There are many names (and spellings of the names) used in other languages to refer to the Fulɓe. Fulani in English is borrowed from the Hausa term. Fula, from Manding languages, is also used in English, and sometimes spelled Fulah or Fullah. Fula and Fulani are commonly used in English, including within Africa. The French borrowed the Wolof term Pël, which is variously spelled: Peul, Peulh, and even Peuhl. More recently the Fulfulde / Pulaar term Fulɓe, which is a plural noun (singular, Pullo) has been Anglicised as Fulbe, which is gaining popularity in use. In Portuguese, the terms Fula or Futafula are used. The terms Fallata, Fallatah, or Fellata are of Kanuri origins, and are often the ethnonyms by which Fulani people are identified by in parts of Chad and Sudan, and Somali in Somalia.

The Fula people are widely distributed, across the Sahel from the Atlantic coast to the Red Sea, particularly in West Africa.

The countries where they are present include Mauritania, Ghana, Senegal, Guinea, the Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Niger, Chad, Togo, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Liberia, and as far east as the Red Sea in Sudan and Egypt. With the exception of Guinea, where the Fula make up the largest ethnic group, and Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, Fulas are either a significant or a minority ethnic group in nearly all other countries where they live. In addition, many also speak other languages of the countries they inhabit, making many Fulani bilingual or even trilingual. Such languages include French, Hausa, Bambara, Wolof, and Arabic.

Major concentrations of Fulani people exist in the Fouta Djallon highlands of central Guinea and south into the northernmost reaches of Sierra Leone; the Futa Tooro savannah grasslands of Senegal and southern Mauritania; the Macina inland Niger river delta system around Central Mali; and especially in the regions around Mopti and the Nioro Du Sahel in the Kayes region; the Borgu settlements of Benin, Togo, and west-central Nigeria; the northern parts of Burkina Faso in the Sahel region's provinces of Seno, Wadalan, and Soum; and the areas occupied by the Sokoto Caliphate, which includes what is now southern Niger and northern Nigeria (such as Tahoua, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zinder, Bauchi, Diffa, Yobe, Gombe, and further east, into the Benue River valley systems of north eastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon).

This is the area known as the Fombina/Hombina, literally meaning 'the south' in Adamawa Fulfulde, because it represented the most southern and eastern reaches of Fulɓe hegemonic dominance in West Africa. In this area, Fulfulde is the local lingua franca, and language of cross cultural communication. Further east of this area, Fulani communities become predominantly nomadic, and exist at less organized social systems. These are the areas of the Chari-Baguirmi Region and its river systems, in Chad and the Central African Republic, the Ouaddaï highlands of Eastern Chad, the areas around Kordofan, Darfur and the Blue Nile, Sennar, Kassala regions of Sudan, as well as the Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan. The Fulani on their way to or back from the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, settled in many parts of eastern Sudan, today representing a distinct community of over two million people referred to as the Fellata.

While their early settlements in West Africa were in the vicinity of the tri-border point of present-day Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania, they are now, after centuries of gradual migrations and conquests, spread throughout a wide band of West and Central Africa. The Fulani People occupy a vast geographical expanse located roughly in a longitudinal east–west band immediately south of the Sahara, and just north of the coastal rain forest and swamps. There are estimates of 20–25 million Fulani people.

There are generally three different types of Fulani based on settlement patterns, viz: the nomadic-pastoral or Mbororo, the semi-nomadic, and the settled or "town" Fulani. The pastoral Fulani move around with their cattle throughout the year. Typically, they do not stay around for long stretches (not more than 2–4 months at a time). The semi-nomadic Fulani can either be Fulɓe families who happen to settle down temporarily at particular times of the year or Fulɓe families who do not "browse" around past their immediate surroundings, and even though they possess livestock, they do not wander away from a fixed or settled homestead not too far away, they are basically "in-betweeners".

Settled Fulani live in villages, towns, and cities permanently and have given up nomadic life completely, in favor of an urban one. These processes of settlement, concentration, and military conquest led to the existence of organized and long-established communities of Fulani, varying in size from small villages to towns. Today, some major Fulani towns include: Labé, Pita, Mamou, and Dalaba in Guinea; Kaedi, Matam and Podor in Senegal and Mauritania; Bandiagara, Mopti, Dori, Gorom-Gorom, and Djibo in Mali and Burkina Faso, on the bend of the Niger; and Birnin Kebbi, Gombe, Yola, Digil, Jalingo, Mayo Belwa, Mubi, Maroua, Ngaoundere, Dukku, Girei, and Garoua in the countries of Cameroon and Nigeria. In most of these communities, the Fulani are usually perceived as a ruling class.

Fulani communities are sometimes grouped and named based on the areas they occupy. Although within each region, there are even further divisions and sub-groupings as well. Below is a list of the main Fulɓe groups.

Main Fulani sub-groups, national and subnational locations, cluster group and dialectal variety.

Fulbe Adamawa
𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤀𞤣𞤢𞤥𞤢𞤱𞤢 Nigeria: Adamawa State, Taraba State, Borno State, Cameroon: Adamaoua Region, Northern Region, Far North Region, Centre Region, Chad: Mayo-Kebbi Est, Mayo-Kebbi Ouest Region, Logone Oriental, Logone Occidental Etc., Central African Republic: Nana-Mambéré, Ouham-Pendé, Mambéré-Kadéï, Sudan Eastern Fulfulde
Adamawa (Fombinaare).

Adamawa (Fombinaare)

Fulbe Mbororo.

𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤐'𞤄𞤮𞤪𞤮𞤪𞤮 Nigeria: All across the northern, central and some southern states of the country as transient herders, Cameroon: All over the country in 9 of the country's 10 regions/provinces as transient herders, Chad: All across southern and central Chad as herders, Central African Republic: Ubiquitous across the countryside, Sudan, Niger: All across the country south of the Sahara as herders and nomads. Note that the Woɗaaɓe are themselves an even smaller subgroup of the Mbororo'en. Thus: All Woɗaaɓe are Bororos, but not every Bororo is a Boɗaaɗo (Woɗaaɓe person) Eastern Fulfulde
Sokoto (Woylaare) & Adamawa (Fombinaare.

Fulbe Bagirmi
𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤄𞤢𞤺𞤭𞤪𞤥𞤭 Central African Republic, Chad: Chari Bagirmi Region, Mandoul Region, Moyen Chari, E.tc Eastern Fulfulde
Adamawa (Fombinaare)

Fulbe Sokoto
𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤅𞤮𞤳𞤮𞤼𞤮 Nigeria: Sokoto State, Kebbi State, Katsina State, Kano State, Zamfara State, Jigawa State, Niger State Etc. Niger: Tahoua Region, Maradi Region, Dosso Region, Zinder Region Eastern Fulfulde
Sokoto (Woylaare)

Fulbe Gombe
𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤘𞤮𞤲'𞤦𞤫 Nigeria: Gombe State, Bauchi State, Yobe State, Borno State, Plateau State Eastern Fulfulde Woylaare-Fombinaare transitional
Fulbe Borgu
𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤄𞤮𞤪𞤺𞤵 Nigeria: Niger State, Kebbi State, Kwara State (As herders), Benin: Borgou Department, Atakora Department, Alibori Department, Donga Department, Togo: Savanes Region, Kara Region, Centrale Region Central Fulfulde Borgu & Jelgoore
Fulbe Jelgooji
𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤔𞤫𞤤𞤺𞤮𞥅𞤶𞤭 Mali Niger: Tillabéri Region, Dosso Region Burkina Faso: Sahel Region, Est Region, Centre-Nord Region, All across the country, most especially in the countryside Central Fulfulde
Jelgoore & (Massinakoore)

Fulbe Massina
𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤃𞤢𞤧𞥆𞤭𞤲𞤢 Mali: Mopti Region, Gao Region, Segou Region, All over the country Ivory Coast: Mostly concentrated in the Northern regions Ghana: in the northern and central regions Central Fulfulde

Fulbe Nioro
𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤻𞤮𞥅𞤪𞤮 Mali: Kayes Region, Koulikoro Region, Senegal: Tambacounda Region, Mauritania: Assaba Region Western Pulaar – Fulfulde
Fuua Tooro -Massinakoore transitional

Fulbe Futa Jallon
𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤊𞤵𞥅𞤼𞤢 𞤔𞤢𞤤𞤮𞥅 Guinea: Labé Region, Mamou Region, Boké Region, Kindia Region, Faranah Region, Conakry, All across the country as traders and merchants, Guinea Bissau: Gabu Region, Tombali Region, Bafatá Region, Sierra Leone: North-West, Northern Province, Western Area, All across the country's major urban centres as a trading population, Mali: Extreme southwest of
country in the Kéniéba Cercle Western Pular Fuuta

Fulbe Futa Tooro
𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤊𞤵𞥅𞤼𞤢 𞤚𞤮𞥅𞤪𞤮 Senegal: Matam Region, Saint-Louis Region, Louga Region, Tambacounda Region, Kaffrine Region, All over the country, Mauritania: Trarza Region, Gorgol Region, Guidimaka Region, Brakna Region, Nouakchott Western Pulaar
Fuuta Tooro

Fulbe Fuladu
𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤩𞤫 𞤊𞤵𞤤𞤢𞤣𞤵 Senegal: Kolda Region, Sédhiou Region, South of Tambacounda Region, Guinea Bissau: Gabu Region, Bafatá Region, Oio Region, Gambia All across the country Western Pulaar – Pular
Fuuta Tooro – Fuuta Jallon transitional.

Eye of the past.

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