Shqip(ë)tar (plural: Shqip(ë)tarët, feminine: Shqip(ë)tare); Gheg Albanian: Shqyptar,[1] Shqiptar), is an Albanian language ethnonym (autonym), by which Albanians call themselves.[2][3] They call their country Shqipëria and or Shqypnia/Shqipnia (in northern Albanian dialects).[2] During the Middle Ages, the Albanians called their country Arbëri/Arbëni and referred to themselves as Arbëresh/Arbënesh while known through derivative terms by neighbouring peoples as Arbineş, Arbanas(i), Arvanites, Arnaut and so on.[2][4][5][6] At the end of 17th and beginning of the early 18th centuries, the placename Shqipëria and the ethnic demonym Shqiptarë gradually replaced Arbëria/Arbënia and Arbëresh/Arbënesh amongst Albanian speakers.[2] This was due to socio-political, cultural, economic and religious complexities that Albanians experienced during the Ottoman era.[2][7]

Origin theories

The origin of the ethnic name Shqiptar:

Non-Albanian usage

Use in Western Europe

Skipetar/s is a historical rendering or exonym of the term Shqiptar by some French, Italian, English and German authors in use from the 18th century to the early 20th century.

Use in South Slavic languages

Graffiti in the Republic of Macedonia reading "Death to Šiptars"

The term Šiptar used in Serbo-Croatian and Macedonian (Cyrillic: Шиптар) is considered derogatory by Albanians when used by South Slavic peoples, as the common term would be Albanac.[12][13][14][15][16] The official term (and one preferred by Albanians) for Albanians in South Slavic languages is Albanac/Albanec (plural: Albanci).[14]

Further reading


  1. Fialuur i voghel Sccyp e ltinisct (Small Dictionary of Albanian and Latin), 1895, Shkodër
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Lloshi, Xhevat (1999). “Albanian”. In Hinrichs, Uwe, & Uwe Büttner (eds). Handbuch der Südosteuropa-Linguistik. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 277. "The Albanians of today call themselves shqiptarë, their country Shqipëri, and their language shqipe. These terms came into use between the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries. Foreigners call them albanesi (Italian), Albaner (German), Albanians (English), Alvanos (Greek), and Arbanasi (old Serbian), the country Albania, Albanie, Albanien, Alvania, and Albanija, and the language Albanese, Albanisch, Albanian, Alvaniki, and Arbanashki respectively. All these words are derived from the name Albanoi of an Illyrian tribe and their center Albanopolis, noted by the astronomer of Alexandria, Ptolemy, in the 2nd century AD. Alban could he a plural of alb- arb-, denoting the inhabitants of the plains (ÇABEJ 1976). The name passed over the boundaries of the Illyrian tribe in central Albania, and was generalised for all the Albanians. They called themselves arbënesh, arbëresh, the country Arbëni, Arbëri, and the language arbëneshe, arbëreshe. In the foreign languages, the Middle Ages denominations of these names survived, but for the Albanians they were substituted by shqiptarë, Shqipëri and shqipe. The primary root is the adverb shqip, meaning “clearly, intelligibly”. There is a very close semantic parallel to this in the German noun Deutsche, “the Germans” and “the German language” (Lloshi 1984) Shqip spread out from the north to the south, and Shqipni/Shqipëri is probably a collective noun, following the common pattern of Arbëni, Arbëri. The change happened after the Ottoman conquest because of the conflict in the whole line of the political, social, economic, religious, and cultural spheres with a totally alien world of the Oriental type. A new and more generalised ethnic and linguistic consciousness of all these people responded to this.”
  3. 1 2 Mirdita, Zef (1969). "Iliri i etnogeneza Albanaca". Iz istorije Albanaca. Zbornik predavanja. Priručnik za nastavnike. Beograd: Zavod za izdavanje udžbenika Socijalističke Republike Srbije. pp. 13–14.
  4. Kamusella, Tomasz (2009). The politics of language and nationalism in modern Central Europe. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 241. "Prior to the emergence of the modern self-ethnonym Shqiptarë in the mid-16th century (for the first time it was recorded in 1555 by the Catholic Gheg, Gjon Buzuku, in his missal), North Albanians (Ghegs) referred to themselves as Arbën, and South Albanians (Tosks) Arbër. Hence, the self-ethnonym Arbëreshë of the present-day Italo-Albanians (numbering about 100,000) in southern Italy and Sicily, whose ancestors, in the wake of the Ottoman wars, emigrated from their homeland in the 14th century. These self-ethnonyms perhaps influenced the Byzantine Greek Arvanites for ‘Albanians,’ which was followed by similar ones in Bulgarian and Serbian (Arbanasi), Ottoman (Arnaut), Romanian (Arbănas), and Aromanian (Arbineş)."
  5. (Albanian) (Italian)
  6. (Italian)
  7. Kristo Frasheri. History of Albania (A Brief Overview). Tirana, 1964.
  8. Robert Elsie, A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology and folk culture, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2001, ISBN 978-1-85065-570-1, p. 79.
  9. Frashëri, Kristo. Etnogjeneza e shqiptarëve - Vështrim historik 2013
  10. 1 2 "ALBANCI". Enciklopedija Jugoslavije 2nd ed. Supplement. Zagreb: JLZ. 1984. p. 1.
  12. Paul Mojzes (2011). Balkan Genocides: Holocaust and Ethnic Cleansing in the Twentieth Century. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 202. ISBN 978-1-4422-0663-2.
  13. Franke Wilmer (16 April 2004). The Social Construction of Man, the State and War: Identity, Conflict, and Violence in Former Yugoslavia. Routledge. pp. 437–. ISBN 978-1-135-95621-9. It is true that in Serbian the term was “siptar,” conceived by Albanians in Kosova as derogative as the ethnonym “Albanian” in Serbian is “albanac.”
  14. 1 2 Guzina, Dejan (2003). "Kosovo or Kosova – Could it be both? The Case of Interlocking Serbian and Albanian Nationalisms". In Florian Bieber and Židas Daskalovski (eds.). Understanding the war in Kosovo. Psychology Press. p.30. There is similar terminological confusion over the name for the inhabitants of the region. After 1945, in pursuit of a policy of national equality, the Communist Party designated the Albanian community as ‘Šiptari’ (Shqiptare, in Albanian), the term used by Albanians themselves to mark the ethnic identity of any member of the Albanian nation, whether living in Albania or elsewhere.… However, with the increased territorial autonomy of Kosovo in the late 1960s, the Albanian leadership requested that the term ‘Albanians’ be used instead—thus stressing national, rather than ethnic, self-identification of the Kosovar population. The term ‘Albanians’ was accepted and included in the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution. In the process, however, the Serbian version of the Albanian term for ethnic Albanians—‘Šiptari’—had acquired an openly pejorative flavor, implying cultural and racial inferiority. Nowadays, even though in the documents of post- socialist Serbia the term ‘Albanians’ is accepted as official, many state and opposition party leaders use the term ‘Šiptari’ indiscriminately in an effort to relegate the Kosovo Albanians to the status of one among many minority groups in Serbia. Thus the quarrel over the terms used to identify the region and its inhabitants has acquired a powerful emotional and political significance for both communities.
  15. Neofotistos, Vasiliki P. (2010). "Cultural Intimacy and Subversive Disorder: The Politics of Romance in the Republic of Macedonia". Anthropological Quarterly. 83. (2): 288. “Because of their allegedly rampant aggression and concerted attempts to destroy national integrity, Albanians in Macedonia are stigmatized with the pejorative term Šiptar (singular)/Šiptari (plural) as an ethic Other. Especially important for the purposes of this paper, as I show below, is the ambivalent character of the stereotype Šiptar/i—after all, as Bhabha ([1994] 2004:95) reminds us "the stereotype [is] an ambivalent mode of knowledge and power," a "contradictory mode of representation, as anxious as it is assertive" (2004:100). In particular, the stereotype declares Albanians to be utterly incapable of participating in political and social life as Macedonian nationals who are committed to respecting and upholding state laws, and the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Macedonia. In this sense, they are allegedly intrinsically "inferior"—"stupid," "dirty," "smelly," "uncultured," "backward," and so on. By the same token, however, and in the context of an ethnic-chauvinist and masculinist ideology (which I discuss in the next section), the stereotype also declares Albanians to be aggressive and capable of violating the territorial integrity of the Macedonian state and the moral integrity of Macedonian women. In this sense then, the stereotype invests Albanians with an excessive, disorderly energy that cannot be regulated and, hence, is dangerous (also see Lambevski 1997; for an analysis of the production and transgression of stereotypes, see Neofotistos 2004).
  16. Neofotistos, Vasiliki P. (2010). "Postsocialism, Social Value, and Identity Politics among Albanians in Macedonia". Slavic Review. 69. (4): 884-891.
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