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Difference Between Ethnicity and Nationality

ethnicity_bookEthnicity vs Nationality

Where nationality means one’s country of origin, ethnicity refers to racial ancestry.

To make it clearer, a person born in India and living in the US, will only have an Indian nationality, and not an American nationality. If a person from an Italian family was born in Greece, then that person would have an Italian ethnicity, and not a Greek ethnicity.

Nationality is a word that pertains to the state of origin. Nationality can be defined as the relationship between a person and his or her state of origin. Nationality also means that a person has the protection of the state where he or she was born.

Ethnicity can be defined as a group of people who regard themselves to be different from others. The ethnic groups are united by common traditional, cultural, linguistic, ritualistic, behavioral and religious traits. On the other hand, nationality does not pertain to these characteristics, as one can come across people that have different cultural, traditional, ritualistic and religious traits living in the same country.

Nationality also causes patriotism. On the other hand, ethnicity does not create a thought of patriotism, but only creates thoughts of racism. Ethnicity is related only to a particular race, and nothing else. Nowadays, ethnicity is not widely used, as it did have a very adverse impact on the world.

While nationality can be termed as a legal concept, ethnicity can be termed as a cultural concept.


1. Nationality means one’s country of origin. On the other hand, ethnicity refers to racial ancestry.

2. Nationality can be termed as the relationship between a person and his or her state of origin, whereas ethnicity can be defined as a group of people who are united by common traditional, cultural, linguistic, ritualistic, behavioural and religious traits.

3. While nationality can be termed as a legal concept, ethnicity can be termed as a cultural concept.

4. Nationality also causes patriotism. On the other hand, ethnicity does not create a thought of patriotism, but only creates thoughts of racism.

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  1. Excellent article with one exception. Ethnicity is your racial ancestry. One can prove his/her ethnicity by taking a DNA test. Ethnicity does not create thoughts of racism. Ethnicity would only create thoughts of heritage whether prideful or shameful, depending on how the person feels about it.

    Racists thoughts forming out of a discussion of someone’s heritage would only occur if someone felt racist toward the person of that heritage or the person speaking of his/her heritage were racist; but still not created by ethnicity.

    It is also worth noting that ethnicity is not “made up” or stated by someone seeking to be “unique.” Ethnicity is real and you cannot deny where you come from. Your blood runs deeper than your nationality or DNA would not prove any such thing. It is your make up and should be accepted with pride. Do not deny your ancestors.

    • Debatable. The growth and upbringing of a child runs deeper than blood. We are ALL different from one another because we live different experiences and understand from such experiences.

      • Yeah, ethnicity and race are completely different, RACE is biological, and ETHNICITY is cultural. They are inversely related but not anywhere close to the same.

  2. Ethnicity is better understood when described as “ethnic background” or “ethnic heritage”, because ethnicity is the combination of what your parents gave you. Ethnicity is a combination of both your cultural traditions and your biological “race”.

    Ethnicity is a good word to use to avoid using the controversial word “race”. Many anthropologists believe that there are no “races”, only clines of phenotypes.

  3. Thank you.

  4. “To make it clearer, a person born in India and living in the US, will only have an Indian nationality, and not an American nationality”

    This is not true at all, if that person becomes a US citizen his nationality changes to US. Ethnicity can’t be changed however. Nationality pretty much means citizenship.

    • Nationality means a state of origin in one is born.
      Every ethnicity belongs to a race, the races of the world being, Latin, caucation, African and Asian, which nationality just means where your born.
      The reason nationality and ethnicity are synonyms to each other is because the usage of the word nationailty.

      • Latin is a language not a race. Hispanic people derive their names from Spain. Italian, Spanish, french and Portuguese are all derived from Latin. Hispanics can be white, black, yellow or mixed. There are only 3 races arguably.

        • “Latin” is a Language yes, but is also much more than a Language. it refers to 2 families of (related) peoples, one in Soutwestern europe and another in latin america. each family of poples is composed by several peoples. for exemple in europe, Latins (or Romanics,if you prefer another name for them) are composed by portuguese, italians,french, spaniards, romansh, and several others.

  5. As ethicity is membership of a group then one must be accepted by the group as part of that group.
    Therefore an Indian or African can consider himself as English but unless the English group consider him part of the group then he isnt.

    As for ethnicity being an identity then if non English person meets your Indian and thinks he is Indian then how can your Indian claim to be English?

  6. And in another article for the difference between race and ethnicity they state ethnicity is not race. I prefer to sum up when I used to ask someone “What are you?” to mean their ancestory. My ex was born in Panama but parents were black Americans. He is not Panamanian, neither by ethnicity nor nationality (U.S. soil). In America especially, there is no ethnicity due to the whole “melting pot”. Most people here are American. But since we all and/or our families come from somewhere else, I find it more useful to ask for ethnicity. Ethnicity contains the ancestory of race and nationality, not just the person’s own upbringing and current culture. I’m hispanic but Dominicans and Mexicans do not have all the same upbringing, food, or cultural beliefs. I have native Taino “indian”, black african and white european somewhere back in my racial history, as all Dominicans do. Just because countries speak the same language does not mean they are ethnically the same. British, Australians and Americans don’t think alike or even speak the same English.

  7. since when ethnicity is based on biology? ethnicity (as well as nationhood) are all sociological, cultural constructs.. is a person of na italian family is born in greece that does not mean automatically that that person’s ethnicity is ‘greek’… it’s is not that simpe, right? if that person is assimilated into greek culture, that person ethnicity is greek not italian…

  8. “Nationality pretty much means citizenship” – this confusion is becoming more and more common, even in the MEDIA; NATIONATILY IS WHERE YOU BELONG AS A PEOPLE; CITIZENSHIP IS the legal obligations and rights you have as a citizen, wherever you live. the confusion that is being created with this is forcing people to try to find a 3rd term to replace nationality, and thus forcing people to make na even bigger confusing by adding the word ‘ethnicity’ to the mess…..(not to mention the word ‘race’ wich causes a even bigger mess)

  9. This article just adds to the confusion.

    Nationality is not always your country of origin. People get naturalised.
    Ethnicity is not racial (because races don’t exist), and a DNA-test won’t tell you what ethnicity/ies you are. Ethnicity is about (native) language and culture.
    Citizenship is about the right to vote (and run for office)

    Nationality by itself doesn’t cause patriotism. Demagogues do

  10. This article contradicts your article on the Difference Between Ethnicity and Race, in which it is states:

    Race is your biologically engineered features.

    1. Ethnicity is about the learned cultural behaviors celebrated throughout regions around the world.

    2. Race is an indication of the heritage with which you were born, regardless of location or learned behavior.

    3. Ethnicity can be altered or mimicked through choice and beliefs.

    4. Race can not be altered.

    Read more: Difference Between Ethnicity and Race | Difference Between | Ethnicity vs Race http://www.differencebetween.net/science/nature/difference-between-ethnicity-and-race/#ixzz44Q5PNE1G

  11. This is incorrect

    I don’t see how given that ethnicity is determined by customs and religion and social groups and tradition…. you can change your ethnicity but you can’t change your background you can change nationality but you can’t change your heritage… so my nationality is Nation of Islam and my ethnicity is Islam… that’s why an nationality is made up of a common ethnicities…

    Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to a nationality,” and “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”

  12. I looked up the difference between nationality and ethnicity because of all the race talk that’s going on in America right now. nationality I get its Where You Are, but I’m still confused about the ethnicity or race conversation.

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