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A Demonym for the unted states.


Sometime ago I got into an argument about whether citizens of the united states should be called "Americans" in an exclusive way, denying the fact that there are many orther countries in the same continent and the peoples of those countries, having been born in the same continent, have the right to be called Americans also. During the argument, Alan, a user of this website, asked me, if citizen of the united states are not to be called Americans, what should they be called. I was advocating for the right of citizens of other American countries to be called Americans, but I am not in the business of creating demonyms. He insisted quite a few times, so I agreed to take a few days to look for infomation so I could offer options so as to avoid using the term "American" as if that designated a nationality when it actually refers to a continent, much as if a German said "I am European" and expect everybody else to assume that he is from Germany, not any other country in Europe.

I must make it clear that I am writing this to comply with Alan's request. I have no real intention of persuading anyone to actually start using any of these terms to refer to people from the united states. If any reader feels offended by this, I hope they will excuse me. I believe that humans have as much right to claim a land "their" as ants have to claim a tree theirs just because they live in it. To me names of places and demonyms are a useful reference, pride over being called Chilean, Autralian or Chinese is as meaningless to me as it would be to a Polar bear being called "Polar".

Having said that...

The first problem that I faced when trying to find a name for citizens of the united states of America is that any other united states that has existed in the past was a "United States of" and the name of a given territory that they actually dominated. For example "United States of Colombia" and "United States of Indonesia", both demonyms were easy because both united states dominated the entirety of the Colombian and Indonesian territories respectively. The united states of America does not cover the entirety of America, not even the northern part of the continent which it shares with Mexico and Canada, the latter being the largest country on the continent.

The united states of America is currently the only united states in the world, if we take the example of the United Arab Emirates, its demonym is Emirati (from the word "Emirate"). We could then assume that the word "state" could be used to derive the word "Stati".

Since the united states of America is part of America, the term "united states American" would seem legitimamte. But this would also seem senseless if we start using the terms "Japanese Asian" or "South Korean Asian".

Some domonyms are not linked to the name of the country they represent; a person from the Netherlands is called a Dutch. So, we could think of two different approaches here, 1) use a word that would identify them as a group, or 2) we could use the name of part of their territory. If the former, the History of the united states started when pilgrims travelled from England to the newly discovered continent ("discovered" from the European point of view, since Asians and Viking had long before known about it), a distincitive name would then be "Pilgrims", since it would honour their history and it would properly identify them as a group descending from this people. If we take the latter (the territorial approach) we have to look for the name of a territory that would be exclusively under the control of the united states. Argentina owes its name to "El Río de la Plata" (The Silver River) since "silver" in Latin is "argentus", and though this river runs through a minor part of its territory, this name is used to identify all its inhabitants. I do not know much about the geography of the united states, so I do not have any suggestions here. You can comment on options that may seem proper to you.

Many of the new countries formed in American took their names according what the natives called those territories. So any of the names of those tribes or lands could be used; Cherokee, Shawnee, Choctaw, et cetera.

If we look at Europe continuing its process of unification, it will eventually become one big territory with many countries in it. It is very likely that inhabitants will continue to call themselves according to the countries they come from. It seems very logical to me that the inhabitants of the united states of America would call themselves according to the state they come from, id est, Alabamian, Californian, Marylander and so on.



Mario, after reading the Rio de la Plata's part, Mississippi immediately comes in mind:)

And there exist 'Yankee'.... alas, not all of the Americans seem to agree to be called this way, especially Southerners:)

If I took it seriously (i don't:)), i'd say i'm tired of being serious about demonyms) Americans (i.e. US citizens) are free to call themselves as they like in their language, and English speaking Chileans are free as well.

You, probably, know as many crazy examples of this as I do. They rename Bushmen into Sun, then they find that Sun if un-friendly exonym itself etc.
Some people in Russia argue, that we should stop calling black people 'негры' (negros) in Russian because it... no, not exactly it, just a similal word is derogatory in American English. But we have no racism in USSR....

Turkey (Ottomans) officially used  Greek Constantinopolis , Arab<Greek Konstantiniyye and mutated Greek Istanbul.
Then they dicided that it's Istanbul and forced other natins to use it, with their post ceasing to deliver letters to Constantinople in 1930.

When Ukraine had gained its indepedence, they decided that 'на Украине/на Украину' doesn't fit to an independent country in Russian (that's not true...) and we should say 'в Украине' instead.
The Belarus decided that its name 'Belorussia' used in Russia before and today dimimishes it.

Nobody knows why:/

correction: we had no racism in USSR. Now we have it, but it's Russian racism, not American:)
Anyway, it's Russian, just the root was Spanish.

PS yes, you made your intention clear enough. I just see no chances for this thread to be free from the discussion on the problem in general:)

I liked Stati. it sounds pretty))

In Spanish Americans are called "estadounidenses" , so... united-statians?

"It seems very logical to me that the inhabitants of the united states of America would call themselves according to the state they come"
Mario, I wouldn't say it's logical, obviously logical would be that only they could decide how to call themselves. May be you've been a bit more sarcastic here, but anyway I absolutely agree with you, that you have the same right to call yourself "american" in whatever language you want. With all respect to what have been said in one recent discussion, the names (of the countries, continents, people etc.) are not (and can not be) designated by a linguistic rule.


K.P... You are right, people from the united states may call themselves whatever they want, I have the right to state that it is a mistake, they may choose to continue making the same mistake.


Irina... you are right... I like that one too :)


Georgi... Not at all, I had no intention of being sarcastic. I wrote it in a serious response to the request made by a citizen of the united states (a Stati, for Irina), I had no intention of being sarcastic to anyone. Though demonyms are of little importance to me, I would not like to offend anyone who takes pride in his or hers. For me, it is not so "logical" that people may call themselve what they choose if that implies denying the right of others to be called in a certain way that they are rightfully entitled to.

A couple little points. You actually have a point about using the name of the state Mario. The problem is that the top ten biggest states in the US only make up about half of the population and I doubt that most people from outside the US could name more than a handful of states. I tend to either say that I'm from "Texas" or "the U.S." when speaking in English and when I say I'm from Texas I often get some interesting responses, both good and bad. Using the state name obviously has it restraints though and although Texas is the second biggest state and most people have at least heard of it, I still meet some people that haven't. I can only imagine what it would be like for the smallest 40 or so states. 


As to what KP said about the term Yankee (or Yanki in Spanish). He's right, most Americans and Southerners in particular don't like the term. It's not technically offensive, but it's anachronistic and inaccurate to begin with and nowadays is often used by the Chavistas or similar groups in a derisive manner. I have literally had someone yell at me "yanki afuera" once when I was in Latin America. The guy startled the hell out of me too because he did it while jogging past me. Ultimately, I'd rather be called a gringo than a yankee. 

Georgi, I'm not going to discuss what is logical (as a wanna-be mathematician:)) but i'd say it'd look consistently in a sense.
The US insists in its very name that it is union of States. Also the states it consists of consistently prefer to chose unique old-fashined names - no abbreviations, no common (improper) descriptions. California, Massachusetts...

The very problem arises from here - the name of the US isn't a 'name' with the tradition of European languages.
THe proper analogy here is UK - and *'united kingdomers', i.e. British, English, Englishmen, Scottish/Scots/Scotsmen, Irish etc.


And in Uruguay we use Río de la Plata to mean Uruguay and Argentina.  





Mike, the fact that few people know about many of the states of your country does not seem to be an obstacle, if that is the case, people from Lichstenstein would have to call themselves Europeans.


As for your second paragraph... should I assume that you are using the term "American" to refer to people from the united states? I am a Southerner in America too.


As for the term "Yankee" (I forgot to refer to it), I would not use it because it may be offensive to some, even though, as you have stated it is not incorrect the fact that it may be offensive for some makes me stop from using it, not because I would be making a mistake but because I would not want to offend anyone. I wish people from the united states did the same, it is not a mistake to call them "Americans" they are in America, but using the term as an exclusive reference, is 1) inaccurate and 2) offensive for many.


Sonia, my apoligies, I did not know that.

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