Tigre people

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Total population
Regions with significant populations
Tigre, Arabic
Predominantly Islam (Sunni); minority Christianity (Eritrean Orthodox)
Related ethnic groups
AfarAgawAmharaBejaBeta IsraelBilenGurageJebertiSahoSomaliTigrayans • and other Ethiosemitic and Cushitic peoples[2]

The Tigre people are an ethnic group inhabiting Eritrea and Sudan. They are closely related to the Tigrayans and Beja. The Tigre speak the Tigre language, which belongs to the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic family.


The Tigre are a nomadic pastoralist community living in the northern, western, and coastal lowlands of Eritrea (Gash-Barka, Anseba, Northern Red Sea regions of Eritrea and other regions too), as well as areas in eastern Sudan. 95.5% of the Tigre people adhere to Islam (Sunni), but there are a small number of Christians (who are very likely members of Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church) among them as well (often referred to as the Mensaï in Eritrea).[3]

The first Tigre converts to Islam were those who lived on islands in the Red Sea and adopted Islam in the 7th century during the religion's earliest years. Mainland Tigre adopted Islam much later on including as late as the 19th century.[4]

The Tigre are closely related to the Tigrayans of Eritrea,[4] as well as the Beja (particularly the Hadendoa).[5]

There are also a number of Eritreans of Tigre origin living across the Middle East, North America, the United Kingdom and Australia.


The Tigre language is an Afroasiatic language of the Semitic branch. Like Tigrinya, it is a member of the Ethiopian Semitic group, and is similar to ancient Ge'ez.[6] There is no known historically written form of the language. The Eritrean government uses the Ge'ez writing system (an abugida) to publish documents in the Tigre language.

Tigre is the lingua franca of the multi-ethnic lowlands of western and northern Eritrea, including the northern coast. As such approximately 75% of the Western Lowlands Eritrean population speaks Tigre.

Since around 1889, the Ge'ez script (Ethiopic script) has been used to write the Tigre language. Tigre speakers formerly used Arabic more widely as a lingua franca.[7] Due to most Tigre speakers being Muslim, the language is also written in the Arabic alphabet.[8]

The Tigre people, language and their area of inhabitation should not be confused with that of the Tigrayans, who live in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia and speak Tigrinya, a closely related Semitic language.

Notable Tigre people[edit]


  1. ^ "Eritrea". CIA. Retrieved 12 May 2017. : 30% of total Eritrea population of 5,869,869.
  2. ^ Joireman, Sandra F. (1997). Institutional Change in the Horn of Africa: The Allocation of Property Rights and Implications for Development. Universal-Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 1581120001.
  3. ^ Yakan, Muḥammad Zuhdī (1999). Almanac of African peoples & nations. Transaction. p. 667. ISBN 978-1-56000-433-2.
  4. ^ a b Olson, James Stuart (1996). The peoples of Africa: an ethnohistorical dictionary. Greenwood. pp. 557–58. ISBN 978-0-313-27918-8.
  5. ^ Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Royal Anthropological Institute. p. 609. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  6. ^ Allen, H (1888). Th Encyclopedia of Britannica. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  7. ^ "Tigré". Ethnologue. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  8. ^ Weekes, Richard V. (1978). Muslim peoples: a world ethnographic survey. Greenwood Press. p. 418. ISBN 0837198801.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Lusini, Gianfrancesco, ed. (2010). History and language of the Tigre-speaking peoples : proceedings of the International Workshop, Naples, February 7-8, 2008. Università degli studi di Napoli "L'Orientale," Dipartimento di studi e ricerche su Africa e paesi arab. ISBN 8895044681.