Tribes and ethnicities of Ethiopia

There are numerous Ethiopian tribes and ethnic groups. Just like the people of Africa in general, the people of Ethiopia are a diverse group with over eighty different ethnic groups and languages within its borders. There are different ethnic groups just in the Omo Valley. These include the Benna, Ari, Mursi, Bume, karo, Tsemay, Konso, Hammer, Dassecnech, and Borenna, just to mention a few.

The population percentages of the main ethnic groups in Ethiopia are approximately:

  • Oromo 34.5%
  • Amhara 26.9%
  • Somali 6.2%
  • Tigray 6.1%
  • Sidama 4%
  • Gurage 2.5%
  • Wolayta 2.3%


The Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia making up 34.5%. It is believed that the Oromo have lived in what is now Ethiopia for over a millennium. Their native language is Oromiffa.


The Amhara, who are the second largest tribe in Ethiopia, generally live in the central highlands of the country speaking the country’s official language Amharic. They dominated Ethiopia's history, economy and politics. The vast majorities are Christian (Ethiopian Orthodox). Amharic is the language they speak which is the currently the official language of Ethiopia.


There are over five million Tigrays living in Ethiopia. They are the third largest ethnic group comprising around 6.1% of the population. They mainly are located in the northern highlands of Ethiopia's Tigray province where both Christianity and Islam introduced to Ethiopia. They speak their native language Tigrigna.


The Somali makes up 95% of the Somali regions people and 6.2 % of the total population of Ethiopia. Most Somalis live in Somalia, however over four million reside in Ethiopia. They are 99% Muslims and clan groupings are a very important part of Somali society. They speak the Somali language.


Almost three million Sidama live in Ethiopia , they are originally from the south western Ethiopia, Sidama Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR). They are divided in to four clans namely Deraa, Hadiya, Kenbata nad Alba. Their homeland is in the. Most of them are farmers cultivating Tobbaco, Enset and other grains. They are heterogeneous in following animist, Pentecostals Christians , orthodox, Muslims and other religions. Most speak a language called Sidaamu-afoo.


The Gurage people make up a little over two and a half percent of Ethiopia's total population. Semeti in origin they practice herding, farming aaespecily the false banana trees.They are known as great workers, clever improisers and skilled craft people. They are muslims, chritinas as well mostly. They mainly reside in southwest Ethiopia, in a semi-mountainous area about 150 miles southwest of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.


Afars inhibit the famous region of Denakil which stretches across Ethiopia’s East Dibouti’s West and in to Eretria’s south East. Geographically Afar region is characterized by low lying plains which receive less than 200mm of rainfall annually.

Afar region is the most inhospitable environment in the world. The awash river runs through Afar and Salt and different minerals are mined in Afar. Afari people are mainly Muslims and they practice nomadism. Their language is Afar and Baddo which are Cushitic branch of Afro Asiatic Family.


The Harari people are Semetic in origin. They have long inhibited the walled Muslim city of Harrar. The people of Hararri are known for their distinct two –storey houses together with their house decorations, their very colorful traditional costumes. The main economic activity is Farming. They majority are Muslims. Harrari people speck Amharic and Oromiffa languages.