"The term is derived from the Greek verb διασπείρω (diaspeirō), "I scatter", "I spread about" which in turn is composed of διά (dia), "between, through, across" and the verb σπείρω (speirō), "I sow, I scatter". In Ancient Greece the term διασπορά (diaspora) hence meant "scattering" and was inter alia used to refer to citizens of a dominant city-state who emigrated to a conquered land with the purpose of colonization, to assimilate the territory into the empire. An example of a diaspora from classical antiquity is the century-long exile of the Messenians under Spartan rule and the Ageanites as described by Thucydides in his "history of the Peloponnesian wars."
Its use began to develop from this original sense when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek; the first mention of a diaspora created as a result of exile is found in the Septuagint, first in
Deuteronomy 28:25, in the phrase ἔσῃ ἐν διασπορᾷ ἐν πάσαις ταῖς βασιλείαις τῆς γῆς, esē en diaspora en pasais tais basileiais tēs gēs, translated to mean "thou shalt be a dispersion in all kingdoms of the earth"
and secondly in
Psalms 146(147).2, in the phrase οἰκοδομῶν Ἰερουσαλὴμ ὁ Kύριος καὶ τὰς διασπορὰς τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ ἐπισυνάξει, oikodomōn Ierousalēm ho Kyrios kai tas diasporas tou Israēl episynaxē, translated to mean "The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel".
So after the Bible's translation into Greek, the word diaspora would then have been used to refer to the Northern Kingdom exiled between 740–722 BC from Israel by the Assyrians, as well as Jews, Benjaminites, and Levites exiled from the Southern Kingdom in 587 BC by the Babylonians, and from Roman Judea in 70 AD by the Roman Empire. It subsequently came to be used to refer to the historical movements and settlement patterns of the dispersed indigenous population of Israel. In English when capitalized and without modifiers (that is simply, the Diaspora), the term refers specifically to the Jewish diaspora; when uncapitalized the word diaspora may be used to refer to refugee or immigrant populations of other origins or ethnicities living "away from an established or ancestral homeland". The wider application of diaspora evolved from the Assyrian two-way mass deportation policy of conquered populations to deny future territorial claims on their part.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online, the first known recorded usage of the word diaspora in the English language was in 1876 referring "extensive diaspora work (as it is termed) of evangelizing among the National Protestant Churches on the continent". The term became more widely assimilated into English by the mid 1950s, with long-term expatriates in significant numbers from other particular countries or regions also being referred to as a diaspora. An academic field, diaspora studies, has become established relating to this sense of the word.
In all cases, the term diaspora carries a sense of displacement the population so described finds itself for whatever reason separated from its national territory, and usually its people have a hope, or at least a desire, to return to their homeland at some point, if the "homeland" still exists in any meaningful sense. Some writers[who?] have noted that diaspora may result in a loss of nostalgia for a single home as people "re-root" in a series of meaningful displacements. In this sense, individuals may have multiple homes throughout their diaspora, with different reasons for maintaining some form of attachment to each. Diasporic cultural development often assumes a different course from that of the population in the original place of settlement. Over time, remotely separated communities tend to vary in culture, traditions, language and other factors. The last vestiges of cultural affiliation in a diaspora is often found in community resistance to language change and in maintenance of traditional religious practice."