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In ethnolinguistics, exonyms are names of ethnic groups and where they live which have been applied to them by outsiders, in contrast to endonyms, which are the name used by the group itself. Endonym or autonym (from the Greek root words ἔνδον, éndon, "within" or αὐτο-, auto-, "self" and ὄνομα, ónoma, "name") is given by an ethnic group to its own geographical entity (toponymy), or the name an ethnic group calls itself, often laudatory or self-aggrandizing. Exonym or xenonym (from the Greek root words ἔξω, éxō, "out" or ξένος-, xénos, "foreign" and ὄνομα, ónoma, "name") is the name given to an ethnic group or to a geographical entity by another ethnic group.

Exonyms and endonyms can be names of places (toponym), ethnic groups (ethnonym), languages (glossonym), or individuals (personal name).

As pertains to geographical features, the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names defines:

  • Endonym: Name of a geographical feature in an official or well-established language occurring in that area where the feature is located.
  • Exonym: Name used in a specific language for a geographical feature situated outside the area where that language is spoken, and differing in its form from the name used in an official or well-established language of that area where the geographical feature is located.

For example, China, India and Germany are the English exonyms corresponding to the endonyms Zhongguo, Bharat and Deutschland, respectively.


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