AskDefine | Define nomad

Dictionary Definition

nomad n : a member of a people who have no permanent home but move about according to the seasons

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a member of a group of people who, having no fixed home, move around seasonally in search of food, water and grazing etc
  2. a wanderer


a member of a group of people who, having no fixed home, move around seasonally in search of food, water and grazing etc
a wanderer
  • Finnish: kulkuri
  • Spanish: nómada

Extensive Definition

Nomadic people, also known as nomads, are communities of people that move from one place to another, rather than settling down in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have been traditionally nomadic, but traditional nomadic behavior is increasingly rare in industrialized countries. There are three kinds of nomads, hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads, and peripatetic nomads.
Nomadic hunter-gatherers have by far the longest-lived subsistence method in human history, following seasonally available wild plants and game. Pastoralists raise herds and move with them so as not to deplete pasture beyond recovery in any one area. Peripatetic nomads are more common in industrialized nations, traveling from one territory to another and offering a trade wherever they go.

Nomadic hunter-gatherers

For more than one million years before domestication, nomadic hunter-gatherers (also known as foragers) moved from campsite to campsite, following game and wild fruits and vegetables.
Examples of nomadic hunter-gatherers

Pastoral nomads

This nomadic pastoralism is thought to have developed in three stages that accompanied population growth and an increase in the complexity of social organization. Karim Sadr has proposed the following stages:
  • Pastoralism: This is a mixed economy with a symbiosis within the family.
  • Agropastoralism: This is when symbiosis is between segments or clans within an ethnic group.
  • True Nomadism: This is when symbiosis is at the regional level, generally between specialized nomadic and agricultural populations.
The pastoralists are sedentary to a certain area as they move between the permanent spring, summer, autumn and winter pastures for their livestock The nomads moved depending on the availability of their resources.

Origin of nomadic pastoralism

Nomadic pastoralism seems to have developed as a part of the secondary products revolution proposed by Andrew Sherratt, in which early pre-pottery Neolithic cultures that had used animals as live meat ("on the hoof") began also using animals for their secondary products, for example, milk and its associated dairy products, wool and other animal hair, hides and consequently leather, manure for fuel and fertilizer, and traction.
The first nomadic pastoral society developed in the period from 8500-6500 BC in the area of the southern Levant. There, during a period of increasing aridity, PPNB cultures in the Sinai were replaced by a nomadic, pastoral pottery-using culture, which seems to have been a cultural fusion between a newly arrived Mesolithic people from Egypt (the Harifian culture), adopting their nomadic hunting lifestyle to the raising of stock. This lifestyle quickly developed into what Jaris Yurins has called the circum-Arabian nomadic pastoral techno-complex and is possibly associated with the appearance of Semitic languages in the region of the Ancient Near East. The rapid spread of such nomadic pastoralism was typical of such later developments as of the Yamnaya culture of the horse and cattle nomads of the Eurasian steppe, or of the Turko-Mongol spread of the later Middle Ages.

Examples of pastoral nomads

Traditionally nomadic people in industrialized nations

One of the consequences of the break-up of the Soviet Union and the subsequent political independence and economic collapse of its Central Asian republics is the resurgence of pastoral nomadism. Taking the Kyrgyz people as a representative example, nomadism was the center of their economy prior to Russian colonization at the turn of the C19/C20, when they were settled into agricultural villages. The population became increasingly urbanized after World War II, but some people continued to take their herds of horses and cows to the high pasture (jailoo) every summer, i.e. a pattern of transhumance. Since the 1990s, as the cash economy shrunk, unemployed relatives were absorbed back on the family farm, and the importance of this form of nomadism has increased. The symbols of nomadism, specifically the crown of the grey felt tent known as the yurt, appears on the national flag, emphasizing the centrality of their nomadic history and past in the creation of the modern nation of Kyrgyzstan.

Nomadism unique to industrialized nations

See also


Mohsen Farsani. Lamentations chez les nomades bakhtiari d'Iran, Paris. 2003.

Further reading

nomad in Bosnian: Nomadi
nomad in Bulgarian: Номад
nomad in Catalan: Nomadisme
nomad in German: Nomade
nomad in Spanish: Nómada
nomad in Esperanto: Nomado
nomad in French: Nomadisme
nomad in Galician: Nómade
nomad in Croatian: Nomadi
nomad in Indonesian: Nomaden
nomad in Italian: Popoli nomadi
nomad in Kazakh: Көшпенді халықтар
nomad in Latvian: Nomadi
nomad in Hungarian: Vándorlás
nomad in Dutch: Nomade
nomad in Japanese: 遊牧民
nomad in Norwegian: Nomade
nomad in Norwegian Nynorsk: Nomade
nomad in Polish: Nomada
nomad in Portuguese: Povo nômade
nomad in Romanian: Popoare migratoare
nomad in Russian: Кочевые народы
nomad in Simple English: Nomadic people
nomad in Slovenian: Nomadi
nomad in Serbian: Номадизам
nomad in Serbo-Croatian: Nomad
nomad in Finnish: Nomadit
nomad in Swedish: Nomader
nomad in Turkish: Göçebe
nomad in Chinese: 遊牧民族

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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