Ethnic Groups Of Ethiopia

A market featuring vendors in Axum, Ethiopia.
A market featuring vendors in Axum, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is a Sub-Saharan country found in the Horn of Africa. According to a 2013 World Bank report, Ethiopia had a population of roughly 94.1 million people. The country enjoys diverse cultures such as world famous cuisines, woven cotton costume (Gabbi), the Rastafarian movement, and Ethiopian Orthodox church among others. These can be attributed to numerous ethnic groups in the Country. Oromo is the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. It takes up 35% of the Ethiopian population. Amhara ranks the second largest ethnic group and takes up 27% of the Ethiopian population. Oromo and Amharic people make up more than half of the Ethiopian population. The other ethnic groups include Somali, Tigray, Sidama, Gurage Wolaytta, Afar, Hadiya, and Gamo.


The Oromo people mainly occupy Oromia, the central region of Ethiopia, and they number 34,216,242 people. It is believed that Oromia is their original homeland, and they speak the Oromo language. They practice subsistence farming and lead a nomadic pastoralist life. Oromos have their calendar that is based on astronomical observations. The Oromos’ system of governance famously known as Gaada- is based on age grades with older people generations ranking higher in the system. They view aging as advancement in wisdom. Elders are consulted in times of disputes and at weddings.


The Amhara are among the second largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, and they speak Amharic, the official language of the Republic of Ethiopia. Their population is approximately 26,855,771 people. It is believed they are descendants of Shem the eldest son of Noah in the biblical story. Amharas use proverbs, myths, and parables to teach moral lessons to their children. They are known for their spicy cuisines which consist of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, and fenugreek. Amharas are ranked among the highest coffee consumers. An interesting aspect of the Amharas is that they do not wear shoes. They have a patriarchal system of governance where the males have authority over the females in the community.


Tigrayans constitute approximately 6.1% of the Ethiopian population, and their numbers total approximately 6,047,522 people in the country. Most Tigrayans live in the northern region of Ethiopia. They use folktales, riddles, and poetry for entertainment. The naming ceremony is an important rite of passage for the Tigyayans as it marks a child’s membership into the community. A child who dies before the naming ceremony is not granted a funeral.


Somalis rank closely with the Tigrayans at 6.1% of the Ethiopian population, and their numbers are approximately 6,186,774 people. They are spread across Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, and Somalia. Somalis are divided into social units known as clans. These clans are a core part of their culture. Islam is the predominant religion among Somalis. Therefore, they borrow a great deal of their social norms from Islam. Men and women do not touch while greeting each other. In Somali culture, the right hand is seen as the clean and polite hand. Left-handedness is a taboo among these ethnic groups.

Inter-Ethnic Relations

Other ethnic groups in Ethiopia, and their population sizes therein, include the Sidana (3,978,633), the Gurage (2,306,539), the Welyata (2,257,874), the Afar (1,720,759), the Hadiya (1,710,812), and the Gamo (1,482,041), while other groups have 12,532,693 residents in the country collectively. Although Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic country, there has always been a conflict between the two largest ethnic groups the Oromo and the Amhara. The conflict has largely been over the control of land, although it is believed it could be politically incited as well. These conflicts have led to the loss of lives and property destruction.

Ethnic Groups Of Ethiopia

RankEthnic GroupsEstimated Population Living in Ethiopia Today
Other Groups12,532,693

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