One can refer to an American Indian as a Native American, but I cannot come up with an unambiguous term for an Indian from the Indian subcontinent. How can I refer to someone who is from the country of India, preferably without having to say "from the country of India"?

Ambiguous example:

My roommate is Indian.

marked as duplicate by tchrist, FumbleFingers, Hellion, user66974, Andrew Leach Jul 15 '14 at 6:40

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  • Or am I overthinking this? – Yos233 Jul 15 '14 at 2:53
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    You can shorten "from the country of India" to "from India" without ambiguity. – Qaz Jul 15 '14 at 3:09
  • You simply say that your roommate is from “India”, because people from the “country” of “India” are just that. As are American Indians, whom you’ve just disparaged away with your scare quotes. – tchrist Jul 15 '14 at 3:13
  • My bad. I found an exact question that I did not see after a search on both Google and SE. Sorry to waste everyone's time. – Yos233 Jul 15 '14 at 3:18
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    It's okay. I'm from India. Indians are patient, and happily tolerant. – vickyace Jul 15 '14 at 3:34

You can say 'an Indian national' if you want to refer to a citizen of India. This also excludes those who were originally Indian but are now citizens of other countries, but this case you can use hyphenated labels (British Indian, Canadian Indian, Indian Australian, etc).

I noticed though that you mentioned the Indian subcontinent. 'Indian national' is clearly not appropriate for a Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, etc. The easiest label here is 'South Asian'.

  • That is what I was looking for. Thank you. (PS, I did not type the subcontinent bit, that was edited in, but thanks for answering that as well) – Yos233 Jul 15 '14 at 19:51

Call him "Hindustani". India is also known as "Hindustan" and people residing there called Hindustani. This word is not very popular but downright correct for people who are from India.


Unless the indigenous people of the U.S. have formed some attachment to the misidentification foisted upon them by the earliest European visitors, the term American Indian ought to be replaced by something to indicate their prior status as sole owners and inhabitants of the turf that comprises the U.S. Autochthon (n), autochthonous (adj), aborigine (n) and aboriginal (adj) spring to my mind. Immigrants from India are making such a big splash in the U.S. -- in academia, in scientific and medical pursuits and in business -- that when I hear the demonym Indian, my mind registers South Asian subcontinent. With a billion people, that's the way it ought to be. The bare word Indian ought to evoke South Asia.

  • Both aborigine and autochthone imply that the group is not immigrant at all, rather than being early immigrants as with Amerindians. This is probably why the former term is only actually used of Australian Aborigines, who appear to be the only autochthonous group on the planet. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Jul 15 '14 at 9:32

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