Pronunciation: [ˈɛθnɪk klˈɛnz] (IPA)

The term "ethnic cleanse" refers to the deliberate and systematic removal or extermination of people of a particular ethnic or cultural group. The word "ethnic" is pronounced /ˈɛθnɪk/ with the stress on the first syllable, while "cleanse" is pronounced /klɛnz/ with a silent final "e". The spelling of this term is straightforward, with the word "ethnic" followed by the noun form of the verb "cleanse". However, the concept behind the term is highly controversial and has been used to justify some of the worst atrocities in human history.

ETHNIC CLEANSE Meaning and Definition

  1. Ethnic cleanse is a term used to describe a deliberate and systematic attempt to remove or eradicate a particular ethnic, religious, or racial group from a specific geographic area, most commonly through violent and forceful means. It is an extreme form of human rights violation, often associated with acts of genocide, mass killings, forced displacement, and various forms of persecution.

    The aim of ethnic cleanse is to establish homogeneity within a region by either expelling or exterminating the targeted group, typically based on their cultural, national, or ethnic background. The intent behind such acts is often rooted in ethnic, religious, or racial superiority, fostering a climate of hatred, discrimination, and intolerance.

    Ethnic cleanse is frequently driven by various factors, such as political conflicts, territorial disputes, religious tensions, or the desire to create a mono-ethnic or mono-religious state. In the process of implementing ethnic cleanse, perpetrators may resort to brutal tactics, including war crimes, acts of terrorism, mass rape, torture, destruction of cultural heritage, and denial of basic human rights.

    This term gained prominence during the 1990s, as it became associated with the atrocities committed during the Balkan Wars, particularly in the former Yugoslavia. The term is now commonly used in a broader context to describe similar acts of systematic violence and persecution against particular ethnic or religious groups across different regions and historical periods. The international community condemns ethnic cleanse as a heinous crime against humanity and seeks to hold perpetrators accountable through legal mechanisms and international tribunals.


The term "ethnic cleansing" originated in the late 19th century in the context of conflicts between different ethnic groups. It is a direct translation from the Serbo-Croatian term "etničko čišćenje", which was used during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s to describe the systematic expulsion or extermination of individuals belonging to specific ethnic, religious, or national groups. The concept gained wider recognition and usage in English during this time. It is important to note that the term itself does not imply any justification or approval of such actions; it is simply a descriptive phrase used to describe this specific type of violence and displacement.