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.
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, Abkhazia for the Abkhaz, 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).
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:
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:
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: France → French (or Frenchman/Frenchwoman) or Flanders → Flemish or Wales → Welsh.
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).
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"; The nickname "Nutmegger", which is not a demonym, is also used.
A person who is a native or resident of Indiana is a Hoosier, an irregular demonym whose origin is obscure. The state's official nickname is "The Hoosier State." Hoosier is also an attributive adjective (e.g.: "the Hoosier Lottery"). Demonyms like "Indianan" or "Indianian" are attributed to the state by federal publications and dictionaries, but are confusing at best and not used in practice. (Since "Indiana" literally means "land of the Indians," the historical mistake initiated by Columbus becomes inherently absurd and clunky: "of the people of the land of the Indians," or perhaps "of the land of the land of the Indians," or even "of the land of the land of the land of the people of india") A search of the state's official website at in.gov on June 16, 2010 found 13 instances of the word Indianian and 47 of the word Indianan, compared to more than 20,000 of the word Hoosier.
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.
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, while the CIA World Factbook contradicts this assertion by saying Austrians are a separate group (see Various terms used for Germans).
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", "Tellurian", "Earther", "Earthican" 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. Said demonyms of planets are often used astronomically to describe characteristics, such as surface, satellites, and weather, of the same planets: e.g., a Jovian storm.
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, and Eskimo might be used by outsiders to refer to groups as a whole, whereas members of each of these groups will favor more differentiated endodyms. In extreme cases, groups may take an exonym as being pejorative; one prominent example is the case of the Inuit of Canada, who are often grouped together with the linguistically related but distinct Yupik people by the exonym Eskimo. 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.
Both North Korea and South Korea officially refer to their nationals simply as Koreans, since they recognize a single nationhood even if they refuse to 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 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.
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