Difference Between Clan and Tribe

Clan vs Tribe

Clan and Tribe both sound similar, but they have some specific differences between them. The clan is a group of people who have gathered together as a result of kinship or descent relationships. Members of a clan may not really or specifically know about their ancestral history, but the main feature is that they are united around a leader. Tribe, on the other hand , is a group o f people, who are generally self- sufficient and usually is not integrated with the mainstream culture of a particular nation. Let us look at the terms, clan and tribe, and the differences between them in more detail here.

What is a Clan?

Clan can be identified as a group of people who have united together due to kinship relationships. It should be noted that these kinship relations are not always actual but could be recognized via certain facts too. However,clan members reside together. If the common ancestry is unknown in a clan, it is their usual custom to keep or have a symbolic kinship bond, and this is done by sharing a stipulated common ancestor. Another significant aspect is that this common ancestor may not be a human always. It could be a non-human representation. These non-human ancestors are known as a “totem” in the particular clan.

Moreover, it is said that most clans are exogamous. The members are not allowed to marry from the same clan. That could be another reason for not having a common ancestry in a clan. However, clans are a part of the mainstream nation and more or less similar to tribes. They are also known as sub-tribal groups.

Difference Between Clan and Tribe

What is a Tribe?

Tribe can be recognized as a group of people who live together, sharing a common land and also are different from the mainstream culture of a nation. Tribes are said to be mostly self-sufficient, and they have their own customs, traditions and beliefs. These groups of people are very distinct and independent from the large dominant society. Tribal people can be referred as indigenous people as well, depending on their living area. Some tribal groups have migrated to other countries, and they cannot be considered as indigenous groups.

Main features of a tribe are that the members are tied together by kinship relations and they have a strong connection with the place they live in. As mentioned above, tribes are mostly self-sufficient and they live a distinct kind of life, separated from the main society. Tribes value equality and brotherhood always.

 Clan vs Tribe

What is the difference between Clan and Tribe?

• Definitions of Clan and Tribe:

• Clan is a group of people who have actual or perceived ancestry. They are also called sub-groups of tribes.

• Tribe is a group of people who share almost the same ancestry and mostly self-sufficient.

• Marriage:

• Clan encouraged exogamy with regard to marriages.

• Tribes are mostly homogenous, and they must have gotten married within the same tribal members.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Kuchiki Clan by  Djedra (CC BY 3.0)
  2. Maasai Tribe by Matt Crypto (CC BY-SA 3.0)