Demonyms do not always clearly distinguish place of origin or ethnicity from place of residence or citizenship, and many demonyms overlap with the ethnonym for the ethnically dominant group of a 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 Briton or, informally, a Brit. In some languages, a demonym may be borrowed from another language as a nickname or descriptive adjective for a group of people: for example, "Québécois(e)" is commonly used in English for a native of Quebec (though "Quebecker" is also available).
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 commonly uses national demonyms such as "Ethiopian" or "Guatemalan", while the usage of local demonyms such as "Chicagoan", "Okie", or "Parisian", is rare. Many local demonyms are rarely used and many places, especially smaller towns and cities, lack a commonly used and accepted demonym altogether.
The word gentilic comes from the Latingentilis ("of a clan, or gens") and the English suffix -ic. The word demonym was derived from the Greek word meaning "populace" (, 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. The word did 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. However, in What Do You Call a Person From...? A Dictionary of Resident Names (the first edition of Labels for Locals) Dickson 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 Atheniancitizen according to the deme to which the citizen belongs, with its first use traced to 1893.
List of adjectival and demonymic forms for countries and nations
"-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.
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:
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.[example needed]
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 or Atlantean for Plato's island Atlantis.
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).
^Prior to the Massachusetts State Legislature designating "Bay Stater" as the state's official demonym, other terms used included Massachusett, borrowed from the native Massachusett tribe, Massachusite, championed by the early English Brahmins, Massachusettsian, by analogy with other state demonyms, and Masshole, originally derogatory.