Definition of Berber in English:



  • 1A member of the indigenous people of North Africa, among whom are the nomadic Tuareg.

    • ‘It has been settled by, and has absorbed attributes from, the Berbers, Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Africans.’
    • ‘It is believed that the Tuareg are descendants of the North African Berbers, and that they originated in the Fezzan region of Libya.’
    • ‘In 711 the peninsula was separated dramatically from the rest of Europe by an invasion of Arabs and Berbers from North Africa.’
    • ‘North Africa has a lot of Berbers, who are Muslim but do not speak Arabic as their mother tongue.’
    • ‘After the first invasion of 711, the Muslim forces, mostly made up of Berbers from North Africa but largely led by Arabs, swept through the country.’
    • ‘Muslims, Jews and Christians, Arabs, Berbers and indigenous Spaniards all played a part in developing poetry, philosophy and music.’
    • ‘These results seem more consistent than previous ones with the known history of the Spanish occupation and the presumed relationship between the pre-occupation people and the North African Berbers.’
    • ‘Modern Tunisians are the descendants of indigenous Berbers and of people from numerous civilizations that have invaded, migrated to, and been assimilated into the population over the millennia.’
    • ‘The Silbo, which is thought to have been brought to the island by Berbers from North Africa, condenses Spanish into two vowels and four consonants.’
    • ‘There are similar differences of outlook, part cultural, part economic even between such apparently closely related peoples as the Berbers of North Africa, and between them and the Sub-Saharan peoples.’
    • ‘The Berbers are a non-Semitic people who have inhabited the north African coast since prehistoric times.’
    • ‘More than 90 percent of the population identify themselves as Arab, with most of the remaining minority composed of Berbers and black Africans.’
    • ‘We heard stories about the battles between the Berbers and the Almoravids.’
    • ‘At the high water mark of the first Muslim expansion, in the early 8th century, an army of North African Berbers under Arab generalship overran the Iberian peninsula and established a Muslim kingdom.’
    • ‘There were Copts and Berbers in North Africa when the Arabs came and Byzantine Christians when Turks entered Asia Minor.’
    • ‘The first people to have contact with the Berbers were probably the Phoenicians, who invaded northern Africa in the twelfth century B.C.E.’
    • ‘Like the Berbers of North Africa they are known for an uncomplicated, open and honest style of life which is combined with such a passion for trading that Haussa has become the lingua franca of merchants over a wide area of central Africa.’
    • ‘Rather closer to home the Spanish also destroyed much of the culture of the Guanches, native inhabitants of the Canary Islands and descendants of the Berbers from nearby North Africa.’
    • ‘By the end of the nineteenth century, Tunisians distinguished between Moors, Turks, Jews, Berbers, Andalusians, Arabs, and various sorts of Europeans.’
    • ‘Tuareg, Fulani, Berbers, Soninke, and Songhai lived side by side, in peace and harmony, bound together by their belief in Allah, the Qur'ân and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad.’
  • 2mass noun The Afro-Asiatic language of the Berber peoples, spoken by about 11 million people. There are several different dialects; some of them, e.g. Tamashek, are regarded by some scholars as separate languages.

    • ‘The London-based company provide interpreters in more than 100 languages, from the well-known including French and German, to the more obscure such as Berber and Tagalog.’
    • ‘Maybe eventually Berber will be an official language alongside Arabic in some North African countries.’
    • ‘Arabic encroached gradually, spreading through the areas most accessible to migrants and conquerors, but Berber remained the mother tongue in many rural areas.’
    • ‘They were all yelling at him in French and Arabic and Berber.’
    • ‘Before the Arab conquests, Berber was the chief spoken language.’
    • ‘Hassaniya is a mixture of Arabic and Berber and is the language of the white Maurs and the Haratin.’
    • ‘Here, only the older people still speak Berber; the remainder speak Arabic and sometimes French, like the rest of Tunisia, which gained independence from France in 1956.’
    • ‘Arabic and Berber are the languages most spoken in day-to-day life.’
    • ‘Her mother's world by contrast was hidden and private, and in it dialects of Arabic or Berber were spoken but were not usually written down.’
    • ‘More Internet sites emphasizing modernism in Arabic, Farsi, Berber etc. are needed and people building them should be helped.’
    • ‘In season, heads of unripe wheat or barley (in Berber, azenbo; in Arabic, frik,) may be gathered and dried over the fire so that they can be ground and made into a highly esteemed green couscous.’
    • ‘Maltese is the only European language in the Afro-Asiatic family, which includes Arabic, Hebrew, Berber, and Hausa.’
    • ‘It was created for writing the Arabic language, but has been adapted to such diverse languages as Persian, Turkish, Spanish, Hebrew, Urdu, Berber, Malay, and Swahili.’
    • ‘Not surprisingly, you'll get a better deal if you bring a friend who speaks Arabic or Berber.’
    • ‘The trip will be led by a multi-lingual (English, French, Berber and Arabic speaking) guide, local cooks and mules (which carry gear and food).’


  • Relating to the Berber peoples or their language.

    • ‘We paused to let some Berber muleteers pass us, their donkeys' panniers loaded with the skis and packs of another climbing party.’
    • ‘Morocco's Berber tribes maintain a free-spirited lifestyle and they're often herders, nomads and mountain rug weavers.’
    • ‘The major language of the Tuareg is Tamacheq, which is in the Berber language group.’
    • ‘For serious purchases - Moroccan antiques such as silver knives and rifles, Berber carpets and cedar or olive wood doors from the High Atlas and jewellery and works of art - you should take advice.’
    • ‘We listened to more Berber wisdom; their main cure, apart from the garlic, being the wonderment of first pressing olive oil for everything from backache to stomach aches.’
    • ‘Tourists enjoy roaming the mountains in Berber villages.’
    • ‘Bedouin and Berber traditions fused to form sung poetry called Malhun, using traditional north African wind and percussion instruments.’
    • ‘Accommodation will be in traditional simple Berber village houses up in the mountains and Susan will be encouraged to integrate as much as possible into their semi-nomadic village life.’
    • ‘In the fourteen rooms, Berber rugs and cushions add rich reds to the ochres and creams.’
    • ‘These ancient granaries were built by Berber villagers to store their grain, oil and even valuables.’
    • ‘One way to work off the Christmas calories is on an eight - day walk through Morocco's western Atlas, exploring Berber villages and seeing how local people live and work.’
    • ‘The flat-roofed Berber homes, some of which can be rented for short stays, are built with chestnut tree joists and wattle and daub.’
    • ‘The fitness of the Berber people was truly impressive.’
    • ‘Children wrestle with each other at the curbside, and round-faced Berber women sell tissues on the corner.’
    • ‘Peer out of your bedroom window and you'll be mesmerised by soaring mountain peaks, hillside Berber villages and, hundreds of feet below, the tiny figures of farmers tending walnut trees and local women washing laundry in the river.’
    • ‘Later, he recorded much Berber folk-music, and in 1959 received a Rockefeller grant for ethnomusicological research.’
    • ‘A common feature of the Atlas landscape is the kasbah, a traditional fortified settlement that evokes images of Berber tribes and Foreign Legionnaires.’
    • ‘For them the government had to open out the country's history and embrace the period before the Arab invasion in the seventh century, thereby recognising that the Berber language and culture were essential components of being Algerian.’
    • ‘The pair spent some time haggling with the Berber porters over a good price; the Berber tribe are mountain inhabitants and work as guides and carry equipment for climbers.’
    • ‘Although in the run up to the election the government finally officially recognised the legitimacy of the Berber language - Tamazight - this did nothing to hold back the mass protest.’


From Arabic barbar, from Greek barbaros ‘foreigner’ (see barbarian).