Where do demonyms come from? At times they take -ite, some times -an, -er and this one is jaw-dropping '-siders!'

A person living in New York is a New Yorker (-er)
A person living in Delhi is Delhiite (-ite)
A person living in Sydney is Sydneysider (-sider -OMG! Really?)
A person living in Las Vegas is Las Vegan (-an)

There are innumerable cities across the world and remembering a demonym for each of them does not seem practical.

I don't get demonyms without searching them on the Internet (and trust me, even after searching I fail to get them for some cities' residents!).

This becomes further difficult when the city name is long - say St. Louis, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro (Cariocas -full marks who knew this!) and many more.

Is there any way we can assume/know the demonym of the city by looking at its spelling?

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    I guess that it follows some sort of patterns, though I couldn't figure the patterns out. Btw, greeting, my Ahmedabadi friend! (Sorry if I guessed it wrong. :-) – Damkerng T. Apr 16 '14 at 7:07
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    I guessed it! I was right, I think, then. :-) – Damkerng T. Apr 16 '14 at 7:09
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    In the UK alone we have Newcastle - Novocastrian, Glasgow - Glaswegian, Manchester - Mancunian, Liverpool - Liverpudlian. – mjsqu Apr 16 '14 at 8:53
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    I can't help but laugh at Las Vegans. Is that for real? :^) – J.R. Apr 16 '14 at 9:24

Is there a hard and fast rule? Sadly, no. But there is a rule of thumb--which means it works, except when it doesn't.

First: if the city is outside of the United States, US English usually (but not always) uses the naming convention of the native country. So "Liverpudlian" and "Muenchner" don't follow these rules; you need to learn that country's rules.

Within the United States, look at the sound (not the spelling!) of the last syllable of the city's name.

Does it end in a vowel sound? Add -n or -an.

  • Atlantan
  • Cincinattian
  • Kenoshan
  • Pennsylvanian

Does it end in a hard d or k? Add -er.

  • New Yorker
  • Oaklander
  • Portlander
  • Salt Laker

Does it end in an -l, or -r sound? Consider adding -ite.

  • Seattleite
  • New Hampshirite

Does it end in an -s sound preceded by a schwa? Replace the s with an n.

  • Kansan
  • Texan

For all other consonants, the most common rule is to add an -ian

  • Oregonian
  • Bostonian
  • Knoxvillian

As always with English, there are then a ton of exceptions that you just have to learn.

  • Eh! that's nice one and well researched. Deserves upvote! :) – Maulik V Apr 17 '14 at 4:14
  • Notable example/exception, at least to someone who is one: Manhattanite. – KRyan Mar 30 '16 at 19:26

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