the speech of the people had wandered very far away from the classical type. Even if it were not so, even if there ever were a time when the Aryan peasant used poly-syllabic desideratives, and was familiar with multiform aorists, it is clear that he began to satisfy himself with a simpler system at a very distant epoch, for the range of forms in Pali and the other Prakrits is far narrower than in classical Sanskrit.
  5. (dated) Of or pertaining to Indo-European peoples, cultures and languages.
    • 1905, Rossiter Johnson, LL.D., chief editor, The Great Events by Famous Historians, volume IV
      Who were these Teutons? Rome knew them only vaguely as wild tribes dwelling in the gloom of the great forest wilderness. In reality they were but the vanguard of vast races of human beings who through ages had been slowly populating all Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Beyond the Teutons were other Aryans, the Slavs. Beyond these were vague non-Aryan races like the Huns. []


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Proper noun[edit]


  1. The language of the original Aryans.

Further reading[edit]