Aryans, a name given to a large group of ancient peoples of Asia. The name more correctly applies only to a few tribes who spoke an Indo-European language and called themselves aryas ("noble ones"). Sometime between 2000 B.C. and 1500 B.C. the aryas migrated southeastward from Central Asia into the Indian subcontinent and westward through the Balkan peninsula. They introduced the Sanskrit language into India.
A number of other tribes of Central Asia were confused with the aryas by 19th-century scholars and grouped with the aryas under the name Aryans. All the Aryans were seminomadic pastoral peoples who migrated southward, but only the aryas and a few other tribes spoke an Indo-European language. The Aryans were warlike, and it is believed they helped destroy the ancient Indus Valley civilization.
Misconceptions about the Aryans led to the 20th-century myth of a superior "Aryan race," a theory advocated by the Nazis in Germany, 1920–45.