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Are there any rules governing what we call people from different countries?

I have some confusion regarding usage of suffixes such as -ites / -ians / -ish.

For example:

I have seen some people using the words Kerelite and Mumbaites for people from Kerela (a state) and Mumbai (a city).

Other examples:

  • Indians (where India is a country)

  • Spanish (Where Spain is again a country)

  • American

  • Pakistani

  • Chinese

  • Welsh

  • New Yorker

So on what basis do we decide what suffixes should be used, or is it very dependent on mood or environment?

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marked as duplicate by ShreevatsaR, Mr. Shiny and New 安宇, aedia λ, simchona, kiamlaluno Oct 27 '11 at 16:02

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Your link doesn't give any answer for usage of -ites – linuxeasy Oct 27 '11 at 13:56
You also forgot -er, as in New Yorker. – Peter Shor Oct 27 '11 at 14:25
Don't forget -elsh, as in Welsh, -ine as in Florentine, -e(n)o as in * Los Angeleno* and Filipino, -ene as in Damascene, -ensian as in Hullensian, -ard as in Spaniard, -ic as in Hispanic, iot(e) as in Cypriot and Phanariote, -asque as in Monégasque, -gian as in Glaswegian, -onian as in Dundonian and -vian as in Krakovian. By the way, these are all demonyms, "a name for a resident of a locality". – Hugo Oct 27 '11 at 14:35
Thanks for your valuable comments, by adding things in the list, it will help some find for such suffixes at one place. – linuxeasy Oct 27 '11 at 14:40
@linuxeasy Because you basically have to learn each one, rather than us mimicking Wikipedia, you're best off checking the Wikipedia demonym page each time you're unsure. We don't want this site to become a Wikipedia mirror. – Hugo Oct 27 '11 at 14:49

It’s not a matter of mood or environment, since you can’t change these endings at will. Foreign learners have to learn each one as they encounter them. Whether a citizen of a country and the adjective derived from the countrty's name end in –ish or –(i)an (or something else) may be largely a matter of historical accident. It may be relevant that the –ish suffix has a Germanic origin, the –(i)an one a Latin one.

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