The term diaspora (Greek διασπορα, a scattering or sowing of seeds) is used (without capitalization) to refer to any people or ethnic population forced or induced to leave their traditional ethnic homelands, being dispersed throughout other parts of the world, and the ensuing developments in their dispersal and culture.

Originally, the term Diaspora (capitalized) was used to refer specifically to the populations of Jews exiled from Judea in 586 BC by the Babylonians, and AD 135 by the Romans. This term is used interchangeably to refer to the historical movements of the dispersed ethnic population, the cultural development of that population, or the population itself. The probable origin of the word is the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy 28:25, "thou shalt be a diaspora (Greek for dispersion) in all kingdoms of the earth". The term has been used in its modern sense since the late twentieth century.

The academic field of diaspora studies was established in the late twentieth century in regard to the expanded meaning of diaspora.

  • The African diaspora comprises the movements and culture of Africans taken into slavery and their descendants throughout the world.
  • The Irish diaspora includes the millions of Irish refugees from Ireland due to the Irish Potato Famine and political oppression. (The term first came widely into use in Ireland in the 1990s when the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson began using it to describe all those of Irish descent.)
  • The French Canadian diaspora includes hundreds of thousands of people who left Quebec for greener pastures in the United States, Ontario and the Prairies between 1840 and the 1930s.
  • The Southeast Asian diaspora includes the refugees from the numerous wars that took place in Southeast Asia, such as World War II, Korean War and the Vietnam War.
  • The Jewish diaspora in modern use, consists of Jews living outside of the Jewish state of Israel. There is a Ministry of Diaspora Affairs in the Israeli government.
  • In modern Greek the word diaspora refers to the large populations of Greek descent living in the United States, Australia and other countries. There is a Department of Diaspora Affairs in the Greek government.

Modern diasporas

The twentieth century has seen massive ethnic refugee crises due to war and the rise of
nationalism and racism. The first half of the twentieth century saw the creation of hundreds of millions of ethnic refugees across Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. Many of these refugees who did not die from starvation or war came to the Americas.

Such populations included:

The above list is not comprehensive or definitive. Only a few have been given much historical attention.

During the Cold War era huge populations of refugees continued to form from areas of war, especially from Third World nations, all over Africa, South and Central America, the Middle East, and east Asia.