The word “gentile” is used as a noun to refer to the inhabitants of a certain region or country. This means that, for example, a person born in Mexico is Mexican; a person resident of London is a Londoner; an inhabitant of Argentina is an Argentine and so on. All this will depend on the etymology used in the region and, from there, infinite demonyms arise according to the cultural and ethnic integrity of the place.

What is a gentile

The etymology of this word comes from the Latin word “gentilitus”; whose prefix “gens” or “gentis” means “tribe” or “family” and the suffix “itus” relates to “belonging” or “relationship”. In this sense, its name indicates the origin of an individual with respect to the place where it comes from.

When it is said that it is a gentile, mention is made of a person who comes from a certain geographical place or who lives in it. This is called gentile adjectives. On the other hand, nouns refer to the person or thing from a place, being able to substitute their name only for the term.

These gentile adjectives and the gentile nouns are generally derived from the name of the place of origin of a person, be it their country, state, city, province or town. In another sense, in the same way they are also used to name a person who follows or belongs to some institution, some political party, lineage or family.

No matter how much a person changes their place of residence, they will not cease to be originally from where they came from; that is why the gentilicio is an unbreakable condition of the human being, of vital importance for society and that denotes the culture of each person.

Functions of the gentiles

Its function is based on giving people an adjective that identifies them with the place from which they come or are born, in this way, people can refer to the rest according to their place of origin and not their first names, for example , when someone refers to the people who celebrate the day of the dead, they talk about Mexicans, they can also talk about the women who have the most figures in the miss universe and it is known that they talk about Venezuelans, etc. At this point it is important to think, how could a specific group of people be referred to if the adjectives did not exist?

What would people born in Antigua and Barbuda be called? If you analyze it in depth, everything would be more difficult, especially in these times when migration has increased considerably.

The ethnic concept is fundamental, important to mark the roots of people, for example, the name of Antigua and Barbuda is Antiguan, the name of Denmark is Danish, etc. From there, the importance in the function and application of these adjectives is born.

How to build a gentile


For the composition of each of them, a large part of the name of the place of origin is usually taken (which in this case would be the eponym) and, sometimes, the entire word. A clear example of the last case is the representation of a person from Colombia, since the one corresponding to the inhabitants of this country is “Colombian”; As can be seen, all the letters of the country’s name were used to form the gentile.

However, there are authors who assure that there are no defined rules for the creation of demonyms, although they suggest (as already mentioned) that the root (also called lexeme) and the suffix (also called morpheme) be taken. There will be some cases where more than one morpheme applies; for example, with the inhabitants of the city of Quito, whose original name could be “quiteño” or “quitense”, both terms being correct.

According to the number that exist, their construction rules can be summarized in:

  • When nouns end in a vowel, the morpheme -ano or -ino must be used to form their adjective.
  • When it ends in -land, -landia or -landa, the morpheme -és or -esa is added (special case Denmark).
  • When it ends in a consonant, such as “d”, “l” or “n”, the morpheme -í is usually added, although it can take the morpheme -eño or -ero.
  • When it ends in -on, -ord or -polis, its morpheme will be -ian.

examples of gentiles

The list can become quite long, even more so when talking about the demonyms of Mexico, a country that has many, for example, the demonym of Aguascalientes or the demonym of Jalisco, however, it will be reflected in this aspect in a way that can be fully understood according to the culture and locality of the people.

But there are also some rules that are not applicable to all types of demonyms, cases in which they cannot be anticipated based on their toponym. A particular case is that of equal place names but their demonyms are different (case of Cuenca, Spain, whose demonym is Cuenca; and Cuenca, Ecuador, whose ethnic name is Cuencano).

In some cases the morphemes are linked to some geographical area. In the case of the morphemes –eco and –eca, they are related mostly from Central America, for example, Zacateco and Zacateca, Guatemalan and Guatemalan.

Another case is the morpheme -í, which is used for Asians and North Africans, such as: Somali, Saudi, Iraqi.

The name of India is Indian and India, and tends to generate confusion, since there are those who believe that it is “Hindu”, when in fact this is the way in which those who profess the religion of Hinduism are called.

Lastly, there are those that are not topographical, which correspond to a group that has no relation to their toponymy and that are not official, although their use is common among the inhabitants of said geographic space. An example is the case of Castillejo de Azaba, Salamanca in Spain, which have the adjective of foxes, since in that geographical area there are many of these canids.

demonyms in English

Here is a list of examples of demonyms in English:

  • Antiguans and Barbudans. From Antigua and Barbuda.
  • Danish or Danish. Coming from Denmark.
  • Belarusian. From Belarus.
  • Cape Verdean or Cape Verdean. From Cape Verde.
  • Ecuadorean. From Ecuador.
  • Greek. From Greece.
  • Haitian. From Haiti.
  • Jamaican. From jamaica.
  • Mexican. From Mexico.
  • Netherlander, Dutchman/woman, Hollander, Dutch. From Holland.
  • Peruvian. From Peru.
  • Qatari. from Qatar.
  • Spaniard or Spanish. From Spain.
  • Turkish or Turkish. From Turkey.
  • Emirian. From the United Arab Emirates.
  • Vietnamese. From Viet Nam.
  • Zimbabwean. From Zimbabwe.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gentilicio

What is gentile?

It is a terminology used to refer to people according to their place of birth.

What are the gentiles for?

To refer to the place where people were born, a country, region, etc. can be applied here.

What is a gentile adjective?

It is the one that denotes the geographical origin of a person, beginning the word with the first letters of the place or country where he was born, Colombian example.

What are gentile nouns?

Basically the same function as adjectives, is to denote the place of birth of a subject.

How are gentiles formed?

With adjectives, nouns and suffixes.