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A demonym (//; δῆμος dẽmos "people, tribe", ὄνομα ónoma "name") is a word that identifies residents or natives of a particular place, which is derived from the name of that particular place. It is a recently minted term; previously gentilic was recorded in English dictionaries, e.g., the Oxford English Dictionary and Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary.
Examples of demonyms include Chinese for a person of China, Swahili for a person of the Swahili coast, Indian for a person of India, American for a person of the United States of America (or, more broadly, a native of the Americas), and Bangladeshis for a person of Bangladesh.
Demonyms do not always clearly distinguish place of origin or ethnicity from place of residence or citizenship, and oftentimes demonyms overlap with the ethnonym for the ethnically dominant group of a the region. Thus a Thai may be any resident or citizen of Thailand, of any ethnic group, or more narrowly a member of the Thai people. Conversely, some groups of people may be associated with multiple demonyms. For example, a native of the United Kingdom may be called a British person, a Brit, or a Briton. In some languages, when a parallel demonym does not exist, a demonym is borrowed from another language as a nickname or descriptive adjective of a group of people.[example needed]
In English, demonyms are capitalized and are often the same as the adjectival form of the place, e.g. Egyptian, Japanese, or Greek. Significant exceptions exist; for instance the adjectival form of Spain is "Spanish", but the demonym is "Spaniard".
English widely includes country-level demonyms such as Ethiopian or Guatemalan and more local demonyms such as "Seoulite", "Wisconsinite", "Chicagoan", "Michigander", "Fluminense", and "Paulista". Some places lack a commonly used and accepted demonym. This poses a particular challenge to those toponymists who research demonyms.
The word gentilic comes from the Latin gentilis ("of a clan, or gens") and the English suffix -ic. 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. 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. Dickson. However, in What Do You Call a Person From...? A Dictionary of Resident Names (the first edition of Labels for Locals) attributed the term to George H. Scheetz, in his Names' Names: A Descriptive and Prescriptive Onymicon (1988), 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.
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:
as adaptations from the standard Spanish suffix -e(ñ/n)o
(sometimes using a final -a instead of -o for a female, following the Spanish suffix standard -e(ñ/n)a )
(Usually suffixed to a truncated form of the toponym, or place-name.)
"-ish" is usually proper only as an adjective. See note below list.
"-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.
Used especially for Greek locations.
Often used for French locations.
rien or rian
ish ese ch sh or man
While derived from French, these are also official demonyms in English.
It is much rarer to find Demonyms created with a prefix. Mostly they are from Africa and the Pacific, and are not generally known or used outside the country concerned. In much of East Africa, a person of a particular ethnic group will be denoted by a prefix. For example, a person of the Luba people would be a Muluba, the plural form Baluba, and the language, Kiluba or Tshiluba. Similar patterns with minor variations in the prefixes exist throughout on a tribal level. And Fijians who are indigenous Fijians are known as Kaiviti (Viti being the Fijian name for Fiji). On a country level:
In the Pacific, at least two countries use prefixation:
Demonyms may also not conform to the underlying naming of a particular place, but instead arise out of historical or cultural particularities that become associated with its denizens. These demonyms are usually more informal and colloquial. In the United States such informal demonyms frequently become associated with mascots of the intercollegiate sports teams of the state university system. In other countries the origins are often disputed.
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).
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