Demonym Explained

A demonym, also referred to as a gentilic, is a name for a resident of a locality. A demonym is usually – though not always – derived from the name of the locality; thus, the demonym for the people of Britain is British, and the demonym for the people of Italy is Italian, yet the one used for the people of the Netherlands is Dutch.

About the term demonym

The word demonym comes from the Greek word for "populace" (demos) with the suffix for "name" (-onym).

National Geographic Magazine attributes this term to Merriam-Webster editor Paul Dickson.[1] It was subsequently popularized in this sense in 1997 by Dickson in his book Labels for Locals.[2] 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).[3] 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.[4]

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.[5]

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 (Finland for the Finns, 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:

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.[6] (Argentinian is a demonym for the Argentine, an archaic name for Argentina, and hence a less direct derivation.)

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.

from Philippine Islands (Spanish: Islas Filipinas), named after King Philip II of Spain. Here, Philippine is the general adjective, while the Spanish masculine noun Filipino is the demonym. The English plural is Filipinos, as in Spanish.

Suffixation

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, Celtic or Germanic suffixes, such as:

Irregular forms

There are many irregular demonyms for recently formed entities, such as those in the New World. There are other demonyms that 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: FranceFrench (or Frenchman/Frenchwoman) or FlandersFlemish or WalesWelsh.

In some of the latter cases the noun is formed by adding -man or -woman, for example English/Englishman/Englishwoman; Irish/Irishman/Irishwoman; Chinese/Chinese man/Chinese woman (versus the archaic or derogatory terms Chinaman/Chinawoman, which are not the preferred nomenclature).

From Latin or Latinization
From native or other languages
Irregular singular forms
New World formsIn 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), Texas (Texan), 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.

Double forms

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 that 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 US Department of State states that 98 percent of the Austrian population is ethnically German,[7] while the CIA World Factbook contradicts this assertion by saying Austrians are a separate group (see Various terms used for Germans).[8]

Fiction

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", "terrestrial", and "Solarian" – from Sol, the sun), and Lilliputians and Brobdingnagians from the islands of Lilliput and Brobdingnag in the satire Gulliver's Travels. Putative residents of Venus are often referred to as Venusians, although Venerians would be more consistent with the Latin etymon. 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.

Cultural problems

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 endonyms. 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 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, some inhabitants do not consider themselves Chinese, while others consider themselves both Chinese and Taiwanese.[9]

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. The word "American" in English may to most English speakers refer exclusively to a person, place or object from the USA, but the word "americano" in Spanish would usually refer to anyone from the entire Americas, including Latin Americans, and Latin Americans speaking English might also use the word "American" in the same way. Until the United States rose to world prominence in the 20th century, many Europeans would also use the word "American" in their own languages to refer to anyone from the entire Americas (more often to those of native American descent), and not just to people from the United States.

To give a more specific English-language demonym for US citizens other than "American" however would be somewhat challenging: 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 in 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: . Another example is the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their nationals are both known as Congolese.

A few residents of the island of Lesbos tried to ban homosexual women from being called lesbians but it was rejected by a court in Athens.[10]

See also

External links

Notes and References

  1. ), National Geographic Society (U.S. Gentilês, Demonyms: What’s in a Name?. National Geographic Magazine. 177. February 1990. 170.
  2. News: New York Times. On Language; Gifts of Gab for 1998. 1997-12-14. William Safire.
  3. 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.
  4. Web site: Aristotle's Constitution of Athens, edited by J.E. Sandy, at the Internet Archive. 116.
  5. Web site: Demonyms.
  6. Web site: Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press.
  7. Web site: U.S. Department of State. 2007-08-28. 2007-08-28. U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State.
  8. Web site: [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/au.html#People CIA World Factbook]. 2007-08-28. 2007-08-28. CIA World Factbook. CIA World Factbook.
  9. Web site: Yun-han Chu and Chia-lung Lin. The Construction of Taiwanese Identity and Cross-Strait Relations. Taiwan Security Research. 16–17 December 1998. 7 December 2009. 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..
  10. http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSN2231197820080722? Court rules lesbians are not just from Lesbos