The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







A demonym or gentilic is a word that denotes the members of a people or the inhabitants of a place.

The English language uses several strategies to create demonyms. The most common is to add a suffix to the end of the location's name. These include:

  • -an or -ian (America -> American)
  • -ite (Vancouver -> Vancouverite) (mostly cities)
  • -er (London -> Londoner) (mostly cities)
  • -ish (Spain -> Spanish) (mostly countries)
  • -ese (Taiwan -> Taiwanese, Vienna -> Viennese) (mostly East Asian and Francophone locations, from the similar-sounding French suffix -ais)
  • -i (Iraq -> Iraqi) (mostly Middle Eastern locales)

In some cases, both the location's name and the demonym are produced by suffixation, for example England and English (derived from the Angle tribe). In some cases the derivation is concealed enough that it is no longer morphemic: France -> French.

Sometimes the name of the country is derived from the people's name (Swiss -> Switzerland, Arab -> Arabia, Croat -> Croatia).

In a few cases, demonyms are borrowed from other languages or adapted in a process of linguistic mutation where English demonyms are similar to those of other languages (Kosovo -> Kosovan (English demonym) -> Kosovar (Albanian demonym also used in English)).

Finally, in a few cases the name of the country is not at all related to the name of the people (Netherlands -> Dutch), usually because the two words originate 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, Slovene/Slovenian). In some of the latter cases the noun is formed by adding -man or -woman (English/Englishman/Englishwoman, the obsolete Chinese/Chinaman/Chinawoman).

Often the name of the Language is the same as the demonym.

In the case of U.S. states, it is non-standard to use demonyms as adjectives (for example "Georgia peach", not "Georgian peach") except when referring to people ("Ben Franklin is Pennsylvanian.")

See also

Last updated: 06-01-2005 22:50:58
Last updated: 08-18-2005 05:26:24