Aryan or Arya (/ˈɛəriən/; Indo-Iranian *arya) is a term originally used as an ethnocultural self-designation by Indo-Iranians in ancient times, in contrast to the nearby outsiders known as 'non-Aryan' (*an-arya). In Ancient India, the term ā́rya was used by the Indo-Aryan speakers of the Vedic period as an endonym (self-designation) and in reference to a region known as Āryāvarta ('abode of the Aryas'), where the Indo-Aryan culture emerged. In the Avesta scriptures, ancient Iranian peoples similarly used the term airya to designate themselves as an ethnic group, and in reference to their mythical homeland, Airyanem Waēǰō ('stretch of the Aryas'). The root also forms the etymological source of place names such as Iran (*Aryānām) and Alania (*Aryāna-).
Although the root *arya- may be of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) origin, its use as an ethnocultural self-designation is only attested among Indo-Iranian peoples, and it is not known if PIE speakers had a term to designate themselves as 'Proto-Indo-Europeans'. In any case, scholars point out that, even in ancient times, the idea of being an Aryan was religious, cultural and linguistic, not racial.
In the 1850s the term 'Aryan' was adopted as a racial category by French writer Arthur de Gobineau, who, through the later works of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, influenced the Nazi racial ideology. Under Nazi rule (1933–1945), the term applied to most inhabitants of Germany excluding Jews and Slavs such as Czechs, Poles or Russians. Those classified as 'non-Aryans,' especially Jews, were ...read more