Historical usage 
In almost every real historical case, settlers live on land which previously belonged to long-established peoples, known as indigenous people (often called "natives", "Aborigines" or, in the Americas, "Indians"). In some cases (such as Australia), the legal ownership of some lands is contested much later by indigenous people, who seek or claim traditional usage, land rights, native title and related forms of ownership or partial control.
The word "settler" was not originally usually used in relation to unfree labour immigrants, such as slaves (e.g. in the United States), indentured labourers (such as in Colonial America), or convicts (such as in New York, 1674–1775; Australia 1788-1868).
In the figurative usage a "person who goes first or does something first", also applies to the American English use of "pioneer" to refer to a settler, a person who has migrated to a less occupied area and established permanent residence there, often to colonize the area, first recorded in English in 1605. In United States history it refers to those people who helped to settle new lands.
In this usage, pioneers are usually among the first to an area, whereas settlers can arrive after first settlement and join others in the process of human settlement. This correlates with the work of military pioneers who were tasked with construction of camps before the rest of the troops would arrive at the designated camp site.
More recently descendants of these immigrants may argue that they have as much right to use the word "settler" as the descendants of free immigrants.
In Imperial Russia, the government invited Russians or foreign nationals to settle in sparsely populated lands. These settlers were called "colonists". See, e.g., articles Slavo-Serbia, Volga German, Volhynia, Russians in Kazakhstan.
Although they are often thought of as traveling by sea — the dominant form of travel in the early modern era — significant waves of settlement could also use long overland routes, such as the Great Trek by the Boer-Afrikaners in South Africa, or the Oregon Trail in the United States.
Anthropological usage 
Anthropologists record tribal displacement of native settlers who drive another tribe from the lands it held, such as the settlement of lands in the area now called Carmel-by-the-Sea, California where Ohlone peoples settled in areas previously inhabited by the Esselen tribe (Bainbridge, 1977).
Modern usage 
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In the Middle East, Israelis who moved to areas captured during the Six-Day War in 1967 are termed "settlers". Both ethnic Jews and Palestinians claim descent from the aboriginal peoples of the Levant. Both claims are supported by numerous genetic studies carried out on both populations, in addition to historical and scholarly consensus. In present day Israel, a majority of Israeli-Jews are descendents of Jews who settled in other Middle Eastern countries. In recent times, Arab settlers have also moved in large numbers to ethnic minority areas, such as Iraqi Kurdistan and northwest Syria. In North Cyprus, Turkish settlers have been brought into the territory since the 1970s to increase ethnic Turkish influence there.
Other usages 
- Settlers in hypothetical societies, such as on other planets, often feature in science fiction or fantasy fiction and/or video games.
- Mascot for Texas Woman's University, more specifically there called the "Pioneer."
Causes of emigration 
The reasons for the emigration of settlers vary, but often they include the following factors and incentives: the desire to start a new and better life in a foreign land, personal financial hardship, social, cultural, ethnic, or religious persecution (e.g. the Pilgrims and Mormons), political oppression, and government incentive policies aimed at encouraging foreign settlement.
The colony concerned is sometimes controlled by the government of a settler's home country, and emigration is sometimes approved by an imperial government.
See also 
- Indigenous people
- Settler colonialism
- Virgin Lands Campaign
- Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme
- Transmigration program
- Naturalized TRNC citizens
- Green March
- Israeli Settlers