a. Being such by birth or origin: a native Scot.
b. Being a member of the original inhabitants of a particular place.
c. Of, belonging to, or characteristic of such inhabitants: native dress; the native diet of Polynesia.
d. Being one's own because of the place or circumstances of one's birth: our native land.
2. Originating, growing, or produced in a certain place or region; indigenous: a plant native to Asia.
3. Occurring in nature pure or uncombined with other substances: native copper.
4. Existing in or belonging to one by nature; innate: her native intelligence.
5. Natural, unaltered, or unadorned: native beauty.
6. Biochemistry Of or relating to the naturally occurring conformation of a macromolecule, such as a protein.
7. Archaic Closely related, as by birth or race.
a. One born in or connected with a place by birth: a native of Scotland now living in the United States.
b. One of the original inhabitants or lifelong residents of a place.
2. An animal or plant that originated in a particular place or region.
[Middle English, from Old French natif, from Latin nātīvus, from nātus, past participle of nāscī, to be born; see genə- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: native, indigenous, autochthonous, aboriginal
These adjectives mean of, belonging to, or connected with a specific place or country by virtue of birth or origin. Native implies birth or origin in the specified place: a native New Yorker; the native North American sugar maple. Indigenous specifies that something or someone is native rather than coming or being brought in from elsewhere: an indigenous crop; the Ainu, a people indigenous to the northernmost islands of Japan. Autochthonous applies to what is native and unchanged by outside sources: autochthonous folk melodies. Aboriginal describes what has existed from the beginning; it is often applied to the earliest known inhabitants of a place: the aboriginal population; aboriginal nature.
Usage Note: When used in reference to a member of an indigenous people, the noun native, like its synonym aborigine, can evoke unwelcome stereotypes of primitiveness or cultural backwardness that many people seek to avoid. As is often the case with words that categorize people, the use of the noun is more problematic than the use of the corresponding adjective. Thus a phrase such as the peoples native to northern Europe or the aboriginal inhabitants of the South Pacific is preferable to the natives of northern Europe or the aborigines of the South Pacific. · Despite its potentially negative connotations, native is enjoying increasing popularity in ethnonyms such as native Australian and Alaska Native, perhaps due to the wide acceptance of Native American as a term of ethnic pride and respect. These compounds have the further benefit of being equally acceptable when used alone as nouns (a native Australian) or in an adjectival construction (a member of a native Australian people). Of terms formed on this model, those referring to peoples indigenous to the United States generally capitalize native, as in Alaska Native (or the less common Native Alaskan) and Native Hawaiian, while others usually style it lowercase.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.