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. 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. It was subsequently popularized in this sense in 1997 by Dickson in his book Labels for Locals. 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). The term first appeared in Names' Names: A Descriptive and Prescriptive Onymicon by George H. Scheetz. 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.
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.
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 nicknames", called blason populaire in French. 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, Slovakia for the Slovaks, and Slovenia for the Slovenes). Tribes and peoples generally have a longer continuous history than their 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 are often the same word. This dual function is very common in French, where for example Lyonnais means either the region or an inhabitant of Lyon. Examples include:
- 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. (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: from 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.
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:
- -(a)n (countries: Armenia → Armenian, Australia → Australian, Bosnia → Bosnian, Brunei → Bruneian, Chile → Chilean, Cuba → Cuban, Estonia → Estonian, Finland → Finn, Germany → German, Haiti → Haitian, Hungary → Hungarian, India → Indian, Italy → Italian, Indonesia → Indonesian, Jamaica → Jamaican, Latvia → Latvian, Lithuania → Lithuanian, [North / South] Korea→ [North / South] Korean, Macedonia → Macedonian, Malaysia → Malaysian, Mexico → Mexican, Ottawa → Ottawan, Romania → Romanian, Russia → Russian, Singapore → Singaporean, South Africa → South African, Sri Lanka → Sri Lankan, United States of America → American, Venezuela → Venezuelan; cities / states: Atlanta → Atlantan, Baltimore → Baltimorean, Catalonia → Catalan, Chicago → Chicagoan, Cincinnati → Cincinnatian, El Paso → El Pasoan, Miami → Miamian, Minneapolis → Minneapolitan, Nebraska → Nebraskan, Philadelphia → Philadelphian, Rome → Roman, San Antonio → San Antonian, San Diego → San Diegan, San Francisco → San Franciscan, San Jose → San Josean, Tasmania → Tasmanian, Tulsa → Tulsan, Utah → Utahn )
- -ian (Bahamas → Bahamian, Barbados → Barbadian, Bermuda → Bermudian, Canada → Canadian, Iran → Iranian, Louisiana → Louisianan, McKinney → McKinnian, Ukraine → Ukrainian, Gibraltar → Gibraltarian; Isles of Scilly → Scillonian; cities / states: Adelaide → Adelaidian, Athens → Athenian, Boston → Bostonian, Brisbane → Brisbanian (also "Brisbanite"), Calgary → Calgarian, Edmonton → Edmontonian, Fort Worth → Fort Worthian, Houston → Houstonian, Louisville → Louisvillian, Melbourne → Melburnian, New Orleans → New Orleanian, Oregon → Oregonian, Paris → Parisian, Peterborough → Peterborian, Phoenix → Phoenician, Toronto → Torontonian, Washington → Washingtonian, Wellington → Wellingtonian)
- -ine (Florence → Latin Florentia → Florentine, Philistia → Philistine, Argentina → Argentine cf. above)
- -ite (Austin → Austinite, Brisbane → Brisbanite (also "Brisbanian"), Chennai → Chennaite, Dallas → Dallasite, Denver → Denverite, Irmo → Irmite, Israel → Israelite (or "Israeli", depending on the usage; see below), Moscow → Latin Muscovia → Muscovite, Ruskin, FL → Ruskinite, Seattle → Seattleite, Vancouver → Vancouverite), Wisconsin → Wisconsinite, mostly for cities. However, for the state of New Hampshire → New Hampshirite, and the state of Wyoming → Wyomingite.
- -er (Arkansas → Arkansawyer, Auckland → Aucklander, Berlin → Berliner, Cleveland → Clevelander, Detroit → Detroiter, Dublin → Dubliner, Hong Kong → Hongkonger, London → Londoner, Michigan → Michigander, Montreal → Montrealer, New England → New Englander, New York → New Yorker, New Zealand → New Zealander (Kiwi), Pittsburgh → Pittsburgher, Quebec → Quebecer or Quebecker, though see below),Winnipeg → Winnipegger
- -(en)o (Los Angeles → Angeleno or Los Angeleno, Philippines → Filipino cf. above), adapted from a standard Spanish suffix -(eñ/n)o, as in salvadoreño, Zamboanga City → Zamboangueño, andorrano, or chino
- -ish (Denmark → Danish, Ireland → Irish, Scotland → Scottish), mostly for countries
- "-ish" is usually only proper as an adjective. Thus many common "-ish" forms have irregular demonyms. (Spain/Spanish/Spaniard; Ireland/Irish/Irishman; Denmark/Danish/Dane; England/English/Englishman; Scotland/Scottish/Scot; Poland/Polish/Pole; Flanders/Flemish/Fleming)
- -ene (Damascus → Damascene, Nazareth → Nazarene)
- -ensian - Hullensian (Kingston-upon-Hull, UK)
- -ard (Spain → Spaniard, Savoy → Savoyard)
- -(l)ese (Calabria → Calabrese, China → Chinese, Congo → Congolese, The Faroe Islands → Faroese, Genoa → Genovese, Japan → Japanese, Lebanon → Lebanese, Malta → Maltese, Portugal → Portuguese, Sudan → Sudanese, Taiwan → Taiwanese, Togo → Togolese, the Tyrol → Tyrolese, Vienna → Viennese, Vietnam → Vietnamese)
- "-ese" is usually considered proper only as an adjective, or to refer to the entirety. 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.
- -i (Bangladesh → Bangladeshi, Bengal → Bengali, Desh → Desi, Hyderabad → Hyderabadi, Iraq → Iraqi, Israel → Israeli (in the Modern State of Israel), Nepal → Nepali, Pakistan → Pakistani), mostly for Middle Eastern and South Asian locales and in Latinate names for the various people that ancient Romans encountered (e.g. Allemanni, Helvetii)
- -ic (Hispania → Hispanic, Turk → Turkic) derives from a Latinate suffix widely used outside ethnonyms (e.g., chemical compounds) which with regard to people is mostly used adjectivally (Semite vs. Semitic, Arab/Arabian vs. Arabic) to refer to a wider ethnic or linguistic group (Turkic vs. Turkish, Finnic vs. Finnish).
- -iot(e) (Cyprus → Cypriot, Phanar → Phanariote), especially for Greek locations.
- -asque (Basque Country → Basque, Menton → Mentonasque, Monaco → Monégasque)
- -gian (Galloway → Galwegian, Galway → Galwegian, Glasgow → Glaswegian, Norway → Norwegian)
- -vian (Kraków → Krakovian, Oamaru → Oamaruvian, Oslo → Oslovian, Peru → Peruvian, Waterloo → Waterluvian)
- -(y)an (Sioux City → Sioux Cityan; not Sioux Citian)
- -(y)an (Somalia → Somali; not Somalian)