Imaziɣen, ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ, ⵎⵣⵗⵏ
Berber flag.svg
The Berber ethnic flag
Total population
20–30 million[1][2][3] – 50 million[4]
Regions with significant populations
Moroccofrom ≈ 10 million[2] to ≈ 12 million[5][6][7]
Algeriafrom 9[2] to ≈ 13 million[7][8]
Tunisia110,000[9] to ≈ 389,652[4]
Francemore than 2 million[10]
Mauritania2,883,000 (2,768,000[11] & 115,000[12])
Belgium500,000(Including descendants)[15]
Netherlands367,455(Including descendants)[citation needed]
Burkina Faso50,000[16]
Egypt34,000[17] or 1,826,580[4]
Canada37,060 (Including those of mixed ancestry)[18]
United States1,327[20]
Berber languages (Tamazight), traditionally written with Tifinagh alphabet, also Berber Latin alphabet;
Maghrebi Arabic dialects (among Arabized Berbers)
Predominantly Sunni Islam.
Minorities adhere to other Islamic denominations (Shia, Ibadi), Christianity (chiefly Protestantism),[21][22] Judaism, and traditional faith
Related ethnic groups
other Afro-Asiatic peoples[23][24][25][26][27][28][29]

Berbers, or Amazighs (Berber languages: ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ, ⵎⵣⵗⵏ, romanized: Imaziɣen; singular: Amaziɣ, ⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖ ⵎⵣⵗ), are an ethnic group of several nations mostly indigenous to North Africa and some northern parts of Western Africa.

Berbers constitute the populations of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, northern Mali, northern Niger, and a small part of western Egypt.

Berber nations are distributed over an area stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Siwa Oasis in Egypt and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Niger River in West Africa. Historically, Berber nations spoke the Berber language, which is a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. The Berbers of Algeria were independent of outside control during the period of Ottoman Empire rule in North Africa. They lived primarily in three different Nations: the Kingdom of Ait Abbas, Kingdom of Kuku, and the principality of Aït Jubar.[30]Kingdom of Ait Abbas is a Berber nation of North Africa, controlling Lesser Kabylie and its surroundings from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century. It is referred to in the Spanish historiography as "reino de Labes";[31][full citation needed] sometimes more commonly referred to by its ruling family, the Mokrani, in Berber At Muqran, in Arabic أولاد مقران (Ouled Moqrane). Its capital was the Kalâa of Ait Abbas, an impregnable citadel in the Biban mountain range.

Flag of the Berber nation the Kingdom of Ait Abbas prior to modern day Algeria until 1872.

There are about 32 million Berbers in North Africa who still speak the Berber language.[3] The number of ethnic Berbers (including non-Berber speakers) is far greater than the speakers of the Berber language, as a large part of the Berbers have lost their ancestral language and switched to other languages over the course of many decades or centuries.

The Kabyle people are Berber people indigenous to Algeria.

The majority of North Africa's population west of Egypt is believed to be Berber in ethnic origin, although due to Arabization and Islamization some ethnic Berbers identify as Arabized Berbers.[32]

Most Berber people who speak Berber today live in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, northern Mali, and northern Niger.[4] Smaller Berber-speaking populations are also found in Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Egypt's Siwa town.

There are large immigrant Berber communities living in France, Spain, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Italy and other countries of Europe.[33][34]

The majority of Berbers are Sunni Muslim. The Berber identity is usually wider than language and ethnicity and encompasses the entire history and geography of North Africa. Berbers are not an entirely homogeneous ethnicity, and they encompass a range of societies, ancestries and lifestyles. The unifying forces for the Berber people may be their shared language or a collective identification with Berber heritage and history.

Berbers call themselves some variant of the word i-Mazigh-en (singular: a-Mazigh), possibly meaning "free people" or "noble men".[33] The name probably had its ancient parallel in the Roman and Greek names for Berbers such as Mazices.[35]

Some of the best known of the ancient Berbers are the Numidian king Masinissa, king Jugurtha, the Berber-Roman author Apuleius, Saint Augustine of Hippo, and the Berber-Roman general Lusius Quietus, who was instrumental in defeating the major wave of Jewish revolts of 115–117 in ancient Israel. The Berber queen Dihya, or Kahina, was a religious and political leader who led a military Berber resistance against the Arab-Muslim expansion in Northwest Africa. Kusaila was a 7th-century leader of the Berber Awerba tribe and King of the Iẓnagen confederation and resisted the Arab-Muslim invasion. Yusuf ibn Tashfin was a Muslim king of the Berber Almoravid dynasty. Abbas ibn Firnas was a Berber-Andalusian prolific inventor and early pioneer in aviation. Ibn Battuta was a medieval Berber explorer who departed from Tanja, Morocco and traveled the longest known distances of his time and chronicled his impressions of hundreds of nations and cultures.


The term Berber is a variation of the Greek original word barbaros ("barbarian"), earlier in history applied by Romans specifically to their northern hostile neighbors from Germania (modern Germany) and Celts, Iberians, Gauls, Goths and Thracians.

Among its oldest written attestations, Berber appears as an ethnonym in the 1st century AD Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.[36]

Despite these early manuscripts, certain modern scholars have argued that the term only emerged around 900 AD in the writings of Arab genealogists,[37] with Maurice Lenoir positing an 8th or 9th century date of appearance.[38] The English term was introduced in the 19th century, replacing the earlier Barbary.

The Berbers are the Mauri cited by the Chronicle of 754 during the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, to become since the 11th century the catch-all term Moros (in Spanish; Moors in English) on the charters and chronicles of the expanding Christian Iberian kingdoms to refer to the Andalusi, the north Africans, and the Muslims overall.

For the historian Abraham Isaac Laredo[39] the name Amazigh could be derived from the name of the ancestor Mezeg which is the translation of biblical ancestor Dedan son of Sheba in the Targum. According to Leo Africanus, Amazigh meant "free man", some argued that there is no root of M-Z-Ɣ meaning "free" in modern Berber languages. However, mmuzeɣ "to be noble, generous" exist among the Imazighen of Central Morocco and tmuzeɣ "to free oneself, revolt" among the Kabyles of Ouadhia.[40] This dispute, however, is based on a lack of understanding of the Berber language as "Am-" is a prefix meaning "a man, one who is […]" Therefore, the root required to verify this endonym would be (a)zigh, "free", which however is also missing from Tamazight's lexicon, but may be related to the well attested aze "strong", Tizzit "bravery", or jeghegh "to be brave, to be courageous".[41][original research?]

Further, it also has a cognate in the Tuareg word Amajegh, meaning "noble".[42][43] This term is common in Morocco, especially among Central Atlas, Rifian and Shilah speakers in 1980,[44] but elsewhere within the Berber homeland sometimes a local, more particular term, such as Kabyle or Chaoui, is more often used instead in Algeria.[45]

The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines mentioned various tribes with similar names living in Greater "Libya" (North Africa) in the areas where Berbers were later found. Later tribal names differ from the classical sources, but are probably still related to the modern Amazigh. The Meshwesh tribe among them represents the first thus identified from the field. Scholars believe it would be the same tribe called a few centuries afterwards in Greek as Mazyes by Hektaios and as Maxyes by Herodotus, while it was called after that Mazaces and Mazax in Latin sources, and related to the later Massylii and Masaesyli. Late Antiquity Roman and Coptic sources also mention that Mazices (ⲙⲁⲥⲓⲅⲝ in Coptic)[46] conducted multiple raids against Egypt.[47] all those names are similar and perhaps foreign renditions of the name used by the Berbers in general for themselves, Imazighen.