Demonym: Wikis


Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Demonym

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A demonym, also referred to as a gentilic, is a name for a resident of a locality and is derived from the name of the particular locality.[1] The word demonym comes from the Greek word for "populace" (δῆμος demos) with the suffix for "name" (-nym). In English, the demonym is often the same as the name of the people's native language: the people of Italy are called Italian, which is also the name of their language. National Geographic Magazine attributes this term to Merriam-Webster editor Paul Dickson.[2] It was subsequently popularized in this sense in 1997 by Dickson in his book Labels for Locals.[3]

Dickson himself attributed the term to George H. Scheetz in What Do You Call a Person From...? A Dictionary of Resident Names (the first edition of Labels for Locals).[4] The term first appeared in Names' Names: A Descriptive and Prescriptive Onymicon by George H. Scheetz.[1]

The term is foreshadowed in demonymic, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as the name of an Athenian citizen according to the deme to which he belonged, with first usage traced to 1893.[5][6]

The term demonym is not widely employed or known outside geographical circles and does not yet appear in mainstream dictionaries. It is used by some geographers, both online and within their studies and teaching.[7]

Some places, particularly smaller cities and towns, may not have an established word for their residents; toponymists have a particular challenge in researching these. In some countries like Belgium and Luxembourg, there is strong tradition of "demonym-like nickname[s]", called in French blason populaire. In some cases, this "blason populaire" is frequently used as the name of the inhabitants.


Demonyms as roots

While many demonyms are derived from placenames, many countries are named for their inhabitants: Germany for the Germans, Thailand for the Thais, Denmark for the Danes, France for the Franks. Additional examples are: Abkhazia for the Abkhaz, Slovakia for the Slovaks, and Slovenia for the Slovenes. This is understandable since tribes and peoples generally have a longer continuous history than the countries: tribal names often imply a descent from a single ancestor, such as Rus as the legendary ancestor of the Russians. In Bantu languages the name of the land and the name of the inhabitants will have a common root distinguished by different prefixes (e.g. Buganda, land, and Baganda, inhabitants).

Adjectives as placenames

Some placenames originated as adjectives. In such cases the placename and the demonym often are the same word, sometimes specialized in form.

  • Argentina: properly República Argentina (Argentine Republic) or Tierra Argentina (Land of Silver), from Latin argentum (silver). In English, the Spanish form Argentina is used for the country, the parallel English form Argentine as demonym and general adjective. The adjectival forms of Argentinean or Argentinian are used in the United Kingdom; however, the Oxford English Dictionary lists Argentine as the correct demonym.[5] (Argentinian is a demonym for the Argentine, an archaic name for Argentina, and hence a less direct derivation.)
  • Brazil: from pau brasil (pau: wood; brasil: ember-red color), the name of a native Brazilian tree highly regarded by the Portuguese explorers. The adjective brasil (brazil in the old Portuguese spelling) came to be the official name for the whole country and lost its adjectival nature.
  • Philippines: properly Philippine Islands (Spanish: Islas Filipinas), named after King Philip II of Spain. Here, in contrast, the English form is used to mean of or relating to the Philippines, whereas the Spanish masculine adjective Filipino is used for the same meanings and for the national language and as the demonym, in other words as the general adjective. The English plural is Filipinos and the Spanish feminine Filipina, as well as Pinoy and Pinay, which are also used in English for men and women, respectively.

This dual function is very common in French, where for example Lyonnais means either the region or an inhabitant of Lyon.

Suffix demonyms

The English language uses several models to create demonyms. The most common is to add a suffix to the end of the location's name, slightly modified in some instances. These may be modeled after Late Latin, Semitic or Germanic suffixes, such as:

Irregular forms

There are many irregular demonyms for recently formed entities, such as those in the New World. There are other demonyms which are borrowed from the native or another language.

In some cases, both the location's name and the demonym are produced by suffixation, for example England and English and English(wo)man (derived from the Angle tribe). In some cases the derivation is concealed enough that it is no longer morphemic: FranceFrench (or Frenchman/Frenchwoman) or FlandersFlemish or WalesWelsh.

In some of the latter cases the noun is formed by adding -man or -woman (English/Englishman/Englishwoman; Irish/Irishman/Irishwoman; Chinese/Chinese man/Chinese woman, versus the archaic or derogatory terms Chinaman/Chinawoman).

From Latin or Latinization
From native or other languages
Irregular singular forms
New World forms

In the case of most Canadian provinces and territories and U.S. states, it is unusual to use demonyms as attributive adjectives (for example "Manitoba maple", not "Manitoban maple"); thus they are generally used only predicatively ("Ben Franklin was Pennsylvanian") or substantively ("Eight Virginians have become Presidents of the United States"). There are some exceptions — the attributive adjective for Alaska for many is Alaskan; the same is true for Alberta (Albertan) and Hawaii (Hawaiian).

According to Webster's New International Dictionary, 1993, a person who is a native or resident of Connecticut is a "Connecticuter", although many prefer "Connecticutian" or the slightly shorter "Connecticite"; "Nutmegger" is also used.

Double forms

Some regions and populaces also have double forms, as the concepts of nation and state are diverging once more. Hence, one whose genetic ancestors were from Britain is a Briton, whereas one with a passport from the country is considered British. The Franks settled France, but the citizens are French. This may be the case for states which were formed or dissolved relatively recently. As in the examples below, another reason for double forms of demonyms may be in relation to historical, cultural or religious issues.

  • Greek gods but Ode on a Grecian Urn-–Greek may apply to anything connected with Greece, but Grecian is restricted to ancient culture.
  • Norse gods but Norwegian-–Norwegian being the ordinary adjective for Norway, but Norse being generally used to describe ancient Scandinavian culture. In the Norwegian language, the demonym is not the equivalent of "Norwegian" (norsk, which is also the name of the language), but is equivalent to "Northman" or "Norseman" (normanna, pl. normannene).
  • Israelite but Israeli–-Israelite pertaining to the ancient tribes and kingdom of Israel; Israeli pertaining to the modern nation of the same name.
  • Scotch whisky but Scottish art--Scotch used primarily for food and drink products of Scotland (broth, oats. Also mist) — in most other contexts it is archaic and often considered mildly derogatory; Scottish for anything else pertaining to Scotland. Confusingly, Scots is also used adjectivally when referring to the people of Scotland, and/or to either Scots Gaelic or Scots English (Lowlands).
  • Asian refer to people from Asia, Oriental refers to objects

Due to the flexibility of the international system, the opposite is often also true, where one word might apply to multiple groups. The U.S. Department of State states that 98 percent of the Austrian population is ethnically German,[9] while the CIA World Factbook contradicts this assertion by saying Austrians are a separate group (see Various terms used for Germans).[10]

In fiction

Literature and science have created a wealth of demonyms that are not directly associated with a cultural group, such as Martian for hypothetical people of Mars (credited to scientist Percival Lowell), Jovian for those of Jupiter or its moons, Earthling (from the diminutive -ling, ultimately from Old English -ing meaning 'descendant') as a possible name for the people of Earth (as also "Terran", "Terrene", and "terrestrial"), and Lilliputians and Brobdingnagians from the islands of Lilliput and Brobdingnag in the satire Gulliver's Travels. Some of these, like Venusians for a putative resident of Venus, are technically incorrect; to conform with the Latin etymon, they should be Venerians.

Cultural problems

There will often be differences between endonyms (terms used by groups themselves) and exonyms (terms used by outsiders to describe a group). Exonyms often lack the internal variety of endonyms: they often lump together groups who see themselves as distinct. For example, terms like Iroquois, Aztec, Māori, might be used by outsiders to refer to groups as a whole, whereas members of each of these groups will favor more differentiated endodyms. Languages also might make use of grammatical differences that are lost when translated: in Czech, for example, the language is Čeština, the nation is Česko or Česká republika, and the people are Češi.

The governments of both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China officially adhere to the One-China policy, use "Chinese" to describe their nationals, and refuse to have diplomatic relations with states that recognize the other. However in the Republic of China, consisting mostly of Taiwan, many inhabitants do not consider themselves Chinese. A larger number consider themselves both Chinese and Taiwanese.[11]

Both North Korea and South Korea officially refer to their nationals simply as Koreans since they recognize a single nationhood even if they don't recognize each other. They have diplomatic relations with states that recognize their rival.

The demonym for citizens of the United States of America suffers a similar problem albeit non-politically, because "American" may ambiguously refer to both the nation, the USA, and the conjoined continent pair, North and South America. United Statian is awkward in English, but it exists in Spanish (estadounidense), French (étatsunien(ne), although americain(e) is preferred), Portuguese (estado-unidense or estadunidense), Italian (statunitense), and also in Interlingua (statounitese). US American (for the noun) and US-American (when used as a compound modifier preceding a noun) is another option, and is a common demonym in German (US-Amerikaner). Latin Americans (who are the most affected by this use of American) also have yanqui (Yankee) and the euphemism norteamericano/norte-americano (North American, which technically includes the USA, Mexico and Canada, but is frequently used in Spanish to refer to the United States only. Frank Lloyd Wright popularized Usonian, from the abbreviation for United States of North America, and which is used Esperanto (country Usono, demonym Usonano, adjective usona). In the spirit of Sydneysider, Statesider is also sometimes seen. See main article: Names for Americans.

Sharing a demonym does not necessarily bring conflict. During the 1996 Olympics, the residents of Atlanta, Georgia gave a rousing applause to the Eurasian state of Georgia during the opening ceremony. Many cities that share the same name have sister city relations, such as Toledo, Ohio and Toledo, Spain. The demonyms for the Caribbean nations Dominican Republic and Dominica, though pronounced differently, are spelled the same way, Dominican. The former country's demonym is the ordinary English adjective "Dominican", stressed on the second syllable. The demonym for Dominica, like the name of the country, is stressed on the third syllable: /ˌdɒmɪˈniːkən/. Another example is the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their nationals are both known as Congolese.

A few residents of the island of Lesbos tried to ban homosexual women from being called lesbians but it was rejected by a court in Athens.[12]

Occasionally, people verbally group a few countries together, and assign one demonym to that group of countries, for example, calling a person from Pakistan an "Indian", possibly because the true origin is unknown or assumed. This is sometimes seen as politically incorrect, and more inclusive terminology has occasionally turned up in common use, such as, in this case, "South Asian".

See also


  1. ^ a b George H. Scheetz (1988). Names' Names: A Descriptive and Prescriptive Onymicon. Schütz Verlag. 
  2. ^ "Gentilês, Demonyms: What’s in a Name?". National Geographic Magazine 177: 170. February 1990. 
  3. ^ William Safire (1997-12-14). "On Language; Gifts of Gab for 1998". New York Times. 
  4. ^ What Do You Call a Person From...? A Dictionary of Resident Names by Paul Dickson (Facts on File, February 1990). ISBN 978-0-8160-1983-0.
  5. ^ a b "Oxford English Dictionary". Oxford University Press. 
  6. ^ "Aristotle's Constitution of Athens, edited by J.E. Sandy, at the Internet Archive". p. 116. 
  7. ^ "Demonyms". 
  8. ^ "Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 2, Section 35: Designation of citizens of commonwealth". The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved 2008-02-29. : "Bay Staters shall be the official designation of citizens of the commonwealth".
  9. ^ "U.S. Department of State". U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. 2007-08-28. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  10. ^ "CIA World Factbook". CIA World Factbook. CIA World Factbook. 2007-08-28. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  11. ^ Yun-han Chu and Chia-lung Lin (16-17 December 1998). "The Construction of Taiwanese Identity and Cross-Strait Relations". Taiwan Security Research. Retrieved 07 December 2009. "A general survey conducted after the 1996 presidential election found that 47.8% of the population said that they were proud of being of both Taiwanese and Chinese, compared to 20.8% proud of being only a Taiwanese and not as a Chinese and only 5.5% proud of being a Chinese and not as a Taiwanese." 
  12. ^ Court rules lesbians are not just from Lesbos

External links

Simple English

A demonym or gentilic is a word used for people or the inhabitants of a place. The name of a people's language is usually the same as this word, for example, the "French" (language or people). Some places may not have a word for the people that live there.

Suffix demonyms

The English language has many ways to create demonyms. The most common is to add a suffix to the end of the location's name. These may use Latin, Semitic or Germanic suffixes, such as:

  • -an (America → American, Rome → Roman)
  • -ian (Paris → Parisian, Russia → Russian)
  • -ine (Florence, Latin Florentia → Florentine)
  • -ite (Vancouver → Vancouverite, Moscow → Muscovite) (mostly cities)
  • -er (London → Londoner) (mostly cities)
  • -eno (Los Angeles → Angeleno or Los Angeleno, uses the Spanish eño suffix for demonyms)
  • -ish (Spain → Spanish, Denmark → Danish) (mostly countries)
    • "-ish" is usually only used as an adjective. Many common "-ish" forms have different demonyms. (Spain/Spanish/Spaniard; Denmark/Danish/Dane; Judea/Jewish/Jew or Judean; Poland/Polish/Pole)
  • -ese (Taiwan → Taiwanese, Vienna → Viennese, the Tyrol → Tyrolese)
    • "-ese" is usually only proper as an adjective, or to refer to the entire group of people. For example, "The Chinese" means all people from China.
  • -i (Iraq → Iraqi, Bengal → Bengali) (mostly Middle Eastern and South Asian places)
  • -ic (Hispania → Hispanic)
    • "-ic" is mostly used as an adjective to refer to an ethnic or linguistic group, for example Hispanic vs. Spanish
  • -iote (Cyprus → Cypriote, Phanar → Phanariote), especially for Greek locations.

Irregular forms

In many cases, both the location's name and the demonym are created by using a suffix, for example England and English and Englishman. This is not always true, for example, FranceFrench.

In a few cases, the name of the country is not at all related to the name of the people (NetherlandsDutch). This is usually because the two words come from different languages.

Demonyms can be nouns or adjectives. In many cases the noun and adjective forms are the same (Canadian/Canadian); in other cases they are different (Spaniard/Spanish).

In the case of Canadian provinces and territories and U.S. states, demonyms are not usually used as adjectives.

Cultural problems

Some peoples, mainly cultures that were taken over by European colonists, have no demonym. They may also have a demonym that is the same as the name of their nation. Examples include Iroquois, Aztec, Māori, and Czech. Often, the native languages of these people have forms that did not get used in English. In Czech, for example, the language is Čeština, the nation is Česko or Česká republika, and the people are Češi.

The demonym for people of the United States of America has a similar problem. "American" refers to both the United States and to the two American continents. United Statian is not used in English, but it exists in Spanish (estadounidense), French (étatsunien(ne)), Portuguese (estado-unidense or estadunidense), Italian (statunitense), and also in Interlingua (statounitese). US American (for the noun) and US-American can be used, and is a common demonym in German (US-Amerikaner).

Similarly there is no demonym for the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 30, 2010

Unfortunately, we could not find any sentences from other sites similar to those above.

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address