When America becomes American, and Earth becomes Earthling, a suffix has been used. Is this slang or are there standard rules for this type of suffix? Most often I see/hear -ite, -an, -van or -er. I'm not a linguist. I write sci-fy and care about word abuse. Please be gentle.

  • There are some rules, but they are not always applicable . For example, -ese is used for Japanese/Chinese/Taiwanese because their country names end with "n/na", and "-n" is used for Korean/Indian because they end with "a" like "American/Californian/Macedonian". But "Italian" is different as its country name is Italy in English and "Spanish" is not called "Spanese". They should be learned on a case-by-case basis.
    – user140086
    Oct 10 '15 at 16:59
  • 1
    There is no "standard", though "-an" or "-ian" or "-ite" (with an occasional "-er") works most of the time when naming the inhabitants of US cities and states.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 10 '15 at 20:44
  • English also uses the Spanish language suffixes -ano, -eno, -ino, and the semitic language -i (Iraqi, etc). Some UK cities to have versions based on their earlier Latin names, e.g. Mancunian (Manchester), Novocastrian, (Newcastle), or drop a syllable - Glaswegian not Glasgowegian. And "-pool" becomes "-pudlian" (Liverpool, Hartlepool)
    – alephzero
    Oct 10 '15 at 22:54

There are not standard rules in the sense that you can predict what suffix will be added, but when a suffix has been added, it will almost always be standard, in the sense that there are other words using this same suffix. We use models in creating new derived forms. There seems to be some tendency to match up the source of the word and the suffix: earthling and venusian/terran, but not earthian or venusling.

  • I'm shocked that there isn't some kind of standard, even something unused, like the oh-so-helpful "I before e" rule. Another case of the American Dialect rummaging in the pockets of other Languages looking for spare change. I have a dozen alien races to name so I guess I'm collecting suffixes. Thank you for the responses. They were much more helpful than the advice I received from Facebook.
    – Danae W
    Oct 15 '15 at 12:27

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