A nice quizlet from Avva: the inhabitants of 49 states can be called by the name of the state plus -(a)n (Alaskan), -er (Mainer), or -ite (Wyomingite); which state is least likely to be suffixed, so that a state nickname is almost always used instead? Answer at this useful list of names of state residents.

(Competing forms in -an occur, but one gets 27 Google hits and the other only six separate ones, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard or seen either.)


  1. Indiana people are always called Hoosiers.
    And Michigan people are not called Michiganers

  2. Residents of Hawai‘i cannot be called Hawaiians unless their ancestry goes back to precontact Hawai‘i. What matters is ethnicity, not residency.

  3. Ohioans are “Buckeyes.” Buckin’ eye!

  4. Joel: Native Hawaiians might prefer it if that were the case, but in fact everyone (outside of Hawaii) calls people from Hawaii Hawaiians regardless of ethnicity.

  5. Michigander, yes. Michiganian, yes. Michiganite, never.

  6. I’m guessing the answer to the mini-quiz is “Hoosier”; however, like the word “yankee,” the precise connotation of Hoosier varies with time and distance. I lived in Indiana for the better part of my youth, but was not considered a Hoosier because I was not born there. Natives of southern Indiana, especially in the hill country, are “real” Hoosiers, in that they have a separate culture and dialect (about midway between Appalachian and Ozarkian, appropriately). There’s an essay by, IIRC, Emerson that refers to all white/Anglo folks beyond the Appalachians as Hoosiers, although that connotation has disappeared.
    Further complicating things, a “Hoosier” can specifically be an athlete, student, alumnus, or supporter of Indiana University, as opposed to a Boilermaker or a Bulldog. So you might not hear “Hoosier” as often around, say, West Lafayette.
    There are lots of bad folk etymologies that don’t pass even a casual sniff test, let alone a good deep smell test.
    There was an article in Indiana Alumni some years ago about an IU-based linguist who was studying dying rural dialects in England. Apparently, he found a valley where the word “hills” was pronounced roughly “hoose,” and the residents refered to people in the surrounding hill country as “hillsers,” pronounced as you might guess. But, he said, he was researching other things at the time, and etymology isn’t his thing, and to my knowledge no etymologist has followed up on this.
    A question for the linguists: What does it take for an etymology to become accepted, particularly if the word has been listed for decades as “[origin unknown]”?
    “Indianan” is still used in formal documents, and I’ve seen it in newspapers on occasion. Contrary to the linked website, I have never, ever heard of “Indianian.”
    Citizens of Indianapolis are Indianapolitans, which I quite like.

  7. Howard! Welcome back — how was the gig?
    What does it take for an etymology to become accepted, particularly if the word has been listed for decades as “[origin unknown]”?
    A hell of a lot. You’d have to uncover new evidence or come up with an explanation so cogent it would persuade squadrons of hardened old etymologists. The best you’re likely to get is a “perhaps” in the next edition.
    Citizens of Indianapolis are Indianapolitans, which I quite like.
    Me too!
    As for the quiz, the answer per the linked list is Massachusetts, for which the only given term is “Bay Staters.”

  8. TheloniousZen says

    Never, ever, Michiganite. Most out-of-staters say “Michiganian” and most in-staters say “Michigander”. I can’t ever hear that without thinking of geese.
    Is there a list of these for the countries of the world as well? It struck me odd the way that “Kosovar” was pretty much invented by the news media a few years ago.

  9. I notice the list gives Florida as Floridians and Floridans, but someone born in Florida is called a “Cracker”

  10. LH: “Native Hawaiians might prefer it if that were the case, but in fact everyone (outside of Hawaii) calls people from Hawaii Hawaiians regardless of ethnicity.”
    But only an FOB (fresh-off-the-boat) malihini or out-of-stater calls state residents ‘Hawaiian’ without regard to ethnicity. It would be the same if Alaska were called Aleutia, and you had to be careful about whom you called Aleutian. Since when do outsiders outvote in-staters on what to call themselves? A lot of folks from the ‘lower 48’ refer to their part of the country as ‘the States’. Is that usage okay, then, despite what residents of Alaska and Hawai‘i think?
    I’ll be the first to admit that people in Hawai‘i are utterly schizo on their place in the Union. Most heartily resent it when people talk about going back to ‘the States’. At the same time, many lifelong Hawai‘i residents do regard the rest of the country (except Las Vegas) as foreign territory.

  11. Joel: I’m not talking about right or wrong, I’m talking about facts. People outside Hawaii neither know nor care what native Hawaiians want themselves or other residents to be called. In general, majority populations everywhere are similarly indifferent to the wishes of minority populations. You probably perpetrate similar sins without knowing it; for instance, if you’ve ever referred to “Lapps” or “Lapland” you should know that the people referred to wish to be called Saami. If you already knew that, I’m sure I can come up with some that will stump you. It’s a big, complicated world, and everyone simplifies it down to where they can deal with it. I’m not saying Hawaiians shouldn’t be able to choose how they wish to be named, I’m saying we should all be realistic about what we can expect from the world at large.

  12. what, you kanaka Joel?

  13. We try to maintain a list in Jèrriais of what are called in French “gentilés” (adjectives of geographic/national origin).
    Scroll down the page for the US states, where I’ve also listed corresponding attested French gentilés for some states.
    The Jersey language obviously has a term for things and people of New Jersey – some of the others came up as a result of a newspaper article (in Jèrriais), a version of which, with list of state names, is here:
    Any suggestions/improvements are welcome.

  14. I’m crushed at the thought that Kurt Vonnegut was not (by Howard’s def above) a Hoosier.

  15. Sorry, s/b ‘is not’

  16. Mainer? I always thought it was Mainiac.

  17. I saw a forum post (forget where) from someone in China who thought the -ese in Chinese was pejorative, based on words like “journalese” listed with pejorative meanings in dictionatries. It sounds like this alarming idea is believed in some circles in China.
    After this I tried to list English adjectives for countries, regions and languages.
    -ese seems to be used for:
    1. Coastal areas in Asia, probably due to the Portuguese being the first Europeans there, or perhaps later taken from French
    2. French colonies, surely directly from the French adjectives
    3. northern Iberia and northern Italy, from French and/or native usage (for regions in France itself, the actual French -ais seems to be used in current English writing)
    The full results are probably too long for here but I’d be glad to discuss them by mail or in a topic of your choice.

  18. I lived in Indiana for nearly 30 years, and I’ve never before heard the caveat that only a native by birth can be called a Hoosier.
    Having spent some time in Indiana’s southern hill country, though, I have to agree with Howard that its dialect is unique within the state, and his explanation of its origins gibes with what my friends from that area have told me.

  19. LH,
    I agree with you. I’m not trying to stipulate that it’s wrong (as opposed to either un-PC or misleading depending on one’s audience) to refer to all residents of Hawai‘i as Hawaiians. That’s certainly the common usage throughout the Anglosphere. I’m just saying that in-state usage tends to be different. Whereas Michigander and Michiganian (or the dreaded Michiganite) are used by different sets of speakers to refer to the same set of people, the single term Hawaiian denotes two different (but overlapping) sets, depending on who’s talking (and to whom).
    I think the best reply to those concerned about how pejorative -ese might be is to note that the most pejorative ending of all is -ish, as in gibberish, English, Scottish, Irish, Danish, Polish, Spanish, etc. It’s just the earlier Germanic (and therefore even less elegant!) equivalent of -ese.

  20. Hello
    That was an interesting site. I have one comment to make about the word Kosovar. It was not made up by the media, but is a rendition of the Albanian adjective. The Serb form would be Kosovac or Kosovljanin. The name Kosovo itself is an adjective, and is short for Kosovo Polje, “the field of blackbirds” – the site of two famous battles in Serb history.

  21. I’ve lived in Southern Indiana on and off for 20-plus years. Locals and those across the river in Kentucky always refer to us as “Hoosiers.”
    And I’m a born Yankee.
    I can’t tell you how they handle the native-or-not issue in other parts of the state, but down here it doesn’t seem to matter. You hear more often – “We can use it, but Kentuckians make it sound like an insult.”
    As for accent: other than learning to play euchre the best way to fit in is to learn that there is an “r” in “wash.”

  22. Joel, as a mainlander who loves Hawai‘i, I’m curious about one point: I realize that island residents sensitive to these issues would only use “Hawaiian” to refer to ethnic natives. I know that off-islanders are called “haole” and that those who are maximally integrated into island culture are “kamaaina”. But is there any verbal distinction made between non-Hawaiians who live in the islands and those who don’t?
    Getting back to the original topic, having spent most of my life in Massachusetts, I have never either called myself or been called a “Bay Stater.”
    Oh, and somewhere along the line I saw a proposal that Connecticut residents be called “Connecticutlets.”

  23. I saw a proposal that Connecticut residents be called “Connecticutlets.”
    This thread was worth it for that alone!
    So what would you call a person from Mass? (Presumably not a Masshole…)

  24. Back at college I occasionally used the term “UMasshole,” but that’s not the same.
    In fact I don’t recall often being faced with the problem of referring to fellow residents. Outside of state politics I don’t see a lot of reasons for it to come up. It was much more common to lump nonresidents together. I lived in towns that were popular with tourists and weekenders and we often referred to people from “out of state” (or more often “New Yorkers“). On the rare occasions that I did need an aggregate term for my fellows I believe I would alternate between stumbling blocks like “Massachusettsians” and simply saying “people from Massachusetts.”

  25. Songdog,
    Actually, both initial terms in the analogy Hawaiian:haole::resident:foreign have been co-opted in Hawai‘i usage. Although “haole” originally meant ‘foreign’, it’s been redefined along racial lines as a synonym of “Caucasian,” which is its polite equivalent for those sensitive to the often pejorative use of “haole.” (It still retains its original sense in taxonomic names such as koa haole or, more commonly, haole koa ‘foreign acacia’, that is, any species except Acacia koa). So, Caucasians who grew up in Hawai‘i, who at least went to high school here, are often referred to as “local haoles” (in a sense ‘homegrown foreigners’, a bit like “Resident Koreans” in Japan).
    I’m haole, and not local. I arrived here the day I got out of the Army in Georgia–on an early out to finish college–mostly because it was much, much closer to Japan, where I grew up (but could also never be local).
    (And to think I once chided LH for too many parentheticals.)

  26. Here in Massachusetts, most common are “mass-a-chu-shun” (not sure how one would spell it, but there’s a rough pronunciation) or, if you’re on the Pike, “Masshole”. And those from Maine are definitely Mainiacs; I’ve never heard anyone say “Mainer” before.

  27. Boyce Rensberger says

    As a recent immigrant to Massachusetts who became aware that there was no logical term for a dweller of this state, I have been trying to spread the term Massachutan.

  28. Wisconsin, Wisconsinners?

  29. Wisconsin -> cheesers / cheeseheads.

  30. Cheese is all well and good, but it ain’t got nothin’ on sin.

  31. The traditional terms for the residents of MA and CT are, of course, Massachusettensians and Connecticutensians, as indicated in the seals of Harvard and Yale respectively. If we must have Connecticutter, at least spell it with two t’s, to avoid a pronunciation rhyming with “pewter”.
    People from North Carolina are Tar Heels, and those from Maine are traditionally Down-easters, though that’s dying out, I believe.
    Nobody, it seems, has ever come up with a name for people who live in or come from Independence, Missouri, however.

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