Difference Between Nomadic and Sedentary

Main Difference – Nomadic vs Sedentary

Nomadic and sedentary are two adjectives that have opposite meanings. The main difference between nomadic and sedentary is that sedentary is used to describe people who inhabit the same locality throughout their lives whereas nomadic is used to describe a group of people who live in different locations, moving from one place to another.

This article explains, 

1. What Does Nomadic Mean?
     – Definition, Features, People, Lifestyle

2. What Does Sedentary Mean?
     – Definition, Features, People, Lifestyle

3. What is the difference between Nomadic and Sedentary?Difference Between Nomadic and Sedentary - Comparison Summary

What Does Nomadic Mean

Nomadic is derived from the noun nomad. A nomad is a member of a group of people who has no permanent home. They live in different locations, moving from place to place. They move from one place to another to obtain food, find pastures for their livestock, or to make a living.

Nomadic people typically travel by animal, canoe or on foot. Most nomads live in tents or other temporary shelters. Hunting, gathering and raising livestock are their main ways of obtaining food. Nomadic people don’t travel alone; they travel in groups of families called tribes.

Negritos of Southeast Asia, Australian Aborigines, and San of Africa are some examples of Nomadic groups. The nomadic lifestyle is also sometimes adopted in infertile regions such as deserts, steppes, tundras and ice where moving from place to place is the only way of obtaining scarce resources. Some Nomadic merchants such as Irish travelers and Romani (gypsy) traders travel to find customers.

Difference Between Nomadic and Sedentary

What Does Sedentary Mean

Sedentary is the opposite of migratory or nomadic. When describing a person, this word means “tending to spend much time seated; somewhat inactive” (Oxford dictionary). When talking about a group of people or a lifestyle, sedentary refers to people who inhabit the same locality throughout their lifestyles. This term is commonly used in zoology and anthropology. Sedentary lifestyle is also known as sedentism. This refers to the practice of living in one place for a long time.

The majority of people who inhabit the earth belong to sedentary cultures. Agriculture and domestication of animals are primary features that are bound with sedentary lifestyles. Most researchers believe that sedentism was a prerequisite for agriculture to begin. Sedentism also increased trade and contacts between different countries and nations.  It was the development of sedentism that led to the rise of the population and formation of villages, towns, and cities.

Main Difference - Nomadic vs Sedentary

Difference Between Nomadic and Sedentary


Nomadic: The term nomadic refers to a group of people who live in different locations, moving from place to place.

Sedentary: The term sedentary refers to people who inhabit the same locality throughout their lives.


Nomadic: Nomadic people do not have a permanent home.

Sedentary: Sedentary people have a permanent home.


Nomadic: Nomadic people obtain food through hunting, gathering fruits and vegetables, and raising livestock.

Sedentary: Sedentary people mainly obtain food through agriculture and domesticated animals.


Nomadic: Nomadic people can be often found in infertile regions such as deserts and tundras.

Sedentary: Sedentary cultures first began in fertile regions which supported agriculture.

Forces of Nature

Nomadic: Nomadic people are more exposed to forces of weather.

Sedentary: Sedentary people are more protected from environmental factors.


Nomadic: As of 1995, there are about 30–40 million nomads* in the world.

Sedentary: Most of the Earth’s population is sedentary.

Human History

Nomadic: The human race was first nomadic hunter-gatherers before they settled down in one place.

Sedentary: Sedentary lifestyle started once people settled down in one place and started agriculture.


“Nomads: At the Crossroads – The Facts”. New Internationalist (266). April 5, 1995.

Image Courtesy:

“Changpas nomadic people – Changtang – Tibet” By 6-A04-W96-K38-S41-V38 – Own work via

“Rice farmers Mae Wang Chiang Mai Province” By Takeaway – Self-photographed via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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