noun, often capitalized
bed·​ou·​in | \ ˈbe-də-wən How to pronounce bedouin (audio) , -dü-ən, ˈbed-wən \
variants: or less commonly beduin
plural bedouin or bedouins also beduin or beduins

Definition of bedouin

: a nomadic Arab of the Arabian, Syrian, or northern African deserts

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Arabic-speaking desert nomads of the Middle East are known as bedouin. Ethnically, the bedouin are identical to other Arabs. Bedouin social rank is determined by the animals they herd: camel nomads are most prestigious, followed by sheep and goat herders, and finally cattle nomads. Traditionally, bedouin migrated into the desert during the rainy season and returned to cultivated areas during the dry season, but since World War II some national governments have nationalized their range lands and conflicts over land use have arisen, and many groups have settled. Most, however, retain pride in their nomadic heritage.

Examples of bedouin in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web What about the bedouin in the desert regions of North Africa? Rhett Allain, WIRED, "Should You Wear White or Black on Hot Days? Here's the Data," 9 July 2019 In one corner, Bedouins glide on camels across a void of Sheetrock, while, in another, Sherlock Holmes grapples to the death with Professor Moriarty on the lip of a high shelf. Southern Living, "Words on Paper," 1 May 2017 Bedouins have increasingly identified with the struggles of Palestinians, including their fight against Jewish settlements in the West Bank. William Booth, Orange County Register, "Israeli moves to raze Bedouin village spark desert clashes; 1 policeman killed," 18 Jan. 2017 Before the discovery of vast natural gas reserves off Qatar's coast that crowned the small Gulf peninsular country with skyscrapers, bedouin roamed the desert and depended on meat and milk from camels to survive. Author: Ibrahim Saber, Tom Finn, Alaska Dispatch News, "Camels caught up in Arab feud reunited with their owners," 20 June 2017 The documentary is based on letters and communiqués — Tilda Swinton is the voice of Bell — that follow her from the aristocracy and drizzle of Yorkshire, England, to the scoured, arid expanses of tribesmen, Bedouins and sheikhs. Jeffrey Fleishman,, "'Letters from Baghdad' doc reveals the desert adventures of Gertrude Bell," 8 June 2017 Previous travelers—Nabateans, bedouins—had scratched inscrutable symbols onto the stones. Saki Knafo, Smithsonian, "A Culinary Renaissance in the Israeli Countryside," 5 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bedouin.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bedouin

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bedouin

Middle English Bedoyne, from Middle French bedoïn, from Arabic badawī desert dweller, from badw desert, desert dwellers

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Time Traveler for bedouin

Time Traveler

The first known use of bedouin was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Bedouin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on bedouin

Nglish: Translation of bedouin for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bedouin for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about bedouin

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