I read this in an article in NYT. I tried searching Google, and also looked through a number of dictionaries, but no help. Any one can help?

closed as off-topic by Mari-Lou A, AmE speaker, Davo, jimm101, MetaEd Oct 31 '17 at 16:39

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  • It simply means someone or something that lives in a swamp or is natural to a swamp or calls a swamp home. It is currently a very popular insult for one swamp creature to hurl at another. – Sven Yargs Oct 31 '17 at 7:41
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    I can't believe there are many dictionaries that do not define denizen and swamp. What is unclear about the definitions you found for those words? – oerkelens Oct 31 '17 at 7:47
  • Metaphorically, it's a pejorative along the lines of 'heathen' in its informal sense, 'yokel' and 'bumpkin'. Probably prone to mud-slinging. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 31 '17 at 10:20
  • I'd ask Mods to keep this open, 'denizen' has more meanings than purely 'resident' and understanding that there is a reference to a particular swamp adds complexity to an apparent 'dictionary' question. I've never made substantial edits to a questions before, but if people think there is benefit to adding the likely source quotation (as per my answer) I'm happy to do that if it improves the question. – Spagirl Oct 31 '17 at 14:57
  • @Spagirl I'd ask the OP to edit his or her question to include what article he/she was reading. Or at least confirm it was the one you talk about. (This is an example of one reason why I almost always ask OPs to provide a source.) – AmE speaker Oct 31 '17 at 15:07

As people have explained, denizen and swamp are both easy to look up. You have not supplied a quote to give the context of the phrase's use but I'd assume this is it:

Mr. Manafort, in other words, embodies the sort of amoral, self-dealing denizen of the swamp that Mr. Trump pledged to drain when he got to Washington.

and therefore it is not be read as literally referring to a person who lives in a boggy place.

President Trump promised to 'drain the swamp', in doing so he is part of a long continuum of American politicians to use the phrase to refer to either excessive bureaucracy or to corruption within the federal government in Washington.

The origins of the phrase are a metaphorical reference to the belief that Washington is built on a swamp and is hence an unhealthy environment. This source clarifies that the physical swampiness has been much overstated.

Within the original city’s boundaries (the area south of Florida Avenue), only about 2 percent of the total area fits the definition of a swamp. It was almost entirely laid out over well-drained terraces and hills. In fact, for a riverside site, it was amazingly free of swampiness.

The meaning, in context, of the phrase being that Manafort is the kind of person the president promised to rid Washington of but has instead introduced there.

In this context this particular definition of 'denizen' from the OED (subscriber access only) becomes the most apposite, though whether that was the intention of the author it is difficult to be sure:

In Natural Hist., A plant or animal believed to have been originally introduced by human agency into a country or district, but which now maintains itself there as if native, without the direct aid of man; cf. colonist n. 2.

  • I reside 20 miles from D.C. It was not built on a swamp at all. It was built on a dry riverbank. The land is rolling hills. "Capital Hill" is an actual hill. But there is nor was ever a swamp. See Smithsonian. – AmE speaker Oct 31 '17 at 15:21
  • It's unclear to what definition of what word you're linking to in the OED. I have my online OED open but even in my case your link goes to the OED's Welcome Page. – AmE speaker Oct 31 '17 at 15:28
  • @clare ?? I didn't say it was built on a swamp. I included a source which says 'It was almost entirely laid out over well-drained terraces and hills' specifically to emphasise that I knew it wasn't built on a swamp despite it being a common belief. The OED definition is quoted after the colon. The link opens for me when logged in through my Library membership, if you are able to give a link which will open for people with other login types, do please feel free to edit it in, but the reason I C&Ped definition 2.c. is because many people don't have a subscriber login. – Spagirl Oct 31 '17 at 15:50
  • I've tried another browser and the link to the Post article works. It didn't load on my phones browser. Sorry I was kind of amazed/ dismayed that anyone would think the city was built in a swamp! As for OED what word you are giving the definition for? It's not clear to me.... – AmE speaker Oct 31 '17 at 16:05
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    @Clare Gotcha, hopefully all clear now. – Spagirl Oct 31 '17 at 16:08

'Denizen', according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, means "Habitue" or say, one who resides at a specific place. So, 'Denizen of the swamp' can be used for someone that resides in a swampy place.

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