A friend of mine told me English demonyms, words that identify people from a particular place (Roman, Japanese, Dutch etc.), largely depend upon the historical period in which the term originates. However, looking at the list on wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demonym), it's difficult for me to see a specific historical pattern. Is there anyone here who knows anything about how history has influenced the use of English demonyms? Can we associate a particular demonym with a certain time in history?

Sorry for the vague question. Any insight would be appreciated ^^


Your friend sounds like one who was once described by Josh Billings:

"It ain't ignorance causes so much trouble; it's folks knowing so much that ain't so."

While it may be argued that demonyms reflect the time, place and culture of the people who coined them, most such words have been formed by tacking a suffix, whose origin is typically Greek or Roman (imported by way of French, Italian, or something else.)

Browse for yourself at

Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 12 Apr. 2016. Dictionary.com

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