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Demonym (/ˈdɛmənɪm/; δῆμος dẽmos 'people, tribe', ὄνομα ónoma 'name') is a word to identify residents or natives of a particular place, which is derived from the name of that particular place.[1] It is a recently minted term; previously, gentilic was used by the Oxford English Dictionary. Examples of demonyms include Chinese for the natives of China, Swahili for the natives of the Swahili coast, and American for the natives of the United States of America (or sometimes for the natives of the Americas). Just as Americans may refer to two different groups of natives, some particular groups of people may be referred to by multiple demonyms. For example, the natives of the United Kingdom are the British, or the Britons. Demonyms are capitalized.[2] In languages other than English, a parallel demonym sometimes does not exist, which may lead to the use of an English demonym as a nickname or descriptive adjective of a group of people. The term has not been adopted by the Oxford English Dictionary or the Merriam-Webster dictionary.[3]

English widely includes country-level demonyms - such as "Ethiopian", "Guatemalan", "Japanese", and "French". But English much more rarely includes lower-level demonyms - such as "Seoulite", "Wisconsinite", "Chicagoan", and "Fluminense".[4][5][6] Indeed, even some large cities such as Australia's Perth, and many other places, lack a commonly used and accepted appellation. This poses a particular challenge to those toponymists who research demonyms.

Also, demonyms must be considered a subtype of adjectives and nouns used as appellations.


Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has not adopted the term "demonyn" for these adjectives and nouns

The word gentilic comes from the Latin gentilis ("of a clan, or gens") and the English suffix -ic.[7] The word demonym was derived from the Greek word meaning "populace" (δῆμος demos) with the suffix for "name" (-onym).

National Geographic attributes the term "demonym" to Merriam-Webster editor Paul Dickson in a recent work from 1990,[8] however, the word does not appear for nouns, adjectives, and verbs derived from geographical names in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary nor in prominent style manuals such as the Chicago Manual of Style. It was subsequently popularized in this sense in 1997 by Dickson in his book Labels for Locals.[9] Dickson, however, in What Do You Call a Person From...? A Dictionary of Resident Names (the first edition of Labels for Locals)[10] attributed the term to George H. Scheetz, in his Names' Names: A Descriptive and Prescriptive Onymicon (1988),[1] which is apparently where the term first appears. The term may have been fashioned after demonymic, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as the name of an Athenian citizen according to the deme to which the citizen belongs, with its first use traced to 1893.[11][12]


Several linguistic elements are used to create demonyms in the English language. The most common is to add a suffix to the end of the location name, slightly modified in some instances. These may resemble Late Latin, Semitic, Celtic, or Germanic suffixes, such as:




states / provinces:


"German" is not derived by suffixation of the term "Germ"; rather, it is the shortened form of Latin Germanus.



cities / states / provinces:



  • Guam → Guamanian





Often used for European locations and Canadian locations


as adaptations from the standard Spanish suffix -(eñ/n)o. countries:



"-ish" is usually only proper as an adjective. Thus many common "-ish" forms have irregular demonyms, e.g. Britain/British/Briton; Denmark/Danish/Dane; England/English/Englishman; Finland/Finnish/Finn; Flanders/Flemish/Fleming; Ireland/Irish/Irishman; Kurdistan/Kurdish/Kurd; Poland/Polish/Pole; Scotland/Scottish/Scot; Spain/Spanish/Spaniard; Sweden/Swedish/Swede; Turkey/Turkish/Turk.


Often used for Middle Eastern locations and European locations.


  • Kingston-upon-Hull (UK) → Hullensian


-ese, -lese, -vese, or -nese[edit]

"-ese" is usually considered proper only as an adjective, or to refer to the entirety.[citation needed] Thus, "a Chinese person" is used rather than "a Chinese". Often used for East Asian and Francophone locations, from the similar-sounding French suffix -ais(e), which is originally from the Latin adjectival ending -ensis, designating origin from a place: thus Hispaniensis (Spanish), Danensis (Danish), etc.


Mostly for Middle Eastern and South Asian locales and in Latinate names for the various people that ancient Romans encountered (e.g. Allemanni, Helvetii)



Used especially for Greek locations.


  • Monaco → Monégasque (for natural born citizens of Monaco, not naturalized citizens, see above)
  • Menton → Mentonasque

Often used for French locations.



Often used for British and Irish locations.


From Latin or Latinization[edit]


Literature and science fiction have created a wealth of gentilics that are not directly associated with a cultural group. These will typically be formed using the standard models above. Examples include Martian for hypothetical people of Mars (credited to scientist Percival Lowell) or Gondorian for the people of Tolkien's fictional land of Gondor.

Other science fiction examples include Jovian for those of Jupiter or its moons, and Venusian for those of Venus. Fictional aliens refer to the inhabitants of Earth as Earthling (from the diminutive -ling, ultimately from Old English -ing meaning "descendant"), as well as "Terran", "Terrene", "Tellurian", "Earther", "Earthican", "terrestrial", and "Solarian" (from Sol, the sun).

Fantasy literature which involves other worlds or other lands also has a rich supply of gentilics. Examples include Lilliputians and Brobdingnagians, from the islands of Lilliput and Brobdingnag in the satire Gulliver's Travels.

In a few cases, where a linguistic background has been created, non-standard gentilics are formed (or the eponyms back-formed). Examples include Tolkien's Rohirrim (from Rohan) and the Star Trek world's Klingon people (with various version of homeworld name).

See also[edit]

-onym, especially ethnonym and Exonym and endonym


  1. ^ a b George H. Scheetz (1988). Names' Names: A Descriptive and Pervasive Onymicon. Schütz Verlag. 
  2. ^ "Gramática Inglesa. Adjetivos Gentilicios". 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Google Ngram Viewer". 
  5. ^ "Google Ngram Viewer". 
  6. ^ "Google Ngram Viewer". 
  7. ^ "Dictionary". Merriam Webster. Retrieved 25 July 2015. 
  8. ^ "Gentilés, Demonyms: What's in a Name?". National Geographic Magazine (National Geographic Society (U.S.)) 177: 170. February 1990. 
  9. ^ William Safire (1997-12-14). "On Language; Gifts of Gab for 1998". New York Times. 
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary". Oxford University Press. 
  12. ^ "Aristotle's Constitution of Athens, edited by J.E. Sandy, at the Internet Archive". p. 116. 
  13. ^ Press, AIP, Associated (2007). Stylebook and briefing on media law (42nd ed.). New York: Basic Books. p. 112. ISBN 9780465004898. 
  14. ^ "Investing in Future, Quiet Manhattan Apartments Next to Construction Sites"
  15. ^ "Copquin explains "Queensites" for New York Times - Yale Press Log". Yale Press Log. 
  16. ^ Paul Dickson (15 August 2006). Labels for Locals : What to Call People from Abilene to Zimbabwe (1st Collins ed.). New York: HarperCollins. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-06-088164-1. 
  17. ^ "Corkonian". 
  18. ^ "North West Evening Mail". 
  19. ^ "City of Waterloo on Twitter". 


  1. ^ Local usage generally reserves Hawaiian as an ethnonym referring to Native Hawaiians. Hawaii resident is the preferred local form to refer to state residents in general regardless of ethnicity.[13]

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