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Pronunciation: den-ê-zên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Any living organism indigenous to a place, or that otherwise naturally inhabits it; the antonym of alien. 2. Any species introduced by humans into a place, but which now maintains itself naturally, without the intervention of humans.

Notes: This word applies to plants, animals, as well as humans. Denizens of the deep refers to aquatic life, oaks are denizens of many North American forests, and denizens of the air are birds. Denizen has been used in the past to refer to words, get being a denizen of English, obtain, an alien. I assume this usage to be a figurative application of the meanings above. This word may be used "as is" for an adjective, as a denizen plant. The abstract noun for denizen is denizenship.

In Play: This word is used mostly in the sense of people born and raised in a town or country: "The tension between the denizens of the town and the college population was known as the "town-gown relationship". Of course, this word, like most others, is subject to metaphorical usage: "When Jim Beam returned home from college, he visited the denizens of his favorite bar and found them all there, sitting on the same stools where he had left them."

Word History: Denizen was borrowed from Anglo-Norman deinzein, based on deinz "within, inside". This word was derived from Late Latin deintus "from within", comprising de- "from" + intus "within". Latin inherited this word from Proto-Indo-European entos "within, inside", which Greek preserved better as entos "within, inside". Entos can be reduced to en "in" + tos, an adverbial suffix indicating origin. En is visible in all the Western Indo-European languages. English has in, inner and inn. French and Spanish have en, and German and Italian, in. The Slavic languages at one point in their history didn't like words beginning with vowels and placed a V before en. Later the en dropped off so "in" today in Russian is simply v, but we still see the N in vnutri "inside". (Today we thank Perry Lassiter, denizen and Grand Panjandrum of the Alpha Agora, for suggesting this Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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