What in the World Do Demonyms Name?

By Deborah Van Hoewyk

Back – way back – when Greek was the language of the day, there lots of “nyms,” a suffix that basically means “name.” We all learned about synonyms and antonyms in grade school, and the homonyms were always fun. You remember, different words but pronounced the same? Road/rode, beat/beet, cereal/serial, gate/gait.

It turns out, growing up in Maine, I was also interested in demonyms – the names (nyms) of peoples (demos) – also called “gentilics.” People from Maine were known as “Maineiacs,” and not always in a positive sense. While the World Book Encyclopedia of 1956 did not actually refer to the people of Maine as “Maineiacs,” it did identify us as “hardy fisher folk” who suffered a geographic inferiority complex. Which probably says more about the non-PC world of the nineteen-fifties than anything else.

Understandably, we now go by the more sensible “Mainers,” although the Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing is still called the Maineiacs – only right in that one of their talents is air-to-air, high-speed refueling in the Arctic. And Maineiac might well apply to me and my husband personally, in the decade or so we’ve spent driving from the northeast corner of the U.S. to the southeast corner of Mexico – and back again – a path that takes us through 13 of Mexico’s 31 states.

What Are the Demonyms of Mexico?

Of course, over and above the 31 states of Mexico is the Distrito Federal, the Federal District referred to as “Mexico City,” which people used to call “DF” (day-EFF-ay). Since 2016, however, it’s officially been designated “CDMX” (Ciudad de México – City of Mexico); this move was supposed to help devolve power from the federal to the local level, on the path to eventual statehood. Not much progress there to date.

What’s the demonym for residents of CDMX? While residents of the big city can be called mexiqueños/as, defeños/as, or capitalinos/as, they are mostly called chilangos/as, from the Náhuatl chīlān (capital, or “in the center of the moon”). While some travel websites say the demonym is an “affectionate” or “humorous” term, that’s probably a minority view. Originally used to refer to people from the countryside who had migrated to Mexico City, chilango now means those born and bred in CDMX, and specifically contrasts with provinciano – i.e., sophisticated vs. being a hick. However, when chilangos go on vacation, they’re often considered demanding, rude, and generally obnoxious. In vacation areas near CDMX, the saying goes “Haz patria, mata un Chilango” – “Do something for the motherland, murder a Chilango.” Given that Chilangos represent about a sixth of Mexico’s total population, they are largely responsible for Mexico’s domestic tourism. Their lives and limbs are probably pretty safe when they travel!

Here, in alphabetical order, is how to refer to the people you meet in Mexico.

Aguascalientes, capital Aguascalientes: Residents of both the state and the capital city are called aguascalentenses. Notice that the ‘i’ in the “caliente” part of the name drops out.

Baja California, capital Mexicali: State residents are called bajacalifornianos/as. If you live in the capital, you’re a mexicalense.

Baja California Sur, capital La Paz: State residents are also called bajacalifornianos/as, while residents of La Paz are called paceños/as.

Campeche, capital San Francisco Campeche: If you live anywhere in Campeche, you’re a campechano/a.

Chiapas, capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez: A resident of the state is a chiapaneco/a, while a resident of the capital can be called a tuxtleco/a or a tuxtleño/a.

Chihuahua, capital Chihauhua: Both state and capital residents are called chihuahuenses; colloquially, they are norteños/as.

Coahuila, capital Saltillo: Someone from the state of Coahuila is called a coahuilense, while someone from Saltillo is called a saltillense.

Colima, capital Colima: Residents here are called either colimenses or colemeños/as.

Durango, capital Durango: The folks from Durango are referred to as duranguenses or durangueños/as.

Guanajuato, capital Guanajuato: If you’re from Guanajuato, the state or the capital, you are a guanajuatense or a guanajuateño/a. If you come from Moroleón, a large city located in a textile manufacturing area and known for clothes shopping, you’re a moroleonés/esa.

Guerrero, capital Chilpancingo de los Bravo: State residents are called guerrerenses, while residents of the capital are chilpancingueños/as. If you’re from Acapulco, you’re an acapulqueño/a.

Hidalgo, capital Pachuca: Refer to state residents as hidalguenses, and capital city residents as pachuqueños/as.

Jalisco, capital Guadalajara: People from the state of Jalisco are called jaliciences; if you live in Guadalajara, you’re a guadalajarense or a guadalajareño/a. However, if you were born in the city, you’re a tapatío/a.

(Estado de) México, capital Toluca de Lerdo: Live in the state? You’re a mexiquense. In the city of Toluca? Toluqueño/a.

Michoacán, capital Morelia: These people would be michoacanos/as and morelianos/as.

Morelos, capital Cuernavaca: Folks from Morelos are called morelenses, and those living in the capital are called cuernavaquenses. You will also hear them called guayabos or guayabas. One explanation is that there are many guayaba trees in Cuernavaca, often pink, and they scent the streets or even dye them pink.

Nayarit, capital Tepic: State residents – nayaritas (remember, a word ending in ‘a’ can be masculine as well as feminine) or nayaritenses; capital city residents – tepiqueños/as.

Nuevo León, capital Monterrey: If you’re from here, you’re a neoleonés/esa or a nuevoleonés/esa; if you’re from Monterrey, you’re a monterreyense or a regiomontano/a – the latter is related to the name “Monterrey,” which translates as “mountain of the king.”

Oaxaca, capital Oaxaca de Juárez: Both state and city residents are called oaxaqueños/as; however, if you’re from the capital city, you might also becalled a vallisto/a, after the Central Valleys of Oaxaca. If you’re from Huatulco, of course, you’re a huatulqueño/a.

Puebla, capital Puebla de Zaragoza: People from both the state and the city are called poblanos/as, although city residents are also called angelopolitanos/as. At one point the capital city was called “Puebla de los Ángeles,” and is now nicknamed “Ángelópolis” (“City of Angels”), hence the gentilic for people live in the city of Puebla.

Querétaro, capital Santiago de Querétaro: If you live anywhere in Querétaro, you’re a queretano/a.

Quintana Roo, capital Chetumal: People who live in Quintana Roo are called quintanarroenses, while those in the capital are called chetumalenses or chetumaleños/as. If you live in Tulum, you’re a tulumense, and if you’re out on Isla Mujeres, you’re an isleño/a.

San Luis Potosí, capital San Luis Potosí: The demonym for both state and city residents is potosino/a, although if you live in the capital, you might also be called a sanluisino/a.

Sinaloa, capital Culiacán Rosales: State residents – sinaloenses; capital city residents – culiacanenses. If you hail from Mazatlán, you’re a mazatleco/a.

Sonora, capital Hermosilla: State residents – sonorenses; capital city residents – hermosillenses.

Tabasco, capital Villahermosa: State residents – tabasqueños/as; capital city residents are called villahermosinos/as or villermosinos/as.

Tamaulipas, capital Ciudad Victoria: Residents of Tamaulipas are called tamaulipecos/as, while folks from Ciudad Victoria are called victorenses.

Tlaxcala, capital Tlaxcala de Xicohténcatl: Both state and capital city residents are called tlaxcaltecas.

Veracruz, capital Xalapa-Enríquez: If you come from the state of Veracruz, you’re a veracruzano/a, from the city of Veracruz, a porteño/a. If you’re from Xalapa, you’re a xalapeño, which can be spelled with a ‘J’ – just like the pepper. There’s a more colloquial name for the veracruzanos: jarocho/a, which can be translated in many ways – hot-tempered, brusque, chaotic; it is also the word for the long spear used by fishermen along the Papaloapan river.

Yucatán, capital Mérida: If you come from Yucatán state, you’re a yucateco/a, and from Mérida, a meridano/a.

Zacatecas, capital Zacatecas: No matter where you’re from, you’re a zacatecano/a.

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