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Borrowed from Late Latin indigenus (native, born in a country), from indi- (indu-), an old derivative of in (in), gen- the root of gignō (give birth to), and English -ous. Compare indigene, Ancient Greek ἐνδογενής (endogenḗs, born in the house), and the separately formed endogenous. Unrelated to Indian.



indigenous (not comparable)

  1. Born or originating in, native to a land or region, especially before an intrusion. [from 17th c.]
    1. In particular, of or relating to a people (or their language or culture) that inhabited a region prior to the arrival of people of other cultures which became dominant (e.g., through colonialism), and which maintains a distinct culture.
      The Ainu are the indigenous ethnic group of Japan's Hokkaido Island.
      • 2007 April, Julie Grundvig, “TAIWAN”, in The Asia Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the Continent[2], →ISBN, →OCLC, page 103, column 2:
        About 98 per cent of Taiwan's inhabitants are Han Chinese, a diverse mix of ethnic and linguistic groups, including Hakka, Cantonese and Fujianese, who came from China's southern coast. Taiwan's other two per cent are from one of the nine indigenous tribes, which are scattered throughout the island but largely concentrated along the east coast and in the Central Mountain Range.
  2. Innate, inborn. [from 19th c.]

Usage notes[edit]

  • Some style guides recommend capitalizing Indigenous in reference to the racial/ethnic/cultural category,[1][2][3] while noting that lowercase indigenous has historically been more common.[4]


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


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  1. ^ “FAQ 0106”, in The Chicago Manual of Style FAQ[1], accessed 2 March 2023, archived from the original on 2 March 2023, Capitalization
  2. ^ AP
  3. ^ APA
  4. ^ Ngrams

Further reading[edit]