Is there a general word that means follower of religion?

I'm looking for an analog to the words demonym and ethnonym, but that relates to religion/faith instead of geography and ethnicity.

The closest I've found is the word theonym at the Wikipedia page on -onym endings. However, that isn't quite it.

  • Are you looking only for a word that ends in -onym? Can you describe in more detail what type of religious follower? 'Theonym' seems like it would work well for a certain type of follower, but it doesn't appear to be the type of follower you're looking to describe. – Ringo Oct 25 '18 at 6:31
  • Also, words like 'demonym' are pretty uncommon. Your average native speaker is not going to know the meaning of that. – Ringo Oct 25 '18 at 6:33
  • It doesn't necessarily have to end in -onym, but it should apply to any type of religious follower. Actually, I'd prefer something that is technical and it's fine if it is uncommon like 'demonym'. 'Theonym' does not work because it means "name of a god or deity" (e.g., Zeus or Athena, or perhaps Allah or Yahweh), rather than "name of a religion" or "name of an adherent". – Ryan C. Nov 1 '18 at 15:56
  • This might be a good question for the "English Language and Usage" sub-exchange! That one is specifically directed towards linguists, lexophiles, and the like. ( english.stackexchange.com ) – Richard Winters Nov 2 '18 at 6:12
  • Good idea, Richard, I've posted the questions there: english.stackexchange.com/questions/471495/… – Ryan C. Nov 4 '18 at 16:13

I'd actually move further afield, and use other words.

Adherent (noun): a person who follows or upholds a leader, cause, etc.; supporter; follower. is one that is frequently used in a religious context, especially when you're trying to suggest that you could be talking about someone of any religion (or follower of a faith, principle or cause.)

  • Thanks - this is helpful. However, it lacks the generality and scientific/linguistic nature I'm seeking (e.g., the word should be defined as "name of an adherent to a religion"). – Ryan C. Nov 1 '18 at 16:00

Words ending "nym" are words that describe types of words. Examples of demonyms are "Briton" or "American". "Demonym" is a recent coinage. It was invented in the 1980s. If you want a word that describes words like "Christian" or "Muslim" you are out of luck. No single word exists.

While we often talk about religions, we don't often talk about the words that name religions, so no single word has been developed for this category of words. Just describe:

We don't need to say "The xxxonym of Islam is Muslim" because we can say:

The word used for a follower of Islam is Muslim.

"Christian", "Muslim" and "Bahá’í" are the words used for followers of Christianity, Islam and the Bahá’í faith, respectively.

Or, for example:

Adherents of the Bahá’í Faith prefer to be known as Bahá’ís not Bahá’ísts.

  • This helpful too, but I'm actively seeking the word that describes the type of words (and is thus a "nym"). I would very much like to be able to say "Christian, Muslim, and Baha'i are xxxonyms of Christianity, Islam, and the Baha'i Faith, respectively." Perhaps I'll have to invent this word ;-) – Ryan C. Nov 1 '18 at 16:03

You can usually refer to such a person as a practitioner.


He is a practitioner of Christianity.


She is a practitioner of Hinduism.

  • Practitioner is ok, but I think the word may be to general (e.g., medical practitioner) and it lacks an important faith-oriented connotation. For example, I might be a practitioner of yoga, but not believe in the underlying Hindu traditions, or I might "practice Christianity" by going to church but only do so for social reasons rather than reasons of faith. – Ryan C. Nov 4 '18 at 16:38

How about religionym?

I throw this out there as a possible answer, though I think there could be something that better differentiates between name of religion and name of adherent.

I've found it used in some academic publications, such as: Reisigl, M. and Wodak, R. (2001) Discourse and Discrimination. Rhetorics of Racism and Antisemitism. Routledge: London. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=WP2CAgAAQBAJ

It's even defined in Table 2 of: Kader, N. (2016). A Critical Analysis of Anti-Islamisation and Anti-immigration Discourse: The Case of the English Defence League and Britain First. International Journal for Innovation Education and Research, 4(5). Retrieved from http://ijier.net/index.php/ijier/article/view/538


The words demonym and ethnonym are both fairly recent words, but they are based on classical Greek roots. The -onym suffix indicates the name or word for something. Demonym derives from demos, meaning community or region, and ethnonym derives from ethnos, meaning nation or tribe.

There's not a direct correlary to "religion" but the word pístis means faith or belief, so you could coin the term pistonym. Or the Greek word thréskos, which means to be pious or religiously devout, could be used to form threskonym for this purpose.

  • These are very good suggestions and just the kind of thinking I was seeking. However, I fear pistonym and threskonym are too obscure and thus would be too difficult for most people to even guess at what they might mean. Indeed, neither their prefixes nor their root words appear in most English language dictionaries (unlike ethno- and demo- ). I've decided to stick with religionym since it's meaning is transparent and others have used it (see my proposed answer below). – Ryan C. Jul 25 '19 at 23:00

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