Definition of Berber in US English:



  • 1A member of an indigenous people of North Africa. The majority of Berbers are settled farmers or (now) migrant workers.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘By the end of the nineteenth century, Tunisians distinguished between Moors, Turks, Jews, Berbers, Andalusians, Arabs, and various sorts of Europeans.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There were Copts and Berbers in North Africa when the Arabs came and Byzantine Christians when Turks entered Asia Minor.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In 711 the peninsula was separated dramatically from the rest of Europe by an invasion of Arabs and Berbers from North Africa.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It is believed that the Tuareg are descendants of the North African Berbers, and that they originated in the Fezzan region of Libya.’
    • ‘The Berbers are a non-Semitic people who have inhabited the north African coast since prehistoric times.’
    • ‘The first people to have contact with the Berbers were probably the Phoenicians, who invaded northern Africa in the twelfth century B.C.E.’
    • ‘North Africa has a lot of Berbers, who are Muslim but do not speak Arabic as their mother tongue.’
    • ‘More than 90 percent of the population identify themselves as Arab, with most of the remaining minority composed of Berbers and black Africans.’
    • ‘Muslims, Jews and Christians, Arabs, Berbers and indigenous Spaniards all played a part in developing poetry, philosophy and music.’
    • ‘We heard stories about the battles between the Berbers and the Almoravids.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It has been settled by, and has absorbed attributes from, the Berbers, Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Africans.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
  • 2The Afro-Asiatic language of the Berbers. There are several different dialects; some of them, e.g., Tamashek, are regarded by some scholars as separate languages.

    • ‘Arabic and Berber are the languages most spoken in day-to-day life.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘More Internet sites emphasizing modernism in Arabic, Farsi, Berber etc. are needed and people building them should be helped.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Maybe eventually Berber will be an official language alongside Arabic in some North African countries.’
    • ‘Hassaniya is a mixture of Arabic and Berber and is the language of the white Maurs and the Haratin.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Before the Arab conquests, Berber was the chief spoken language.’
    • ‘They were all yelling at him in French and Arabic and Berber.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Not surprisingly, you'll get a better deal if you bring a friend who speaks Arabic or Berber.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Arabic encroached gradually, spreading through the areas most accessible to migrants and conquerors, but Berber remained the mother tongue in many rural areas.’
    • ‘Maltese is the only European language in the Afro-Asiatic family, which includes Arabic, Hebrew, Berber, and Hausa.’
    • ‘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 Berbers or their language.

    • ‘The major language of the Tuareg is Tamacheq, which is in the Berber language group.’
    • ‘Children wrestle with each other at the curbside, and round-faced Berber women sell tissues on the corner.’
    • ‘The flat-roofed Berber homes, some of which can be rented for short stays, are built with chestnut tree joists and wattle and daub.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘These ancient granaries were built by Berber villagers to store their grain, oil and even valuables.’
    • ‘Bedouin and Berber traditions fused to form sung poetry called Malhun, using traditional north African wind and percussion instruments.’
    • ‘We paused to let some Berber muleteers pass us, their donkeys' panniers loaded with the skis and packs of another climbing party.’
    • ‘Later, he recorded much Berber folk-music, and in 1959 received a Rockefeller grant for ethnomusicological research.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A common feature of the Atlas landscape is the kasbah, a traditional fortified settlement that evokes images of Berber tribes and Foreign Legionnaires.’
    • ‘Morocco's Berber tribes maintain a free-spirited lifestyle and they're often herders, nomads and mountain rug weavers.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The fitness of the Berber people was truly impressive.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Tourists enjoy roaming the mountains in Berber villages.’
    • ‘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.’


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