“american” and other demonyms

Grammar-Quizzes › Noun Phrases › Determiners › Articles–The › Nationality Names

The – Nationality Names (Demonyms)

Referring to Nationality

Country Use no article when referring to a country with a single  or a merged name (except The Gambia). Use the before countries (1) with plural names the Philippines, the Maldives (ex. Barbados); (2) with names containing a noun stating the kind of state the republic, the kingdom, the principality and so on; (3) and capitalize the before official names The Bahamas or The Gambia. See Countries.
Origin / Language Use no article before an adjective for national origin (except when specifying the class of a particular item: He thinks the Mexican chocolate is fruitier than the Venezuelan chocolate.)
The People When referring to the national name of the people in general, no article is used. (Canadians). When referring to the group specifically, use the before the name for the people (the Canadians, the people of Canada)
A  Person Use a / an before a national noun for a person.  A nationality ending in -ese sounds better as an adjective followed by a noun such as citizen, national or person.  (See section below for specific names.)

Also see Pop-Q “Nationality” and The Group,  The Countries

Sections on this page

Pattern 1 –an / -ian

Country Mexico is in North America.
Origin / Source / Language Mexican chocolate is delicious. The official Mexican language is Spanish.
The People Mexicans are an ethnically diverse people. The Mexicans are made up of native Americans and European immigrants.
A  Person A Mexican named Frida Kahlo was an extraordinary artist.

Pattern 1 –an / -ian

“Ukraine or the Ukraine: Why do some country names have 'the'?  By Tom Geoghegan, BBC New Magaznine. 7 June 2012. bbc.com/news/magazine-18233844.

Pattern 2 –ese

Country Japan is in the north Pacific Ocean.
Origin / Source / Language Japanese economy influences the rest of the world. Japanese is spoken here.
The People Japanese people consist of people who are 95.5% of Japanese origin. The Japanese people have the longest life expectancy in the world.
A  Person
  • A Japanese baseball player named Ichiro plays for the Seattle Mariners.
  • A Japanese person, Fujita, invented a scale for rating tornado intensity.
  • *A Japanese / A Japanese man / Two Japanese men… (woman, citizen, individual, person.)

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

Pattern 2  – ese

Pattern 3  – i

Country Saudi Arabia is located on the Arabian Peninsula.
Origin / Source / Language Saudi (Arabian) dates are exported around the world. Arabic is spoken here.
The People Saudis (Saudi Arabians) speak three variations of Arabic. The Saudis come from a variety of regions.
A  Person A Saudi can receive free education. A Saudi woman can also receive an education.

Pattern 3  –i

Pattern 4  –ish, -sh, -ch / -man, -woman

Country England is in northern Europe.
Origin / Source / Language
  1. English tea is known around the world.
  2. English is used around the world.
  3. The English language is spoken here.


The People The English are proud of their history. *The Englishes/ English drink tea. 
A  Person
  • An Englishman.
  • Two Englishmen here.
  • An Englishman spoke to us about the history of England. 
  • An English woman lives next door to us. 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

Pattern 4  –ish, -sh, -ch / -man, -woman

Other Patterns

Country Greece is in southern Europe.
Origin / Source / Language The letters are Greek. Greek is spoken here.
The People Greeks are proud of their teams. The Greeks are the first to enter the games.
A  Person A Greek won the race. 


When Did the US Start Calling Itself “America,” Anyway?

Battle of Manila Bay, Philippines, May 1, 1898, the first major engagement of the Spanish–American War. Those are Spanish vessels on fire. Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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Adapted from How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States.

America, as a shorthand for the United States, has a way of raising hackles around the globe. The Americas stretch from Canada to South America’s southern cone. Why should one country, accounting for a third of their population and less than a quarter of their land, have a nomenclatural claim on the whole hemisphere?

To many in the United States, such complaints—as voiced by Canadians and Chileans and any number of the 600 million other Americans—seem misplaced. America is right there in the full name of the country. What else would you call it?

Yet the United States hasn’t always gone by America. That name rose to its current ubiquity only in the 20th century. It did so in response to the United States becoming an empire.

Questions about the name of the country were there from the start. The official name of the country was the United States of America, but those 10 syllables don’t roll easily off the tongue.

“Is the land to be forever called ‘United States,’ and its people ‘United States men?’” complained the doctor Samuel Mitchill. He longed for a “broad and universal appellation” and suggested Fredonia.

The poet Philip Freneau, thinking along similar lines, proposed Columbia.

Some people were using America at the time, but not universally. George Washington didn’t use the word in his first inaugural address or in his farewell address. He called his country the United States or he called it the Union.

He did so for a reason. The word “America” was in some use, and the demonym “American” was common, but, as Mitchill noted, “these epithets equally belong to Labrador and Paraguay and their natives.” As Washington’s generation well knew, the United States didn’t cover the whole of the Americas. Hence their use of other names: the United States, the Republic, the Union.

Imperialism brought America to the fore, resolving the country’s nomenclatural woes.

Or Columbia, Freneau’s term. As the historian Caitlin Fitz has written, the early republic used Columbia to declare “symbolic independence” from Britain by aligning itself with the non-British Columbus, even though he’d never set foot in North America.

King’s College in New York City changed its name to Columbia College in 1784, and the new capital as of 1800 was the District of Columbia.

“Columbia,” “Hail, Columbia,” and “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean” were among the most popular patriotic songs of the 19th century.

The name Columbia not only broke with Britain; it also aligned the United States with newly freed Latin American republics. One of the largest was Gran Colombia, a short-lived state that covered a great deal of northern South America.

As Fitz shows, the people of the United States initially greeted Latin American independence with enthusiasm, even naming some towns “Bolivar” after Simón Bolívar, the president at various times of Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, and Gran Colombia.

Today, there are towns called Bolivar in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

It was the United States’ leap into overseas colonialism that changed things.

After fighting a war with Spain in 1898, the United States annexed not only the Spanish colonies of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam, but also the non-Spanish lands of Hawai‘i and American Samoa.

This was its proud entrance into the imperial club, and the old names—the Republic, the Union, the United States—no longer seemed apt. It wasn’t a republic, it wasn’t a union (which suggests voluntary entry), and it included colonies as well as states.

As at the nation’s founding, writers proposed new names: Imperial America, the Greater Republic, the Greater United States. But the name that stuck was America. It had the virtue of making no reference to unions, republicanism, or statehood.

One sharp-eared writer heard the switch. “For some thirty years prior to 1898, while the adjective ‘American’ has been in general use, the noun ‘America’ has been extremely rare,” wrote a self-styled “Canadian (and therefore British) observer” named Beckles Willson.

“One might, up to that annus mirabilis, have travelled five thousand miles and read a hundred books and newspapers without ever having once come across it; ‘United States’ being almost invariably the term employed by the American for his own country.

” After 1898, he noted, “the best speakers and writers,” feeling that the United States no longer captured the nature of their country, switched to America.

The first president to take office after the war with Spain was Teddy Roosevelt, a determined imperialist. He spoke of America in his first annual message, and he used the term freely and frequently.

Every president after him has, too. America was soon everywhere, including in the anthems. No more “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean.

” “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” were the two new anthems to rise to popularity in the 20th century.

Imperialism brought America to the fore, resolving the country’s nomenclatural woes. Presumptuous, heedlessly expansive, it was a name to match the national character at the dawn of the century.

Where earlier generations might have stopped short of fully embracing America in deference to the other American countries, the new imperium didn’t care. God hadn’t shed His grace on them, had He? The hemisphere was its to claim.

To suggest otherwise was un-American.

Daniel Immerwahr is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University and the author of How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States. He has written for Slate, n+1, Dissent, and other publications.

"American" and Other Demonyms

Alain who is from Colombia and listens in Canada left a nice review on Apple Podcasts and also wrote, “I wonder if you could comment on the word ‘American’ when you are referring to the people of the United States. As a Colombian citizen I KNOW that me too, I am American, but at the same time I feel excluded when a person from the US says the word ‘American.’ [And he notes that I use the word American” quite often myself too.] Is it correct that The United States have appropriated this word for themselves while excluding Canadians and everything from Mexico to Patagonia?”

Alain is not alone in his thinking. Listeners from the United States have also reported having people from Brazil and Argentina upset with them for describing themselves as Americans, and I actually remember thinking about this topic when I was in South America over Christmas.

 I covered this topic in my book 101 Troublesome Words, and today, I’m going to expand on that topic.

We, the people of the United States of America, have been calling ourselves Americans since before our country was even founded (as have others), and “American” is the only single word we have to refer to citizens of the United States of America.

This isn’t a new problem. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage says the first objection occurred in 1791 (1), and in his 1963 book, “The American Language,” H. L.

Mencken wrote, “As everyone knows, the right of Americans to be so called is frequently challenged, especially in Latin America, but so far, no plausible substitute has been devised, though many have been proposed, e.g.

, Unisians, United-statesians, [and] Columbards (2).”

Although all people of the American continents are actually Americans, most readers in the United States, Canada, and Europe assume that an American is a United States citizen since that’s how the word is most commonly used.

First we’ll look at the recommendations of some style guides published in the United States, and then we’ll look at some style guides published in other countries and see what they all have to say.


Names for United States citizens

People from the United States of America are known as and refer to themselves as Americans. Different languages use different terms for citizens of the United States, who are known in English as Americans.

All forms of English refer to US citizens as Americans, a term deriving from the United States of America, the country's official name. In the English context, it came to refer to inhabitants of British North America, and then the United States.

[1] However, there is some linguistic ambiguity over this use due to the other senses of the word American, which can also refer to people from the Americas in general.

[2] Other languages, including French, Japanese, and Russian, use cognates of American to refer to people from the United States, while others, particularly Spanish and Portuguese, primarily use terms derived from United States. There are various other local and colloquial names for Americans.

Development of the term American

See also: American (word)

Amerigo Vespucci first demonstrated that Brazil and the West Indies did not represent Asia's eastern outskirts as conjectured by Christopher Columbus, but instead constituted an entirely separate landmass hitherto unknown to the peoples of the Old World. Martin Waldseemüller coined the term America (in honor of Vespucci) in a 1507 world map.[3]

First uses of the adjective American referenced European settlements in the New World. Americans referred to the indigenous peoples of the Americas and subsequently to European settlers and their descendants.

[1] English use of the term American for people of European descent dates to the 17th century, with the earliest recorded appearance being in Thomas Gage's The English-American: A New Survey of the West Indies in 1648.

[1] In English, American came to be applied especially to people in British America and thus its use as a demonym for the United States derives by extension.[1]

The United States Declaration of Independence of 1776 refers to “the thirteen united [sic] States of America”,[4] making the first formal use of the country name, which was officially adopted in 1777 by the nation's first governing constitution, the Articles of Confederation.

[5] The Federalist Papers of 1787–1788, written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison to advocate the ratification of the United States Constitution, use the word “American” in both its original pan-American sense, but also in its United States sense: Federalist Paper 24 refers to the “American possessions” of Britain and Spain[6] (i.e.

land outside of the United States) while Federalist Papers 51[7] and 70[8] refer to the United States as “the American republic”.

People from the United States increasingly referred to themselves as Americans through the end of the 18th century and the 1795 Treaty of Peace and Amity with the Barbary States refers to “American Citizens”[9] while George Washington spoke to his people of “[t]he name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity” in his 1796 farewell address.

[10] Eventually, this usage spread through other English-speaking countries and the unqualified noun American in all forms of the English language now chiefly refers to natives or citizens of the United States, though other senses are generally specified with a qualifier such as Latin American or North American.[1]

International use

International speakers of English generally refer to people from the United States as Americans while equivalent translations of American are used in many other languages, namely French (américain), although the term états-unien derived from États-Unis (United States) in French is also accepted, Dutch (Amerikaan), Afrikaans (Amerikaner), Japanese (アメリカ人, rōmaji: amerika-jin), Filipino (Amerikano), Hebrew (אמריקאי), Arabic (أمريكي), and Russian (американец, американка).

In Spanish, many speakers use americano (male) and americana (female).

However, the Diccionario panhispánico de dudas (English: Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Doubts), published by the Royal Spanish Academy and the Association of Academies of the Spanish Language, recommends the genderless term estadounidense (literally United Statesian), because americano/a also refers to all of the inhabitants of the continents of North and South America.[11] Norteamericano and norteamericana are also common.
In Latin American Spanish colloquial speech, Americans may be referred to as gringos

Ever Wonder What Residents of a Particular Country Are Called?

Have you ever wondered what to call someone from a different country? Most people have at one point or another. The truth is, many nationality labels are formed by simply combining the full or partial name of a country with the suffix -an, -ean, -ian, or -ese. These labels are called demonyms.

The term demonym refers to the name used to describe natives or residents of a particular place. Interestingly, the first known usage of this title to label the inhabitant of a given nation was only in 1990. Before then, the word was used to denote an author's pen name. For example, Samuel Clemens' demonym was Mark Twain.

The Greek prefix dem-, meaning “the people”, is attached to terms commonly used to talk about large populations, including demographic and democracy. The form or suffix -onym is found in many words having to do with naming. Therefore, the word essentially translates to “naming the people”.

Demonyms and ethnonyms are not to be confused with each other. Ethnonym refers to people of a particular ethnic group and demonym refers to inhabitants of a particular location—these are not one and the same. Often, which term to use for a person is a matter of preference and circumstance.

Ethnicity and nationality sometimes clash. For example, when regions with several strong ethnic identities join under one nation's umbrella, ethnonyms are often preferred over demonyms as individuals might feel that they associate more with their ethnicity than their region.

Demonyms, or what do you call a person from ..

It seems like a simple question, and it's a common one too. As a geography teacher I was often asked what you called a person from a country we might have been investigating. It's not always as obvious as we'd like, and it would help if everywhere followed the same rules, but of course the English language is well known for being a little eccentric at times 🙂

For example, with most countries ending with the letter 'a' you just need to add an 'n' to the end of the country name to create the name for it's citizens. Thus a person from Angola is an Angolan, a person from Cuba is a Cuban and a person from Russia is a Russian.

But just as you get the hang of it, you discover that a person from China isn't a Chinan , but is Chinese, and people from Croatia are Croats, not Croatians.

And then, of course, there are silly confusions such as people from Malta are NOT Maltesers (a sweet) , they are Maltese, and people from Scotland are Scots, not Scotch (a strong alcoholic drink)

Geographers call the word that describes where somebody comes from a DEMONYM (pronounced demo – nim) and we tend to use them quite a lot. Listen to the news, read a paper or just chat on MSN or IRC and you will see / hear plenty of demonyms.

History students should remember though, that country names as well as ways of referring to their inhabitants have changed frequently throughout history and what we call people today ,from for example Uganda, is not what they would have been called 300 years ago when Uganda didn't even exist as a British Protectorate.

So, here's a list showing the most generally accepted demonyms in use today, arranged alphabetically by country.

Country Demonym
Afghanistan Afghan
Albania Albanian
Algeria Algerian
Andorra Andorran
Angola Angolan
Anguilla Anguillan
Antigua and Barbuda Antiguans, Barbudans
Argentina Argentine
Armenia Armenian
Australia Australian (Ozzie or Aussie)
Austria Austrian
Azerbaijan Azerbaijani – also Azeri's
The Bahamas Bahamian
Bahrain Bahraini
Bangladesh Bangladeshi
Barbados Barbadian or Bajuns
Belarus Belarusian
Belgium Belgian
Belize Belizean
Benin Beninese
Bermuda Bermudian
Bhutan Bhutanese
Bolivia Bolivian
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnian, Herzegovinian
Botswana Motswana (singular), Batswana (plural)
Brazil Brazilian
British Virgin Islands British Virgin Islander
Brunei Bruneian
Bulgaria Bulgarian
Burkina Faso Burkinabe
Burundi Burundian
Cambodia Cambodian
Cameroon Cameroonian
Canada Canadian
Cape Verde Cape Verdian or Cape Verdean
Cayman Islands Caymanian
Central African Republic Central African
Chad Chadian
Chile Chilean
China Chinese
Christmas Island Christmas Islander
Cocos Islands (Keeling Islands) Cocos Islander
Colombia Colombian
Comoros Comoran
Congo, Republic of the Congolese
Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congolese
Costa Rica Costa Rican
Cote d'Ivoire Ivorian
Croatia Croat
Cuba Cuban
Cyprus Cypriot
Czech Republic Czech
Denmark Dane
Djibouti Djibouti
Dominica Dominican
Dominican Republic Dominican
East Timor East Timorese
Ecuador Ecuadorean
Egypt Egyptian
El Salvador Salvadoran
England English => UK Demonyms
Equatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinean or Equatoguinean
Eritrea Eritrean
Estonia Estonian
Ethiopia Ethiopian
Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) Falkland Islander
Fiji Fijian
Finland Finn
France French
French Guiana French Guianese
Gabon Gabonese
The Gambia Gambian
Georgia Georgian
Germany German
Ghana Ghanaian
Gibraltar Gibraltarian, British
Greece Greek
Greenland Greenlander
Grenada Grenadian or Grenadan
Guadeloupe Guadeloupean
Guatemala Guatemalan
Guernsey Channel Islander
Guinea Guinean
Guinea-Bissau Guinea-Bissauan
Guyana Guyanese
Haiti Haitian
Honduras Honduran
Hong Kong Hong Kong Chinese, Chinese
Hungary Hungarian
Iceland Icelander
India Indian
Indonesia Indonesian
Iran Iranian
Iraq Iraqi
Ireland Irishman or Irishwoman or Irish
Isle of Man Manxman, Manxwoman, Manx
Israel Israeli
Italy Italian
Jamaica Jamaican
Japan Japanese
Jordan Jordanian
Kazakhstan Kazakhstani
Kenya Kenyan
Kiribati I-Kiribati
Korea, North North Korean
Korea, South South Korean
Kuwait Kuwaiti
Kyrgyz Republic Kyrgyz, Kyrgyzstani or Kirghiz
Laos Lao or Laotian
Latvia Latvian
Lebanon Lebanese
Lesotho Mosotho (plural Basotho)
Liberia Liberian
Libya Libyan
Liechtenstein Liechtensteiner
Lithuania Lithuanian
Luxembourg Luxembourger
Macedonia Macedonian
Madagascar Malagasy
Malawi Malawian
Malaysia Malaysian
Maldives Maldivan
Mali Malian
Malta Maltese
Marshall Islands Marshallese
Martinique Martiniquais, Martinican
Mauritania Mauritanian
Mauritius Mauritian
Mayotte Mahorais
Mexico Mexican
Federated States of Micronesia Micronesian
Moldova Moldovan
Monaco Monegasque or Monacan
Mongolia Mongolian
Montserrat Montserratian
Morocco Moroccan
Mozambique Mozambican
Myanmar (Burma) Burmese or Myanmarese
Namibia Namibian
Nauru Nauruan
Nepal Nepalese
Netherlands Netherlander or Dutch
Netherlands Antilles Dutch Antillean
New Zealand New Zealander or Kiwi
Nicaragua Nicaraguan
Niger Nigerien
Nigeria Nigerian
Norway Norwegian
Oman Omani
Pakistan Pakistani
Palau Palauan
Palestine Palestinian
Panama Panamanian
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinean
Paraguay Paraguayan
Peru Peruvian
Philippines Filipino
Poland Pole
Portugal Portuguese
Puerto Rico Puerto Rican, American
Qatar Qatari
Reunion Reunionese
Romania Romanian
Russia Russian
Rwanda Rwandan
Saint Helena Saint Helenian
Saint Kitts and Nevis Kittian and Nevisian
Saint Lucia Saint Lucian
Saint Vincent and Grenadines Saint Vincentian, Vincentian
Samoa Samoan
San Marino Sammarinese or San Marinese
Sao Tome and Principe Sao Tomean
Saudi Arabia Saudi or Saudi Arabian
Scotland Scottish (NOT Scotch) => UK Demonyms
Senegal Senegalese
Serbia and Montenegro Serbian or Montenegrin
Seychelles Seychellois
Sierra Leone Sierra Leonean
Singapore Singaporean
Slovakia Slovak
Slovenia Slovene
Solomon Islands Solomon Islander
Somalia Somali
South Africa South African
Spain Spaniard
Sri Lanka Sri Lankan
Sudan Sudanese
Suriname Surinamer
Swaziland Swazi
Sweden Swede
Switzerland Swiss
Syria Syrian
Taiwan Taiwanese
Tajikistan Tajik or Tadzhik
Tanzania Tanzanian
Thailand Thai
Togo Togolese
Tonga Tongan
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidadian or Tobagonian
Tunisia Tunisian
Turkey Turk
Turkmenistan Turkmen(s)
Tuvalu Tuvaluan
Uganda Ugandan
Ukraine Ukrainian
United Arab Emirates Emirati
United Kingdom British, Britons, (Brits)
United States American (Yanks) => USA Demonyms
Uruguay Uruguayan
Uzbekistan Uzbek or Uzbekistani
Vanuatu Ni-Vanuatu
Vatican City (Holy See) Citizen of the Holy See
Venezuela Venezuelan
Vietnam Vietnamese
Virgin Islands Virgin Islander
Wales Welsh => UK Demonyms
Yemen Yemeni or Yemenite
Zambia Zambian
Zimbabwe Zimbabwean


The word American, as both an adjective and a demonym, can be tricky. The word technically should apply to people and things both North and South American, but in practical usage it has come to refer mostly to people and things from the U.S.

American as a demonym

The United States has been accused of appropriating the term American out of conceitedness, but the issue is not so simple.

Most countries in North and South America have obvious demonyms—for example, Canadian, Mexican, Honduran, Brazilian, Chilean—but for natives of the United States there is no obvious equivalent that rolls off the tongue. United Statesian doesn’t work.

So while the appropriation might be unfair to other people of the Western Hemisphere, it’s also a matter of convenience.

Although the use of American to describe U.S. natives may seem illogical, it is widespread and well-established and probably isn’t going to change. These non-U.S. news outlets seem to have no qualms about using it:

An American who sold his construction business and travelled to Haiti to help earthquake victims has been arrested over allegations that he kidnapped an infant. [Guardian]

The people who need to get paranoid are those U.S. diplomats who failed to realize that an American was stoking the anti-Americanism of The Border. [The Globe and Mail]

These are just two examples among many.

Where many people who care about these things draw the line is in the use of America instead of the United States in naming the country, as in this example:

Former US President Jimmy Carter says America is ready to elect a gay president. [The Economic Times]

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