I know a handful of cities whose denizens can be called "city+er", e.g. Londoner. But is this construction still in active use today and can new demonyms be formed by it?

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    Sort of productive, like most derivational affixes. It's one of many such with the same function. Chicago-an, Angele-no, Seattle-ite, Toronto-nian, ... the list goes on. Sep 19, 2020 at 18:25
  • Would you say that from the definition of productive productivity is gradeable? And how do we know when a candidate becomes part of the Lexis? I wouldn't be too happy with Corker, Yorker or Ouagadougouer. Boringer? Happier? Sep 19, 2020 at 18:56
  • @john these are clearly all productive. My question is specifically about "er" because that's our German one. Sep 20, 2020 at 2:50
  • @Edwin that's exactly the question. Is it at all conceivable that -er would be used with a place name it hasn't been used with before? Sep 20, 2020 at 2:58
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    If there's an established alternative, like Mancunian, Aberdonian, Armachian, Belfast/Belfastian, Brummie, Rocquevillois, Rotter (!) ... an alternative using -er will always be very unlikely to become acceptable. Some -er denonyms are established, like Zuricher, Whitehorser, Stockholmer, Yellowknifer, Tallinner, Phoenixer (or Phoenician) ... (there are lists). But D-I-Y candidates are likely to be unacceptable and may even offend. Sep 20, 2020 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


Sure. It is perfectly productive, with the fine print indicated in John Lawler's comment, i.e., limited applicability: not every place name will sit happily with the -er suffix. Many will, however; treat yourself to some unexpected examples in this list .

But I have not yet quite proved my thesis. A nice evidence of productiveness of the suffix in English is its applicability to fictional place names. Thus we have a Bucklander (example), a Hogsmeader (example), an Ankh-Morporker (example), etc.

  • '[P]erfectly productive, with the fine print indicated in John Lawler's comment, i.e., limited applicability' is a contradiction in terms (not an oxymoron). It has limited productivity, and from research, 'very limited' is possibly warranted. Sep 20, 2020 at 14:16
  • @EdwinAshworth "productive" does not mean that one can affix it just anywhere. It merely means that new words are regularly produced via that route and implicitly adopted by speakers. This is the case here, "-er" is a perfect example of a productive suffix (even if not unviersally applicable).
    – anemone
    Sep 20, 2020 at 17:41
  • 'It is perfectly clear' means it is completely clear. I was not challenging 'productive' but 'perfectly productive'. // The debate over whether 'productive' is gradeable (and various authorities were cited using the term this way, while none, if memory serves me right, were cited decrying this usage) has already been addressed on ELU. Sep 20, 2020 at 17:59
  • @EdwinAshworth Even if an adjective is gradable, modifying it with "perfectly" does not imply that the top grade has been achieved. A "perfectly acceptable answer" does not mean that there is no better, .i.e., more acceptable answer. It merely means that it has passed a threshhold set by the speaker.
    – anemone
    Sep 20, 2020 at 18:13
  • 'English has relatively little inflectional morphology, but fairly rich (if not perfectly productive) derivational morphology.' [University of Washington: Introduction to Computational Linguistics 4/9 Morphology...] shows the way the descriptor is used in morphology. Perfectly = completely. Sep 20, 2020 at 18:42

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