A demonym is a name for the people who live in a particular place, such as Londoners, Dallasites, Manilans, Dubliners, Torontonians, and Melburnians. Also known as a gentilic or nationality word.
The term demonym - from the Greek for "people" and "name" - was coined (or at least popularized) by lexicographer Paul Dickson. "The word was created," Dickson says, "to fill a void in the language for those common terms which define a person geographically - for example, Angeleno for a person from Los Angeles" (Family Words, 2007).
Examples and Observations
- "Often the name of a people's language is the same as the demonym. Some places, particularly smaller cities and towns, may not have an established demonym for their residents."
(Denoting: Webster's Quotations, Facts, and Phrases. Icon Group, 2008)
- Barabooians, Fergusites, and Haligonians
"A Barabooian is a person who resides in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Someone who lives in Fergus Falls, Minnesota is a Fergusite. A Dane lives in Denmark, and a Florentine hails from Florence, Italy. An indispensable book for the study of demonyms is Paul Dickson's Labels for Locals: What to Call People From Abilene to Zimbabwe (1997). There are some rather complex rules for creating demonyms, but Dickson stated that 'people in a place tend to decide what they will call themselves, whether they be Angelenos (from Los Angeles) or Haligonians (from Halifax, Nova Scotia)' (p. x)."
(Dale D. Johnson et al., "Logology: Word and Language Play." Vocabulary Instruction: Research to Practice, eds. J. F. Baumann and E. J. Kameenui. Guilford Press, 2003)
- Hoosiers, Tar Heels, and Washingtonians
"Over time I have learned that people are concerned about what others call them. Call a person from Indiana an Indianan or Indianian and you will be told in no uncertain terms that the proper form of address is Hoosier. North Carolinian is acceptable but not to those who prefer to be called Tar Heels, and when it comes to Utah the folks there prefer Utahn over Utaan or Utahan. Phoenicians lived and live in antiquity - and Arizona - while Colombians are from South America, not the District of Columbia, where Washingtonians reside. These Washingtonians are not be mistaken for those Washingtonians who live around Puget Sound."
(Paul Dickson, Labels for Locals: What to Call People From Abilene to Zimbabwe. Collins, 2006)
- Mancunians, Hartlepudlians, and Varsovians
"When I happened to be writing about lacrosse in Manchester, England, I worked in the word 'Mancunian' three times in one short paragraph. It was the second-best demonym I'd ever heard, almost matching Vallisoletano (a citizen of Valladolid). The planet, of course, is covered with demonyms, and after scouring the world in conversations on this topic with Mary Norris I began a severely selective, highly subjective A-list, extending Mancunian and Vallisoletano through thirty-five others at this writing, including Wulfrunian (Wolverhampton), Novocastrian (Newcastle), Trifluvian (Trois-Rivières), Leodensian (Leeds), Minneapolitan (Minneapolis), Hartlepudlian (Hartlepool), Liverpudlian (you knew it), Haligonian (Halifax), Varsovian (Warsaw), Providentian (Providence), and Tridentine (Trent)."
(John McPhee, "Draft No. 4." The New Yorker, April 29, 2013)
"The Baltimoreans are a peculiar people. They love their city with a pious affection, and wherever they roam in search of health, wealth, or pleasure they always turn to Baltimore as to the Mecca of their heart. Yet, whenever three or four Baltimoreans are together, at home or abroad, they abuse Baltimore without stint."
(The No Name Magazine, 1890)
- The Lighter Side of Demonyms
"The point is that the great majority of Baltimorons saw nothing strange about the proceeding of the cops, and showed absolutely no indignation over it."
(H.L. Mencken, "The Style of Woodrow." Smart Set, June 1922)
"If we gave the name Poles to people who live in Poland, why weren't the inhabitants of Holland called Holes?"
(Denis Norden, "Words Flail Me." Logophile, Vol. 3, No. 4, 1979)