a term derived from the Turkic Cherkess (Çerkes), and is not the self-designation of any people. It has sometimes been applied indiscriminately to all the peoples of the North Caucasus. Most specifically, the term can apply only to the Adyghe people. Today a significant number of "Circassians" live in diaspora, primarily due to the Muhajirism, an exodus of Muslim population from the Caucasus since 1864 after the successful Russian invasion of the Caucasus.
The term's vagueness stems largely from the fact that the northern Caucasus was a remote and relatively unknown area for Westerners and Turks, who often did not distinguish carefully between similar groups living there.
"And likewise, the Circassian braves, the dashing young mountaineers, trained themselves to an extraordinary stamina. They were, by breed, a slim wiry lot, generally considered the world's most handsome people; tall, white, eagle-faced, with narrow, beautifully formed hands and feet, and wasp-waists. Over all, they had an indefinable air of elegance - of breeding. They ate very sparingly, as a race, but the fighting men ate least of all." -The Sabres of Paradise, by Lesley Blanch