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ብሄረ ትግርኛ (Tigrinya)
Quicksort keys in Tigrinya, the mother tongue of Tigrinyas.
Total population
4.43 million
Regions with significant populations
Southern, Central, Northern Red Sea and Anseba Regions
 Eritrea 4,430,000[1]
Predominantly Christianity (Orthodox Church, Catholicism, P'ent'ay); also Islam (Sunni)
Related ethnic groups
Agaw · Amhara · Beja · Beta Israel · Bilen · Gurage · Harari · Oromo · Saho · Somali · Tigrayans · Tigre[2]

The Tigrinyas (also referred to as Biher Tigrinya, Kebessa, and Bihere-Tigrinya) are an ethnic group inhabiting central Eritrea. Their traditional area of inhabitation spans the Southern and Central, as well as the Northern Red Sea and Anseba Regions, which are mostly part of the Eritrean highlands (hence the name Kebessa meaning 'highland' in the local language). Tigrinyas are related to the Tigrayans of Ethiopia by language, both of whom speak Tigrinya, an Ethiopian Semitic language belonging to the Afroasiatic family.[3] Most are followers of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church.[4] They make up roughly 55% of Eritrea's population[5] numbering 3.4 million people. They are not to be confused with the Tigre people who speak Tigre, a closely related Afroasiatic language.


Tigrinya women performing a traditional dance.

Native Tigrinya speakers in Eritrea are known as Bihére-Tigrinya (or simply, Tigrinya), while in Ethiopia, they are called Tigrayans. Tigray-Tigrinyas of Muslim faith are commonly referred to as Jeberti. Historically, the people who live in the highlands found between Red Sea and Tekezé River were referred as Tigré people by foreign scholars who traveled in the region like James Bruce and Henry Salt (Egyptologist).[6][7][8]

Tigrinya leader Aman Andom

The explorer James Bruce reported in 1770 that the Medri Bahri kingdom centered in a small region of present day Eritrea was a distinct political entity from Abyssinia, noting that the two territories were frequently in conflict. The Bahre-Nagassi ("Kings of the Sea") alternately fought with or against the Abyssinians and the neighbouring Muslim Adal Sultanate depending on the geopolitical circumstances. Medri Bahri was thus part of the Christian resistance against Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi of Adal's forces, but later joined the Adalite states and the Ottoman Empire front against Abyssinia in 1572. That 16th century also marked the arrival of the Ottomans, who began making inroads in the Red Sea area.[9] Bruce noted "They next passed the Mareb, which is the boundary between Tigre and the Baharnagash". [10]

James Bruce in his book published in 1805 located Tigré(a region based arbitrarily on the Language of Tigrinya) between Red Sea and the Tekezé River and stated many large governments, such as Enderta and Antalow, and the great part of Baharhagash were part of Tigré region based on the language of Tigrinya.[dubious ] [6][11][12]


Tigrinya singer and actress Helen Meles


Tigrinyas predominately belong to the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church. However, a minority are members of the Eritrean Catholic Church or go to P'ent'ay (Protestant) churches, the former having been introduced by the Italians near the end of the 19th century. There also is a Muslim minority.[13]


The majority of Tigrinyas speak Tigrinya as their first language.[3] A minority in the Anseba and Northern Red Sea Regions speak Tigre as a second language.


A plate of Injera with various Eritrean stews

Tigrinya cuisine characteristically consists of vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes, usually in the form of tsebhi (Tigrinya: ጸብሒ), a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread. As the vast majority of Tigrinyas belong to the Eritrean Orthodox Church (and the minority Muslims), pork is generally not consumed because of religious beliefs. Meat and dairy products are not consumed on Wednesdays and Fridays, and also during the 7 compulsory fasts, thereby explaining the popularity and wide array of vegan dishes. Other dishes include Ga'at (ገዓት), Shiro (ሽሮ), Fit-fit (ፍት ፍት) and Tibsi (ጥብሲ). Tihlo (Tigrinya: ጥሕሎ, ṭïḥlo) is also eaten in parts of Akele Guzai around Senafe and Shimezana.

Notable people of Tigrinya origin[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency". www.cia.gov. 
  2. ^ Joireman, Sandra F. (1997). Institutional Change in the Horn of Africa: The Allocation of Property Rights and Implications for Development. Universal-Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 1581120001. 
  3. ^ a b Irene Thompson (February 7, 2016). "Tigrigna". aboutworldlanguages.com. Retrieved 7 June 2016. 
  4. ^ Tesfagiorgis G., Mussie (2011). Eritrea. Greenwood Publisihing Group. p. 337. ISBN 978-1-59884-231-9. 
  5. ^ "The World Factbook". www.cia.gov. Retrieved 28 April 2016. 
  6. ^ a b James Bruce Travels through part of Africa, Syria, Egypt .... Published in 1805 pp. 229 & 230 Google Books
  7. ^ Henry Salt A Voyage to Abyssinia. Published in 1816 pp. 381 Google Books
  8. ^ Charles Knight The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Difussion of Useful Knowledge. Published in 1833 pp. 53 Google Books
  9. ^ Okbazghi Yohannes. A Pawn in World Politics: Eritrea. 
  10. ^ Bruce, James (1 November 2017). "Travels through part of Africa, Syria, Egypt .." – via Google Books. 
  11. ^ James Bruce Travels through part of Africa, Syria, Egypt .... Published in 1805 pp. 171 Google Books
  12. ^ James Bruce Travels through part of Africa, Syria, Egypt .... Published in 1805 pp. 128 Google Books
  13. ^ Tesfagiorgis, Mussie (2010). Eritrea. ABC-CLIO. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-59884-232-6. 
  14. ^ Africa Insight, Volumes 23-24. Africa Institute. 1993. p. 187. Retrieved 31 August 2016. 
  15. ^ Ph.D, Mussie Tesfagiorgis G. (29 October 2010). "Eritrea". ABC-CLIO – via Google Books. 
  16. ^ Favali, Lyda; Pateman, Roy (18 June 2003). "Blood, Land, and Sex: Legal and Political Pluralism in Eritrea". Indiana University Press – via Google Books. 
  17. ^ Tesfagiorgis G., Mussie (2010). Eritrea. ABC-CLIO. p. 281. ISBN 1598842315. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  18. ^ Edward Denison, Edward Paice (2007). Eritrea: The Bradt Travel Guide. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 82. ISBN 1841621714. Retrieved 3 September 2016.