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indigenous definition


This page has 3 definitions of indigenous in English. Indigenous is an adjective. Examples of how to use indigenous in a sentence are shown. Also define these 0 related words and terms: .



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.



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, Grundvig, Julie, “TAIWAN”, in The Asia Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the Continent[1], →ISBN, OCLC 82672255, 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.]
    • 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, ch. 18:
      She was a native and essential cook, as much as Aunt Chloe,—cooking being an indigenous talent of the African race.
    • 1883, George MacDonald, "Stephen Archer" in Stephen Archer and Other Tales:
      He had all the tricks of a newspaper boy indigenous in him.

Usage notes

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


Derived terms

Related terms


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  • indigenous at OneLook Dictionary Search.
  • indigenous in Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, edited by The Keywords Project, Colin MacCabe, Holly Yanacek, 2018.
  • indigenous in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.