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Ethnology vs. Anthropology — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 28, 2023
Ethnology studies cultural differences and similarities among human groups, while Anthropology is a broader field that studies human beings, cultures, and their evolution.
Ethnology vs. Anthropology — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Ethnology and Anthropology


Key Differences

Ethnology and Anthropology, while closely related, have distinct scopes and focuses. Ethnology dives deep into the study of human cultures by comparing and analyzing the characteristics of different peoples and their relational statuses. In contrast, Anthropology is the comprehensive study of humans, spanning biological, cultural, archaeological, and linguistic aspects.
Ethnology, as a subfield of Anthropology, concerns itself mainly with understanding the patterns, variations, and practices among various cultural groups. Anthropology, on the other hand, serves as an umbrella term that encompasses various subfields, including Ethnology, and studies human existence from the earliest beginnings to the present day.
One can view Ethnology as zooming into specific details of cultural phenomena, often involving direct fieldwork and interaction with communities. Anthropology, however, covers a broader spectrum, delving into both the physical evolution of humans and their cultural and social variations.

Comparison Chart


Cultural differences and similarities among humans
Comprehensive study of human beings and cultures


Subset of Anthropology
Broader field


Comparative study, often involving fieldwork
Encompasses fieldwork, lab work, archaeological digs, etc.

Topics Studied

Cultural practices, traditions, belief systems
Human evolution, culture, language, archaeology


Understanding of cultural dynamics
Broad understanding of humanity and its history

Compare with Definitions


Ethnology seeks to understand patterns and variations in human cultures.
Ethnology revealed the shared ancestral stories among various island communities.


Anthropology combines fieldwork, archaeology, and theoretical studies.
His anthropology research combined ancient artifacts with oral histories to recreate the past.


Ethnology often requires immersive fieldwork.
Her ethnological research took her to remote villages to observe their daily practices.


Anthropology seeks to understand the entire spectrum of the human experience.
From ancient cave art to modern urban societies, Anthropology covers it all.


Ethnology is the study of cultural differences and similarities among human groups.
Through Ethnology, we can understand the rituals and traditions of indigenous tribes.


Anthropology is the study of human beings, their cultures, and their evolution.
Anthropology bridges our understanding of ancient civilizations to modern societies.


Ethnology involves a comparative approach to studying human cultures.
Ethnology helps in drawing parallels between the marriage customs of two distinct regions.


Anthropology provides insights into human behavior and societal structures.
Anthropology sheds light on why certain societal norms exist in various communities.


Ethnology can provide insights into societal structures and hierarchies.
Through ethnological studies, the matriarchal nature of the tribe became evident.


Anthropology encompasses both biological and cultural aspects of humanity.
Her degree in Anthropology equipped her with knowledge of human genetics and cultural practices.


Ethnology (from the Greek: ἔθνος, ethnos meaning 'nation') is an academic field that compares and analyzes the characteristics of different peoples and the relationships between them (compare cultural, social, or sociocultural anthropology).


Anthropology is the scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior, human biology, cultures and societies, in both the present and past, including past human species. Social anthropology studies patterns of behaviour, while cultural anthropology studies cultural meaning, including norms and values.


The branch of anthropology that analyzes and compares human cultures, as in social structure, language, religion, and technology; cultural anthropology.


The study of human societies and cultures and their development.


(anthropology) The branch of anthropology that studies and compares the different human cultures.


The scientific study of the origin, the behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of humans.


The science which treats of the division of mankind into races, their origin, distribution, and relations, and the peculiarities which characterize them.


That part of Christian theology concerning the genesis, nature, and future of humans, especially as contrasted with the nature of God
"changing the church's anthropology to include more positive images of women" (Priscilla Hart).


The branch of anthropology that deals with the division of humankind into races and with their origins and distribution and distinctive characteristics


The holistic scientific and social study of humanity, mainly using ethnography as its method.
According to anthropology, there are six basic patterns of kinship terminology (i.e., "kin naming systems"): Sudanese, Hawaiian, Eskimo, Crow, Omaha, and Iroquois.


The science of the structure and functions of the human body.


The science of man, including the study of the ditribution of physical and cultural attributes in relation to man's origin, location, history, and environment; - sometimes used in a limited sense to mean the study of man as an object of natural history, or as an animal.


That manner of expression by which the inspired writers attribute human parts and passions to God. See also anthropopathite, anthropopathism, anthropomorphist.


The social science that studies the origins and social relationships of human beings

Common Curiosities

How does Anthropology differ from Ethnology?

Anthropology is a broader field that studies humans, their cultures, and evolution, while Ethnology is a subset focusing on cultural patterns.

Is Ethnology considered a part of Anthropology?

Yes, Ethnology is a subfield within the broader discipline of Anthropology.

What is the main focus of Ethnology?

Ethnology primarily focuses on the cultural differences and similarities among human groups.

What subjects are covered in Anthropology?

Anthropology covers human evolution, culture, linguistics, archaeology, and more.

Is Anthropology only about past civilizations?

No, Anthropology studies both ancient and contemporary human societies.

What methods do anthropologists use?

Anthropologists use various methods, including fieldwork, archaeological digs, lab work, and theoretical studies.

Can Ethnology offer insights into modern societal issues?

Yes, Ethnology can provide valuable perspectives on contemporary cultural practices and challenges.

Does Ethnology only involve studying "primitive" or "tribal" societies?

No, Ethnology can study any cultural group, from urban communities to indigenous tribes.

Why is Ethnology important?

Ethnology helps understand cultural practices, traditions, and the dynamics of different human groups.

How does Ethnology contribute to Anthropology?

Ethnology offers detailed insights into cultural patterns, enriching the broader understanding of Anthropology.

Is there overlap between Ethnology and other disciplines?

Yes, Ethnology often intersects with sociology, history, and other social sciences.

Can someone be both an ethnologist and an anthropologist?

Yes, since Ethnology is a subfield of Anthropology, many professionals identify as both.

What is the significance of Anthropology in today's world?

Anthropology helps understand human behavior, societal changes, and cultural dynamics, which is vital in a globalized world.

Are anthropologists always field researchers?

Not always. While many anthropologists conduct fieldwork, some focus on lab research, theory, or teach.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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