Albanians (Albanian: Shqiptarët) are defined as an ethnic group native to Albania and neighboring countries. The term can also refer to citizens of the Republic of Albania regardless of ethnicity. Ethnic Albanians speak the Albanian language and more than half of ethnic Albanians live in Albania and Kosovo. The Albanian diaspora also exists in a number of other countries.
While the exonym Albania for the general region inhabited by the Albanians does hark back to Classical Antiquity, the Albanian language employs a different ethnonym, with modern Albanians referring to themselves as shqipëtarë and to their country as Shqipëria. Two etymologies have been conjectured for this ethnonym: one, associated with Maximilian Lambertz, derives the etymology from the Albanian for eagle (shqipe, var.,shqiponjë), perhaps denoting denizens of a mountainous region. In Albanian folk etymology, this word denotes a bird totem dating from the times of Skanderbeg, as displayed on the Albanian flag. The other suggestion connects it to the verb 'to speak' (me shqiptue). If the latter conjecture were correct, the Albanian endonym, like Slav and others, would originally have been a term for "those who speak [intelligibly, the same language]".
In History written in 1079–1080, the Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates referred to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium. It is disputed, however, whether that refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense. However a later reference to Albanians from the same Attaliates, regarding the participation of Albanians in a rebellion around 1078, is undisputed. The first reference to the Albanian language dates to the later 13th century (around 1285).
The Albanians are and have been referred to by other terms as well. Some of them are:
* Arbër, Arbën, Arbëreshë; the old native term denoting ancient and medieval Albanians and sharing the same root with the latter. At the time the country was called Arbër (Gheg: Arbën) and Arbëria (Gheg: Arbënia). This term is still used for the Albanians that migrated to Italy during the Middle Ages.
* Arnauts (ارناود); old term used mainly from Turks and by extension by European authors during the Ottoman Empire. A derivate of the Turkish Arvanid (Arnavut) (اروانيد), which derives from the Greek Arvanites.
* Skipetars; the historical rendering of the ethnonym Shqiptar (or Shqyptar by French, Austrian and German authors) in use from the 18th century (but probably earlier) to the present, the literal translation of which is subject of the eagle. The term Šiptari is a derivation used by Yugoslavs which the Albanians consider derogatory, preferring Albanci instead.