Tribe vs Clan: Difference and Comparison

From its origin until now, humans or almost every living organism tend to live in large groups. Living in groups providing required aid for each other is convenient and easier.

There have been notable classifications in human societies depending on many factors. Tribe and clan are also two such classifications describing the structure of their lifestyle.

Key Takeaways

  1. A tribe is a social group united by a shared culture, language, and territory. At the same time, a clan is a smaller social unit within a tribe, characterized by kinship and descent from a common ancestor.
  2. Tribes have a more complex social structure and may consist of multiple clans, while clans are more closely related and may have a shared lineage or family name.
  3. Tribal affiliations are based on broader cultural, linguistic, and territorial factors, while clans are defined by their familial connections and ancestry.

Tribe vs Clan

A large number of people living together following the same culture are considered tribes. They have a leader and rules that they have to follow. A clan is a small group of people that are connected biologically. They have their own culture, and the eldest of the family is considered a leader. 

Tribe vs Clan

The tribe can be elaborated in various contexts, yet it is considered to be a social division. A tribe is a group of people who are connected to each other by some factors such as economic, religious, social, and traditional. The member of the tribe has identical dialects and similar cultures, and is a leader in providing necessary guidance. In modern times, tribes still exist but have become a little obsolete.

A clan is a group with a common ancestor and perceived kinship. A clan might lack lineage details and is described as an indigenous society.

A clan has very private beliefs and cultures to follow. The member of the clan is part of a similar family tree and has common interests.

The successor generations are expected to carry on the essence of the clan.

Comparison Table

Parameters Of ComparisonTribeClan
Type of relationshipThe relationship between the members of the tribe is based on language and heritage. The relationship between the members of the clan is based on the biological connection and common ancestors.
LeaderThe tribe has Official leaders, and they are treated like kings and queens. The clan has both official and informal leaders. Most of the time, the eldest of the family becomes the leader.
EtymologyThe word tribe is known to be taken from the Roman term ‘Tribus,’ which means division. The word clan is known to be taken from the Irish term ‘Clann,’ which means offspring.
SizeThe size of the tribe is large compared to the clan. The clan is a part of the tribe. The size of the clan is smaller compared to the tribe. A clan can be divided into subclans.
ExampleTypical tribes are Naphtali, Gad, Dobuni, Reuben, Dobuni, Asher, and many more. The typical examples of clans are Japanese Clan, Korean Clan, Irish Clans, Scottish Clans, and many more.

What is Tribe?

The tribe is an influential social human group comprising different clans, generations, and families with the same language and culture.

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There are different opinions and definitions of the term tribe.

According to the science of humanity anthropology, tribes are known to be the visionary form of social groups or organizations.

A family or even an individual belonging to the tribe has a common ideology, heritage, culture, dialect, etc.

The tribe has been around for centuries and still exists on different continents. They do not match modern society and have permanent or temporary integration of political order.

It is considered to be a miniature set of the group, also known as a band.

The word tribe has been derived from the ancient Roman term ‘Tribus’, meaning division.

Some widely known ancient tribes are Asher, Naphtali, Reuben, Gad, Dobuni, Ephraim, Zebulun, and many more.

Asher was the Hebrew tribe and belonged to Israel. Nephtali was a tribe ruled by Joshua, and it took over a famous historical place in the Middle East, Canaan.

Tribes have unique cultures and rituals to follow. Tribes are still dwelling in the forest area and live on hunting animals.

They do not follow the rules of the government of a nation, but this notion is gradually changing.


What is Clan?

The clan is also a type of human social group, but it is smaller, and the clan member belongs to the same family tree.

Their kinship can be understood by the fact that the clan members are not allowed to marry each other.

This action is forbidden and considered to be the act of incest because the people of the clan have the same ancestors, and they are cousins.

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Hence, clans are referred to as exogamous. To resolve this problem, clans are subcategorized as subclans, and the member of these subclans might not have a biological relationship.

Clans were a vital component of analysis by anthropologists until the 20th century, but they became somehow less important after that.

Clans are beneficial to perform cross-cut associated with the other types of social structure. Clans are formed regardless of age sets, residence patterns, property settlement, etc.

Numerous clans can create alliances to start a reciprocal connection. Such partnerships are beneficial to provide mutual assistance and defence against several threats.

The term clan is taken from the Irish term ‘Clann,’ which means either offspring or children. Some clans also have a chief leader, known as a matriarch or patriarch.

Typically, these leaders aren’t official. They are simply elders of the family. In ancient times, when clans were famous, members of certain clans used to fight for the position of leader.

Main Differences Between Tribe and Clan

  1. The other terms used to denote tribes are ethnic groups, dynasties, race, folks, etc. On the other hand, the words used for clans are family, gens, sept, house, line, etc.
  2. There are numerous types of the tribes, such as Bhil tribes, Santhal tribes, Angami tribes, etc. On the other hand, there are only two types of clans: Matrilineal clans and Patrilineal clans.
  3. A Tribe is a large group that consists of many clans, families, and other social orders. On the other hand, the clan is very small compared to a tribe.
  4. A Tribe has an official ruler to look after the essential requirement of members and keep order. On the other hand, clans do not have official leaders, but the elders of the family do the same job.
  5. The people of the tribe are assembled on the basis of a similar language and culture. On the other hand, the member of the clan is part of the same family tree.
Tribe vs Clan – Difference Between Tribe and Clan

Last Updated : 26 July, 2023

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