(964 words)

In the 2nd millennium BCE, the speakers of Aryan (āryāvāc, Vedic Sanskrit), for whom the Vedas were the most important source of religious authority, called themselves ārya; antonyms were anārya and dāsa (“demon, barbarian, slave”). In the Late Vedic period (ca. 500 BCE), ārya meant “noble,” a meaning that survived in Buddhist usage. In Hindu literature, from this time on the three varnas of the ārya or dviya (“twice born”) were contrasted to a fourth, inferior varna, the śūdra (Hinduism).

The term Aryan was introduced into the European languages as a loanword by A. H. Anque…

Cite this page
Sweetman, Will, “Aryans”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 15 February 2019 <>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20160321

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