Are you interested in anthropology? This English vocabulary sheet will be going over the most common & used terms and words in the field of anthropology, and more precisely:

  • A comprehensive definition of anthropology;
  • A lists of vocabulary words along with their definition and some examples.

Read on to discover the list and start learning English online!

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What Is Anthropology and What Does It Aim to Achieve?

One can find two approaches to define anthropology:

  1. Anthropology is about the study of man and his community. A philosophical approach that focuses on the human being.
  2. It involves a survey in knowing on what ground a community of people has based its faith and built its institutions, its main social patterns; it also studies their interactions with each other.

In What Way Does Sociology Differ From Anthropology?

Sociology uses data on the dynamics and mechanisms that govern human behaviour and its environment in order to explain human social behaviour. Anthropology is a science based on the study of man through concrete facts, material evidence and physical features.

A sociologist can study the habits and customs of a tribe, by shedding light on the mechanisms that formed the basis of a ritual for instance.

An anthropologist can study the physical characteristics, the behaviours of a group of humans, and classify them into a category based on their similarities.

the statues on easter island

Anthropology Vocabulary: List of Terms And Concepts

WordDefinitionExample
A
AboriginesThe earliest inhabitants of a particular placeThe earliest inhabitants of Australia were Aborigines
Afro-americanAmerican of African descentAfro Americans have been fighting for their rights for centuries.
AllogeneicAn ethnic group that has recently settled in a territory and has retained some ethnic or racial characteristics that are distinct from the indigenous peopleChinese people are rather allogeneic wherever they settle
AllophyleSomeone from another tribe or another raceNorth Africans are Allophyles if they live in Europe
AmericanismAll studies focused on the American continentFrench food is increasingly influenced by Americanism
American IndianAmerican of Indian descentAmerican Indians were the earliest population in America
AncestryAn ancestry represents the pattern of an individual's origins, based on genes and physical characteristicsIt is believed that our ancestry comes from the monkey
AnimismIt implies imputing consciousness to other beings, these could be people, animals, objects, vegetables, ghosts, the surroundings or even technological itemsThe Indians of the Amazon, the Inuit of the Arctic regions, the African tribes or the Aborigines of Australia practice animism and believe that everything lives with consciousness.
Apotropaic EyeAn apotropaic eye which is also called ‘eye cup’ is a drawing of an eye made by the early Greeks to ward off the ‘evil eye’Old Greeks used to draw an apotropaic eye on their drinking vessel
AutochthonousA population originating from a placeAustralia's Aborigines are supposed to be true autochthonous
B
BastardA biological child raised by a non-biological parentThe term "bastard" for a child out of wedlock is no longer used today
BelligerentAn aggressive temperament, quick to fight and clash with othersAncient civilisations were known to have a belligerent character.
BlackA name assigned to people of black raceA new slogan inspired by abuse towards black people is ‘Black Lives Matter’
BrachycephalyRelated to the shape of a human species skull shorter than usualbrachycephaly may be a cause of mental retardation
C
CaucasianWhite and European peopleThe victim of the murder is of a Caucasian type
CymotrichousA hair type characteristic (weavy)Some people from Asia or north and western Africa are of cymotrichous race
D
DicephalusA genetic abnormality in twins that results in a baby born with two headDicephalous twins are considered as two individuals
DiffusionismA theory based on the belief that some practices, cultural developments or inventions result from exchanges between different communities. The idea is that diffusion causes evolutionThanks to diffusionism with with European and American cultures, the Chinese are on their way to becoming the masters of the world
E
EthnicityThe cultural characteristics linking a community of people togetherThe ethnicity of a group is a significant cultural value
EthnoculturalAn ethnic identity built on the values of a community’s tradition and is transmitted from one generation to the nextThese students are doing research on ethnocultural communities in Australia
EmicGround research from the inside of the groupAn emic approach is recommended to understand these indigenous people
EticGround research from the outside of the groupA sizeable community must apply an etic to function well
EurycephalicA term borrowed from the Greek language for an individual with a large skullAre the people seen Eurycephalic more intelligent than the others?
ExogamyMarrying in another communityRaces are increasingly mixing thanks to exogamy
F
FamilyA group of people comprising a father, a mother and their children. It sometimes includes relatives in the ascending lineI cherish my family above all!
G
GypsyAn ethnic group that supposedly migrated from India and dispersed all over Europe and Russia.Gypsies dislike sedentary life
H
HeadhunterThere are some populations with a tradition of storing their fallen enemies’ heads. This is one of their socio-cultural attributesThe Scythians were notorious headhunters
HebrewsThe lineage of the Israelite Jacob, his descendants representing thirteen tribesThe hebrews were freed from Egyptian slavery around the fourteenth century before Chris
HominidAscendants of the human species including chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangs-utangsWe know that man is descended from the ape, the latter being a hominid
I
IndigenousThe former inhabitants of a country who have maintained their native culture at the expense of the newcomersThe Aborigines are indigenous inhabitants of Australia
K
KinshipThe link between people by descent and marriageOur kinship comes from marriage
Kinship AtomParents and children by descent, and for Levi-Strauss, husband and wife, their son, and the wife’s brother.I definitely have a kinship atom with my parents
L
LabretA body piercing on the tongueThe labret is extremely popular nowadays
M
MalayInhabitant of Malaysia or IndonesiaMalaysians are Indo-Asian people
MorphotypeAll groups of different types with the same species in a populationThe Germans morphology is often blond with blue eyes morphotype
N
NeanderthalHumans from an archaic age preceding our Homo sapiens ancestorsNeanderthals had few social ties
O
ObliqueOblique transmission to descendants is from non-family members of the parents’ generationMy teacher is the same age as my father. He gives me an oblique transmission
P
PatrilinealSearch for ancestry through the male sideDescent is often patrilineal
PatronymicA family name derived from your father’s or a paternal ancestor’s nameIrish patronymics often begin with the affix O'.
Q
QuarteronA term that emerged at the time of slavery, a person three-quarters of European descentQuarterons were very often favoured in the days of slavery.
R
RaceThe idea that the human species is defined into distinct groups on the grounds of inherited differences, mainly based on their skin colourThe familiar races are the white race, the Asian race, the Indian race and the black race
S
SiblingA group of one-sided descent believed to share parentage through a common ancestor.I have two siblings, my brother Joe and my sister Mary
T
Toulouse deformationA cranial deformity of the inhabitants of Toulouse around the 18th century, due to the practice of stretching the skull on infantsThe Toulouse deformation had no impact on the intelligence of those affected by it
TribalSomeone who lives in a tribeMany aborigines are still living in tribes nowadays
W
WhiteThe name of a human race which matches the skin colourWhite people used to live in the countries to the north of the world.

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