Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Aboriginal and Indigenous

Aboriginal vs Indigenous

Most of the time, we pertain to people who have not embraced urbanization and all other aspects of modern society as aboriginal, native, indigenous, fourth world cultures or first people. These terms are but one and the same for most. But as language and political qualifications progress, these seemingly synonymous words develop their own meanings and criteria. In other words, aboriginal and indigenous suddenly varies in connotation.

Looking it up in the dictionary, the word indigenous pertains to that ‘originating and living or occurring naturally in an area or environment’. What makes it distinct is that is actually considered positive and politically-correct to describe natives. The United Nations itself and its subsidiary organizations put preference over the term among many other synonyms as it has maintained a definite list of criteria that clears out any intentions of discrimination or oppression. In biogeography and ecology, ‘a species is defined indigenous if its presence in that region is the result of only natural processes, with no human intervention.’ In essence, it doesn’t limit its meaning to define a community of people. It can also concern other organisms like plants, animals and even terrestrial formation in a specific region. With regard to communities of people, not only are they endemic to their original territories, but they also claim cultural affinity, historical continuity, and sometimes, guardianship to their lands. Even before urbanization and industrialization that are rather associated with Western influence, these communities have established and developed a society with a sustainable lifestyle, a ruling class, an economy, etc. Technically, the contemporary criteria for ‘indigenous people’ include groups:

1) before or its subsequent colonization or annexation,

2) alongside other cultural groups during the formation and/or reign of a colony or state,

3) independently or largely isolated from the influence of the claimed governance by a nation-state,

4) have maintained at least in part their distinct cultural, social, and linguistic characteristics, and remained differentiated from the surrounding populations and dominant culture of the nation-state, 5) people who are self-identified as indigenous or recognized as such by external groups. Examples of indigenous communities are the Huli of Papua New Guinea, Chamorros of Guam, Sami of Norway, Kayapo of Brazil, and Aeta of the Philippines.

On the other hand, the term aboriginal in the dictionary shares an almost similar definition with the word indigenous. It is defined as ‘having existed in a region from the beginning’ and ‘of relating to the indigenous peoples of Australia.’ Put simply, it can be used an adjective generally pointing out to natives or a proper noun, particularly a subclass to identify the Australian-based indigenous communities. On a political level though, the term aboriginal or aborigine has gained a negative, derogatory implication because of the term’s historical attachment with colonialism. Today, the broad, accepted meaning of the term Aborigine encapsulates the indigenous people of Australia. However put in one grand classification, these communities remain very much different from one another in terms of local language and culture. Some of the omnifarious Aboriginal Australians are the Nunga, Tiwi, Koori, Murri and Yamatji.


1) Used as adjectives, the terms aboriginal and indigenous share almost similar definition, that is pertaining to people originating and occurring in a specific area.

2) Although the two are synonymous, indigenous is preferred to aboriginal as the former has established acceptable definite criteria and is considered politically-correct, while the latter is deemed offensive for its attached meaning with colonization.

3) Indigenous is the expansive classification of communities who claim a historical continuity and cultural affinity with societies native to their original territories. Aboriginal people, on the other hand, are a subclass encircling the different indigenous communities based in Autralia.

Search DifferenceBetween.net :

Custom Search

Help us improve. Rate this post! 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 4.20 out of 5)

Email This Post Email This Post : If you like this article or our site. Please spread the word. Share it with your friends/family.


  1. Generally the adjective “Aboriginal” does not carry the same negative baggage in Canada as the noun “Aborigine” does in Australia.

  2. Hmm…

    While I can see what you are trying to get at here, in fact as the previous commentor pointed out, the word ‘Aboriginal’ is not considered offensive to other indigenous people, nor is it in indigenous Australian communities when used as an adjective. On the other hand, calling anyone an ‘Aborigine’ is antiquated at best, racist at worst, and objectifying in any event.

    I would also point out that just because the United Nations has a preference for a term, that doesn’t make it the preferred nomenclature. I would always suggest simply calling people what they ask you to call them. This often is different than what powerful international institutions, well-intended though they may be, might use. In fact, many American Indians (what many well-intended white people like to call Native Americans) have complained that even their own formally recognized tribal names are actually those forced on them by colonizers, NOT what they themselves used to use.

    Food for thought.

Leave a Response

Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

Articles on DifferenceBetween.net are general information, and are not intended to substitute for professional advice. The information is "AS IS", "WITH ALL FAULTS". User assumes all risk of use, damage, or injury. You agree that we have no liability for any damages.

See more about :
Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Finder