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Nilotic people or Nilotes, in its contemporary usage, refers to some ethnic groups mainly in southern Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and northern Tanzania, who speak Nilotic languages, a large sub-group of the Nilo-Saharan languages. These include the Kalenjin, Luo, Ateker, Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk and the Maa-speaking peoples – all which are clusters of several ethnic groups.[1]

The terms Nilotic and Nilote were previously used as racial classifications, based on anthropological observations of their distinct body morphology. These perceptions were later widely discarded by scientists,[2] but today they again find support in population genetics.[3]

These terms are now foremost used to distinguish "Nilotic people" from their ethnic neighbours (mainly Bantu speaking people), based on ethnolinguistic affiliation. Etymologically, the terms Nilotic and Nilote (also spelled Nilot) derive from the Nile Valley, specifically the Upper Nile and its tributaries, where most Sudanese Nilo-Saharan-speaking people live. [4]


Linguistic divisions

Linguistically, Nilotic people are divided into three sub-groups:

Ethnic divisions

Nilotic people constitute a large part of the population of Southern Sudan. The largest of the Sudanese Nilotic peoples is the Dinka, which includes as many as twenty-five ethnic groups. The next largest group is the Nuer, followed by the Shilluk.[5]

The Nilotic people in Uganda include the Luo group (Acholi, Alur and Jopadhola), the Ateker (Iteso and Karamojong), and the Lango and Kumam.

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