Word Origin & History
late 14c., from Scottish, "heathen, pagan," and having that sense first in English, from Gk. ta ethne, used in Septuagint translation to render Heb. goyim, pl. of goy "nation," especially of non-Israelites, hence "Gentile nation." Ta ethne is from Gk. ethnos "band of people living together, nation,
people," prop. people of one's own kind, from PIE *swedh-no-, suffixed form of base *s(w)e- (see idiom
). Sense of "peculiar to a race or nation" is 1851, return to the word's original meaning; that of "different cultural groups" is 1935; and that of "racial, cultural or national minority group" is Amer.Eng. 1945; ethnic cleansing is attested from 1991.
"Although the term 'ethnic cleansing' has come into English usage only recently, its verbal correlates in Czech, French, German, and Polish go back much further." [Jerry Z. Muller, "Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism," Foreign Affairs, March/April 2008]