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[trahy-buh l] /ˈtraɪ bəl/
of, relating to, or characteristic of a tribe:
tribal customs.
Origin of tribal
1625-35; tribe + -al1
Related forms
tribally, adverb
nontribal, adjective
nontribally, adverb
pretribal, adjective
pseudotribal, adjective
pseudotribally, adverb
quasi-tribal, adjective
quasi-tribally, adverb
subtribal, adjective
untribal, adjective
untribally, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for tribal
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A majority of Parsis wear spectacles—possibly one of the results of tribal intermarriage.

  • An obvious corollary of this is that tribal life does not consistently obtain.

    The Forest Stewart Edward White
  • Tecumseh, Pontiac, and other tribal leaders finally failed because of this fact.

    The Awakening of the Desert Julius C. Birge
  • tribal custom requires the bridegroom to reside with the wife's family.

    The Truth About Woman C. Gasquoine Hartley
  • I made several efforts to discover the tribal name by which these Indians now designate themselves.

British Dictionary definitions for tribal


of or denoting a tribe or tribes: tribal chiefs in northern Yemen
displaying loyalty to a tribe, group, or tribal values: the tribal loyalties of Labour MPs
Derived Forms
tribally, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tribal

1630s, "pertaining to tribes," from tribe + -al (1). Related: Tribally Meaning "characterized by a strong sense of loyalty to one's group" is from 1951 (Arendt). As a style of belly-dance from 1999, American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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