Afghans (Pashto: افغانان, romanized: afghanan, Dari: افغان ها, romanized: afghānhā) or Afghan people are nationals or citizens of Afghanistan, or people with ancestry from there.[1][2] Afghanistan is made up of various ethnicities, of which the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks are the largest; the pre-nation state, historical ethnonym Afghan was used to refer to a member of the Pashtuns, an ethnicity that traditionally resides in the modern Durand Line region. Due to the changing political nature of the state, such as the British-drawn border with Pakistan (then British India) the term has shifted to be the national identity of people from Afghanistan from all ethnicities.[3][4][5] The two main languages spoken by Afghans are Pashto and Dari (the Afghan dialect of Persian language), and many are bilingual.[6][7]

Regions with significant populations
 Afghanistan38.9 million (2021 estimate)
Pashto, Dari and other languages of Afghanistan
Majority Sunni Islam with minorities of Shia Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism
Population of the Afghan diaspora worldwide


English term Meaning Equivalent Pashto term Equivalent Dari Persian term
Afghan Demonym of Afghanistan Afghan Afghan (person) or Afghani (object)
Afghans Demonym of Afghanistan (plural) Afghanan Afghanha
Afghan (originally) A Pashtun Afghan Afghan (person) or Afghani (object)
Afghani Currency of Afghanistan Afghani Afghani

The earliest mention of the name Afghan (Abgân) is by Shapur I of the Sassanid Empire during the 3rd century CE,[8][9][10] In the 4th century the word "Afghans/Afghana" (αβγανανο) as reference to a particular people is mentioned in the Bactrian documents found in Northern Afghanistan.[11][12] The word 'Afghan' is of Persian origin to refer to the Pashtun people.[13] In the past, several scholars sought a connection with “horse,” Skt.aśva-, Av.aspa-, i.e.the Aśvaka or Aśvakayana the name of the Aśvakan or Assakan, ancient inhabitants of the Hindu Kush region, however according to some linguists, it would be extremely difficult to reconcile either Aśvaka or Aśvakayana with the world Afghan.[citation needed]

As an adjective, the word Afghan also means "of or relating to Afghanistan or its people, language or culture". According to the 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan, all Afghans citizens are equal in rights and obligations before the law.[14] The fourth article of the current Constitution of Afghanistan states that citizens of Afghanistan consist of Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, Baloch, Pashayi, Nuristani, Aimaq, Arab, Kyrgyz, Qizilbash, Gurjar, Brahui, and members of other ethnicities.[15] There are political disputes regarding this: there are members of the non-Pashtun ethnicities of Afghanistan that reject the term Afghan being applied to them, and there are Pashtuns in Pakistan that wish to have the term Afghan applied to them.[16][17][18][19][20]

Afghani, Afghanistani and AfghaneseEdit

The term Afghani refers to the unit of Afghan currency. The term is also often used in the English language (and appears in some dictionaries) for a person or thing related to Afghanistan, although some have expressed the opinion that this usage is incorrect.[21] A reason for the confusion can be because the apparent incorrect term "Afghani" (افغانی) is in fact a valid demonym for Afghans in the overall Persian language and in Hindustani, whereas "Afghan" is derived from Pashto. Thus "Afghan" is the anglicized term of "Afghani" when translating from Dari or Hindi-Urdu, but not Pashto.[22]

Less commonly the term Afghanistani has been used which, while consistent with for example Pakistani, is incorrect in practise due to the nature and origins of the term "Afghan".[3] Another variant is Afghanese, which has been seldom used in place of Afghan.[23][24][25]


Ethnolinguistic groups in Afghanistan and its surroundings (1982)

Afghans come from various ethnic backgrounds. Pashtuns form a plurality of the population, while Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks are the next largest and altogether the four form almost 90% of the population. They are of diverse origins including of Iranian, Mongol and Turkic ethnolinguistic roots.[26]


The Afghan people of all ethnicities are traditionally followers of Islam, of whom most are of the Sunni branch. Other religious minorities include the Afghan Hindus, Afghan Sikhs, Afghan Christians and Afghan Jews.


See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Garner, Bryan (2009). Garner's Modern American Usage (third ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-19-538275-4.
  2. ^ Siegal, Allan M.; Connolly, William (2015). The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage (fifth ed.). New York: Crown Publishing Group. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-336-02484-7.
  3. ^ a b "Ask Johnson: Afghans, Afghanis, Afghanistanis". The Economist. September 21, 2011.
  4. ^ Kieffer, Ch. M. "Afghan". Encyclopædia Iranica. Archived from the original on 16 November 2013. From a more limited, ethnological point of view, "Afḡān" is the term by which the Persian-speakers of Afghanistan (and the non-Paṧtō-speaking ethnic groups generally) designate the Paṧtūn. The equation Afghans = Paṧtūn has been propagated all the more, both in and beyond Afghanistan, because the Paṧtūn tribal confederation is by far the most important in the country, numerically and politically.
  5. ^ "ABC NEWS/BBC/ARD poll – Afghanistan: Where Things Stand" (PDF). ABC News. Kabul, Afghanistan. pp. 38–40. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 June 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  6. ^ "The Constitution of Afghanistan". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Archived from the original on 29 August 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Article Sixteen of the 2004 Constitution of Afghanistan". 2004. Archived from the original on 28 October 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2012. Pashto and Dari are the official languages of the state. Uzbek, Turkmen, Baluchi, Pashai, Nuristani and Pamiri are – in addition to Pashto and Dari – the third official language in areas where the majority speaks them
  8. ^ "History of Afghanistan". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
  9. ^ "Afghan and Afghanistan". Abdul Hai Habibi. 1969. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
  10. ^ Noelle-Karimi, Christine; Conrad J. Schetter; Reinhard Schlagintweit (2002). Afghanistan -a country without a state?. University of Michigan, United States: IKO. p. 18. ISBN 3-88939-628-3. Retrieved 2010-09-24. The earliest mention of the name 'Afghan' (Abgan) is to be found in a Sasanid inscription from the 3rd century, and it appears in India in the form of 'Avagana'...
  11. ^ Balogh, Dániel (12 March 2020). Hunnic Peoples in Central and South Asia: Sources for their Origin and History. Barkhuis. p. 144. ISBN 978-94-93194-01-4. [ To Ormuzd Bunukan , ... greetings and homage from ... ) , Pithe ( sot ] ang ( ? ) of Parpaz ( under ) [ the glorious ) yabghu of [ Heph ] thal , the chief ... of the Afghans
  12. ^ Sims-Williams, Nicholas (2000). Bactrian documents from northern Afghanistan. Oxford: The Nour Foundation in association with Azimuth Editions and Oxford University Press. ISBN 1-874780-92-7.
  13. ^ "Definition of AFGHAN". Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  14. ^ "Article 1 of the 1964 Constitution of Afghanistan". Government of Afghanistan. Archived from the original on 2011-09-17. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  15. ^ "Constitution of Afghanistan". 2004. Archived from the original on 2016-08-04. Retrieved 2013-02-16. National sovereignty in Afghanistan shall belong to the nation, manifested directly and through its elected representatives. The nation of Afghanistan is composed of all individuals who possess the citizenship of Afghanistan. The nation of Afghanistan shall be comprised of Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkman, Baluch, Pachaie, Nuristani, Aymaq, Arab, Qirghiz, Qizilbash, Gujur, Brahwui and other tribes. The word Afghan shall apply to every citizen of Afghanistan. No individual of the nation of Afghanistan shall be deprived of citizenship. The citizenship and asylum related matters shall be regulated by law.
  16. ^ "Who is an Afghan? Row over ID cards fuels ethnic tension". Reuters. February 8, 2018 – via
  17. ^ Moslih, Hashmatallah. "Q&A: Afghanistan's Tajiks plea for federalism".
  18. ^ "Identity Politics in Afghanistan: Nation-State or State-Nation?". May 25, 2018.
  19. ^ Valentini, Nicole (July 6, 2021). "Nation, identity and the future of Afghanistan".
  20. ^ "Miranshah PTM Jalsa Lar Ao bar Nary لر او بر یو افغان" – via
  21. ^ "Chatterbox: More on 'Afghani'". Slate. October 4, 2001. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  22. ^ "Afghan vs. Afghani, Part 3". Slate. December 2, 2001. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  23. ^ George Newenham Wright (1836). A New and Comprehensive Gazetteer, Volume 3.
  24. ^ "True Northerner 18 October 1878 — Digital Michigan Newspapers Collection".
  25. ^ "Beauty is the quiet of the self forgotten". 30 October 2017.
  26. ^ Anatol Lieven (2016). "The Arbiters of Afghanistan". The National Interest. Center for the National Interest (145): 28–36. JSTOR 26557334.

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