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Aryans (Sanskrit, Avestan and Vedic term: arya, noble) are the people who spoke the parent language of the Indo-European languages. It has been hypothesized and sometimes believed that these people formed an ethnic group; in particular, a school of German and Soviet scholarship at one time believed that this ethnic group originated in the Russia steppes.

It has been argued that the term Aryan was originally used to denote kinfolk or clansmen, and later to be a general term of respect, signifying nobility (as in ari-stocracy). It has also been argued that the supposition that the term referred to an ethnic group arose as the result of speculative translation.

The Aryan Invasion Theory

Traditionalists propagate widely that Aryans migrated into India, around 4000 BC, possibly waging war against the Harappan. The Rig-Veda describes these migrants; and, some argue that the Vedas were written by Aryans. However the archeological and historical record indicates a gradual migration around the end of the 2nd millennium BC of Indo-Aryan speakers to the east from the vicinity of Kurdestan.

Persian Aryans

Ancient Persians (in present-day Iran) used the term Aryan to describe their lineage and their language. Darius the Great, King of Persia (521 - 486 BC), in an inscription in Naqsh-e-Rostam (near Shiraz in present-day Iran), proclaims: "I am Darius the great King...A Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage...". The term has become a term of art in the Zoroastrian, Buddhist, and Jain, and Hindu religions.

The Aryan tribes in the Indian subcontinent called their land Aaryaa varta or Aryan expanse / Aryan land. When the ancient Persians lived in the Inner Asian Steppes and moved south into today's Iran (the name itself derives from arya), they named the place Airyanem Vaejah, or The Iranian Expanse, and today the word survives as Iran. Many present day Iranian boy and girl names reflect this ancient relation: names like Aryana, Iran-dokht (Aryan Daughter), Arayn, Aryan-Pur, Aryaramne, ...

In fact, the root word *ar- or *arya- is one of the most widely distributed names of people and places in the Indo-European world. It gave a name not only to the Aryans of India, but also to the aristocrats, the aristoi, the "most noble," of Greece, and the Irish of Éire. Another grade of the root appears in Latin ordo, meaning "order." The original meaning of the word probably suggested a union, league, or confederacy.

In its original sense, it may or may not have had racial meaning. It has, however, been corrupted by abuse (see Aryan race and Dravidian race) to justify racially discriminatory policies ranging from simple oppression to genocide, beginning with the British Raj and continuing through the Nazis and neo-Nazis.

"Aryan" is not to be confused with "Arian," a follower of the Christian heresy Arianism.

See also: Aryan invasion; Aryan race; Arya Samaj

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