Demonyms find their place in our lexicon and across the country

As Halloween looms, we might think this word describes goblins, fiends and other hellions. Not so. It refers to Hoosiers and Yoopers and Yanks (oh, my!)—people hailing from particular locales.

Ragan Insider Premium Content
Demonyms

You don’t have to wait until Halloween to spot demonyms.

The word doesn’t mean small devils. It’s the term for words that describe people from a particular place.

For example, what do you call people from Indiana? Well, if you live with an Indiana native, as I do, you learn that you call them Hoosiers, because that’s how people from South Bend to New Albany label themselves. (More on that curious preference later.)

Most demonyms in the English language have obvious constructions. Depending on how the place name ends—either with a vowel or a consonant—you can usually add an “n” (AlaskanNebraskan) or an “ian” (MichiganianWashingtonian).

Yet there are numerous variations and inconsistencies that preclude an absolute rule. For example, an Orlandoan (an Orlando resident) is not a Floridan but a Floridian, and someone from Baltimore (Baltimorean) is a Marylander, not a Marylandian.

What’s the demonym for Massachusetts residents? Massachusettsan? Massachusettsian? Massachusite?

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.