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I wish to write about the people and language of a city I recently visited in an essay. Is there a word for people who are local to a place?

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I'd go with "locals":

Collins:

  1. an inhabitant of a specified locality
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    Or, depending on your opinion of them, "local yokels". – Hot Licks Jan 15 '15 at 19:30
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    Though slightly more formal would be "residents" or "inhabitants" or, perhaps, "denizens". – Hot Licks Jan 15 '15 at 19:33
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    A little fancier is "habitués". – Hot Licks Jan 15 '15 at 19:34
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    It should be noted, since the title specifies a formal word, that locals is in no way formal. It is perfectly bog-standard, middle-of-the-road register, neither limited to nor inappropriate in neither colloquial nor formal contexts. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 15 '15 at 21:15
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Native

A person born in a specified place or associated with a place by birth, whether subsequently resident there or not: a native of Montreal

Source: oxforddictionaries.com

It depends whether you are referring to the people who live there now, who may not have been born there, or whether you are referring in a more particular way to, for example, the customs, language and culture of Montreal.

  • But those wouldn't necessarily be the people OP has met there...? – Stephie Jan 15 '15 at 19:28
  • @Stephie Yes, I've added an edit. Locals is good. – Mynamite Jan 15 '15 at 19:31
  • Thank you for the prompt help, but I think locals suits works well in my context. – user1071840 Jan 15 '15 at 19:31
  • Wrong word. I'm not a native of the city I live in. – Jim Balter Jan 16 '15 at 6:54
  • A local is not necessarily born there, hence not a native. The other problem with that word, especially when dealing with Northern America, is that native might be associated with "native American" which could confuse things. See also the answer by Martin Krzywinski. His "indigenous" has the same issue. – Tonny Jan 16 '15 at 15:25
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Denizens. This is the most common term I know for the meaning desired.

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    @AE: No problem -- I'll remove my comment as well. – Charles Jan 16 '15 at 20:13
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People or things occurring naturally in a particular place are indigenous. For some readers this word may connote First Nations.

If you're fond of big words, autochthonous is a synonym for indigenous.

Often for diseases or animals the word used is endemic.

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    And if you’re looking for a noun, rather than an adjective, people who are local to a certain place can be called indigenes. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 15 '15 at 21:18
  • We have a lot of local plants that aren't indigenous. Same goes for people. – Jim Balter Jan 16 '15 at 6:55
  • 'First Nations' seems to be a term used by people who are embarrassed to say aborigine. – Dominic Cronin Jan 16 '15 at 15:25
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There are multiple ways to refer to the locals of an area. Depending on the type of paper you're writing you may want something less colloquial that "locals" and more scholarly. Things to keep in mind while choosing the best noun would be things like, "are these people native/indigenous to the region?"

Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that these people may have an accepted designation that they generally choose to go by (e.g. people from Phoenix are Phoenicians).

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    +1 for Phoenicians. Londoners, Berliners, New Yorkers, Durbanites, Florentines, Torontonians, St. Louisans... most cities have one. – Nathan MacInnes Jan 16 '15 at 11:56
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    The name for the designation that people go by (Londoners, Phoenicians, etc.) is demonym. – shoover Jan 16 '15 at 18:10

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