What is the difference between tribe and clan?

The main difference between tribe and clan is that tribe refers to a group of clans that are usually not involved in the mainstream culture of a particular nation , while clan refers to a group of people linked by kinship or ancestry are.

Unity and togetherness are the basis of every tribe or clan. However, there are several sociopolitical and structural variations if one takes a closer look at the social units of tribe and clan.

Key areas covered

1. What is a tribe - definition, characteristics 2. What is a clan - definition, characteristics 3. Similarities Between Tribe and Clan - Overview of Common Characteristics 4. Difference Between Tribe and Clan - Comparison of Main Differences

key terms

Clan tribe Difference Between Tribe and Clan - Comparative Summary

What is a tribe?

In short, a tribe is a self-sufficient social entity within mainstream society. It is made up of clans linked by socio-economic, religious, or bloody ties. Each tribe inherits a common culture and dialect . In addition, a tribe has unique socio-political and cultural aspects that set it apart from other tribes.

In addition, indigenous peoples inhabit a specific geographic location. If a group of people does not live in a common residence and has a sense of oneness, it is not considered a tribe. In short, a sense of unity is the foundation of any true tribal life.

What is a tribe?

In addition, each tribe has a unique political structure. This political body looks after the interests and needs of the indigenous population. In addition, each tribe has a tribal leader and political authority is in their hands. In some tribes, the tribal leader appoints tribal committees. The function of the tribal committees is to assist the tribal leader in performing his duties for the benefit of the tribe.

What is a clan?

A clan is an exogamous separation of a tribe. In a clan, the members are linked by some common bonds. Hence, a clan is a combination of one-sided families who believe they share the same lineage of a real or mythical ancestor.

A clan is usually one-sided and is never formed from the combination of mother and father lineages. It will always be of patrilineal or matrilineal ancestry. As with a tribe that consists of several clans, several lines join together to form a clan. Clan names are formed according to various reasons, such as a saint, a place or a totem.

What is a clan?

The main function of a clan is mutual help and protection. Just as unity is the foundation of every tribe, the members of a clan have a strong sense of togetherness, especially because they believe they are the descendants of a common ancestor. When a member of the clan is injured or injured, all members come together to share their pain. "Hit my clan brother and you hit me" and "The blood of the clan is my blood." Are the most popular sayings among the members of a clan, which clearly express their "we" feeling.

Similarities Between Tribe and Clan

  1. The basis of any tribe or clan is unity and togetherness.
  2. Religion plays an important role both within a clan and within a tribe. The members of a clan and tribe follow a primary and rudimentary religion that revolves around myths.
  3. The members of a tribe and the clan members of the same tribe inhabit a certain common topography:
  4. Members of a tribe and clan members of that tribe exchange views in a common dialect.
  5. Consanguinity is the strongest connection and most influential force in creating a sense of unity among tribal and clan members.

Difference between tribe and clan


A group of clans form a tribe, while several lines combine to form a clan.


A tribe is endogamous while a clan is usually exogamous. Tribesmen do not marry outside their tribe. In a tribe, marriage is highly respected and valued within the tribe. On the contrary, the belief that all clan members have a common ancestor prevents them from marrying anyone within the clan.

Political authority

Each tribe has a tribal leader who has the power to make important decisions regarding their tribe. A tribe is divided into several small clans, and each clan is led by its own leader. The chief of each clan works according to the instructions of the tribal chief.


In general, a tribe has a larger population because it is made up of multiple clans.


The members of a clan correspond to the common culture of the tribe, the larger social unit to which they belong. However, a tribe is unique and does not follow the common culture of mainstream society.


A tribe is a group of clans that live in a specific geographic location. They stand out from the socio-political, economic and cultural mainstream of the country. In contrast, a clan is a family that believes they are descended from a common ancestor. The main difference between tribe and clan, therefore, is that a tribe is an endogamous group of people while a clan remains exogamous. Also, the size of a clan is smaller than the size of a tribe.

Reference :

1. “ African Tribes - African Cultures and African Traditions .” African Budget Safaris. 2. “ The important characteristics of the clan .” The largest collection of essays in the world! Edited by experts.

Image courtesy:

1. “ A man from the Gogo tribe who sings while playing with his tribal mate Zeze. Zeze is one of the most famous musical instruments in Tanzania. “By Imani selemani Nsamila - Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia2. “ 2045499 ” (CC0) via Pixabay

About the author: Anuradha

Anuradha holds a BA in English, French and Translation Studies. She is currently studying English literature in a second language context in the master’s course. Her areas of interest include arts and literature, language and education, nature and animals, cultures and civilizations, food and fashion.