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-er (inhabitant names)

The nominal suffix -er can derive the name of an inhabitant on the basis of a geographical proper noun. The same suffix is used for deriving adjectives related to geographical names, with the meaning "coming from {place name}" or "having a special relation with {place name}". So, Warnzer can mean inhabitant of Warns, coming from Warns or having a special relationship with Warns.

The example below shows the place name (a), the name of the inhabitant of that place (b) and the relational adjective derived from the geographical name (c). As can be seen, in (b) and (c) the same form is used.

a. Ljouwert
Ljouwert city
b. Ljouwerter
Inhabitant of Ljouwert
c. de Ljouwerter krante
the newspaper of Ljouwert

The adjectival use of the suffix is discussed in the topic on -er forming adjectives on the base of geographical names.

The suffix -er has allomorphs that likewise derive inhabitant names (and relational adjectives on the basis of geographical names). These are -ster and -(e)mer. There is a certain distribution on the basis of the final segment or element, although this is not an absolute criterion. The suffix -ster is also used to name inhabitants of a geographical area designated by a common noun, for instance seedykster someone living near the sea dike, from seedyk sea dike. In this subgroup we also encounter the allomorphs -ker and -tsjer.

In the formation of inhabitant names we sometimes see the application of truncation, for instance Drachten > Drachtster, with deletion of the sequence -en. A segment /d/ is inserted before the suffix -er after /l/, /n/ and /r/. An example is Molkwarder, derived from Molkwar.

[+]Preliminary: Dutch and Frisian place names

In the following treatment the Frisian name of a settlement is used. Some caution is advised in that in many cases this is not the official name. Up until the eighties, the Dutch form of the place names in Friesland functioned as such, and nowadays only in a few municipalities the Frisian form is the standard form yet. An example is the Frisian capital Ljouwert, which is officially called Leeuwarden, the Dutch variant of the name. A consequence of this situation, typical for a minority language, is the fact that most of the place names mentioned below cannot be found on a map.

[+]General properties of inhabitant names

The suffix -er can derive nouns from geographical names, with the meaning "inhabitant of {geographical proper noun}". The person indicated by the noun can be both male or female:

a. Jeltsje is Ljouwerter
Jeltsje.FEM is Ljouwert-SUFF
Jeltsje comes from Ljouwert
b. Jelmer is Ljouwerter
Jelmer.M is Ljouwert-SUFF
Jelmer comes from Ljouwert

The suffix -er has allomorphs, the two main ones being -ster [stər] and -(e)mer [(ə)mər]. For the forms -ker and -tsjer, see the section below on the suffixes -ker and -tsjer. In the following table it is shown which toponymical and linguistic endings take the suffix -er:

Table 1
Base form ending Place name Inhabitant name
-um Dokkum Dokkumer someone from Dokkum
-aam Menaam Menamer someone from Menaam
-(w)ert Jorwert Jorwerter someone from Jorwert
-aard Burdaard Burdaarder someone from Burdaard
-war Molkwar Molkwarder someone from Molkwar
-ein Westerein Westereinder someone from De Westerein
-mar Eastermar Eastermarder someone from Eastermar
-ryp Hurdegaryp Hurdegariper someone from Hurdegaryp
-terp Oerterp Oerterper someone from Oerterp
-see Eastersee Easterseeër someone from Eestersee
-skoat Nijskoat Nijskoatter someone from Nijskoat
-furd Sanfurd Sanfurder someone from Sanfurd
-el Terwispel Terwispeler someone from Terwispel
consonant + s/z Snits /snɪts/, Grins /ɡre:nz/ Snitser someone from Snits, Grinzer someone from Grins
s/z + consonant Rinsumageast Rinsumageaster someone from Rinsumageast
The suffix -ster is attached to most other base form endings. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 2
Place name Inhabitant of place
Grou Grouster someone from Grou
Abbegea Abbegeaster someone from Abbegea
Bears Bearster someone from Bears
Westhim Westhimster someone from Westhim
Earnewâld Earnewâldster someone from Earnewâld
Blauhús Blauhúster someone from Blauhús
Poppenwier Poppenwierster someone from Poppenwier
Aldtsjerk Aldtsjerkster someone from Aldtsjerk
Droegeham Droegehamster someone from Droegeham
Aldeboarn Aldeboarnster someone from Aldeboarn
Beetstersweach Beetsersweachster someone from Beetsersweach

The distribution of of -er and -ster is not always straightforward. In some cases -er is expected, where -ster is used, for example Westermar > Westermarster someone from Westermar (not *Westermarder) and Wâldsein > Wâldseinster someone from Wâldsein (not *Wâldseinder). In other cases -er is used where -ster is expected: Garyp > Gariper someone from Garyp (not *Garypster) and Terkaple > Terkappelster someone from Terkaple (not *Terkappelder). Some of these exceptions can possibly be explained by the fact that a derivation from a place name is influenced by the derivation from a place name that is geographically close to that place. If, for example, more villages in the same area get the suffix -ster in their derivation, the place name where another suffix is expected on linguistic grounds may nevertheless get the suffix -ster as a result of geographical influence.

There is also a third allomorph, i.e. -emer [əmər], also shortened to -mer. Instances can primarily be found with respect to villages in the northeast of the province. A few examples are shown in the table below:

Table 3
Place name Inhabitant of place
Aldwâld Aldwâldemer someone from Aldwâld (not *Aldwâldster)
Bûtenpost Bûtenpostmer someone from Bûtenpost (not *Bûtenposter)
Sleat Sleattemer someone from Sleat (not *Sleatster)
Donkerbroek Donkerbroekemer someone from Donkerbroek (not *Donkerbroekster)
History of -(e)mer

According to Hoekstra (1998:99), the -(e)mer variant originated from place names ending in -um plus the derivational suffix -er (for example, as in Jirns-um > Jirns-um-er). However, Vries (2000) argues that this explanation does not make sense. According to him, the suffix -(e)mer has to be seen as a result from the Old Frisian endings -man(na) or -ma plus the regular suffix -er. The origin of Hegemer (related to the village Heech, in the south west), however, remains unclear.

Place names that are geographically situated outside the province of Friesland, usually get the suffix -er. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 4
Place Name Inhabitant of place
Amsterdam Amsterdammer someone from Amsterdam
Utert Uterter someone from Utert (= Utrecht)
Keappenhaven Keappenhavener someone from Copenhagen
Lúksemboarch Lúksemboarger someone from Luxembourg
Eastenryk Eastenriker someone from Austria

Place names ending in -en or -er usually drop these schwa-containing elements before the suffix -ster is attached. Thus we have Drachtster from Drachten (not *Drachtenster), Feanwâldster from Feanwâlden (not *Feanwâldenster) and Toppenhúster from Toppenhuzen (not *Toppenhuzenster). An exception is Wartenster from the village Warten (which is not truncated to *Wartster).

Place names ending in -er are De Lemmer and De Jouwer. Their inhabitants are called Lemsters and Jousters (and not *Lemmersters and *Jouwersters). A peculiar case is Feankleaster. An inhabitant is likewise a Feankleaster. This is possibly best analyzed as truncation of the element -er, and after attachment of the suffix -ster a kind of degemination in the cluster -stst-.

The frequent toponymical element -um /əm/ usually remains intact, for example in Huzumer (from Huzum) or Goutumer (from Goutum). However, we see truncation in Surhúster (from Surhuzum), Redúster (from Reduzum) and Skúster (from (Skuzum).

Finally, it should be noted that several Frisian place names are accompanied by a definite article, as in the above-mentioned De Lemmer and De Jouwer. We saw that in the inhabitant names Jouster and Lemster this article has not been taken over. Other examples are Hasker (from De Haske, also with truncation of the final schwa), Rypster (from De Ryp and - with the definite article it - Feanster (from It Fean).


For the names of inhabitants derived from the name of a country, a derivation with -er is often blocked by the lexicalized inhabitant name. For example: Ruslân Russia does not give *Ruslanner but Rus Russian, Italië Italy does not become *Italieër but Italjaan Italian, Dútslân Germany does not turn into *Dútslanner but Dútsker German, and Frankryk France does not become *Frankriker but Frânsman Frenchman.

[+]Nouns with a strong geographical denotation

The suffix -ster can also occur after nouns that cannot be considered to be a geographical proper name in the direct sense, but rather a common noun with a strong geographical denotation. Examples are seedyk sea dike > seedykster person living near the sea dike, wyk district > wykster inhabitant of that district, streek region > streekster inhabitant of that region and buorren hamlet > buorrenster inhabitant of that hamlet. An adverbial base is found in súdopster inhabitant of the southeastern part of Friesland, after the adverb súdop to the south. A prepositional phrase is hidden in oertsjongster inhabitant of De Stellingwerven (the Low Saxon speaking part of the province, in the deep southeast). Its basis must be oer de Tsjonger over the Tsjonger at the other side of the Tsjonger, where the river Tsjonger is the border river (also marking the language border). Note that for the derivation of inhabitant names related to regions also the suffixoid -man is in use.

[+]The suffixes -ker and -tsjer

Other suffixes that occur after nouns that have a strong geographical denotation are -ker and -tsjer: De Klaai > klaiker someone from De Klaai, De Wâlden > wâldsjer someone from De Wâlden (with truncation of -en) and sted city > stedsjer someone from the city. These suffixes are not productive. In very few cases -ker is also used after place names: De Blesse > Blesker someone from De Blesse and Nes > Nesker someone from Nes. Historically, the suffixes -ker and -tsjer originate through metanalysis from subject names ending in -er derived from verbs in -kje (túnkje to garden) and -tsje (sintsje to sunbathe). The distribution of the suffixes -ker and -tsjer runs parallel to the distribution of the diminutive suffixes-ke and tsje (Tamminga (1975)).

Derivations with -tsjer and -ker denoting professions

In addition to derivations from nouns with a strong geographical denotation, the suffixes -tsjer and -ker can also derive nouns denoting professions, on the basis of certain common nouns Tamminga (1975). Almost all derivations have a verbal counterpart. Examples are given in the table below:

Table 5
Base form Derivation Verbal counterpart
hout wood houtsjer lumberjack houtsje to chop wood
koal cabbage koaltsjer cabbage gardner koaltsje to grow cabbage
skil shell skiltsjer fisher for shells skiltsje to fish for shells
tún garden túntsjer gardener túntsje to garden
beam tree beamker gardener beamkje to garden
blom flower blomker florist blomkje to bloom
glês glass glesker glazier gleskje to glaze
moal flour moalker corn chandler moalkje to grind

[+]Phonological properties

Place names ending in -n, -r or -el can get a linking element -d- before -er: Pein > Peinder, Molkwar > Molkwarder and Twizel > Twizelder. After /r/, this insertion is obligatory, cf. *Molkwarrer. This form of d-insertion is also applied in other areas, see /d/-insertion in the sequences /nər/, /lər/, and /rər/.

The well-known Frisian vowel alternations Breaking and Shortening also occur in the realm of the derivation of inhabitant names. Examples of Breaking are Skoatter /skwatər/ from Skoat /skoət/ and Iester /jIstər/ from Ie /iə/. We see an example of shortening in Riis /ri:s/ with its derivation Ryster /ristər/.

[+]Morphological potential

The suffix -er and its variants cannot be input for further derivations. The suffix -er can also have a verb, numeral, noun or adjective as base; more details about this suffix can be found in the topic on -er with a verb as base.


For a general overview, see Hoekstra (1998:98-100). For more details about the geographical suffix -er, see Hoekstra (1992). For -ster, see also Hinskens (2006). More details on the origin of the -(e)mer suffix can be found in Vries (2000). Details about the suffixes -ker and -tsjer are provided by Tamminga (1975).

An overview of the inhabitant names of the Frisian towns and villages can be found in De Haan and Sijens (2008:2373-2382) which is in alphabetical order according to the Frisian place name. The alpabetically ordered Frisian forms of the place names can also be found in Zantema (1984:1216-1219). The Dutch forms are alphabetically ordered in Visser (1985:918-921).

  • Haan, Rienk de & Sijens, Hindrik2008Frysk hânwurdboekFryske Akademy and Afûk
  • Hinskens, Frans2006Van Abbegeasterkeatting naar Zansterpijpje. -ster in noordelijke aardrijkskundige namenCornips, Leonie, Oostendorp, Marc van & Schutter, Georges de (eds.)Het morfologische landschap van het NederlandsTaal en tongvalrestricted access (KNAW only)Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde71-95
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1992Dokkumers, Damwâldsters en DonkerbroekemersFriesch Dagblad24-10Taalsnipels 240
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1998Fryske wurdfoarmingLjouwertFryske Akademy
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1975Fan 'Wâldtsjers' en 'Klaeikers'It Beaken4/5315-323
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1975Fan 'Wâldtsjers' en 'Klaeikers'It Beaken4/5315-323
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1975Fan 'Wâldtsjers' en 'Klaeikers'It Beaken4/5315-323
  • Visser, Willem1985Frysk wurdboek. Nederlânsk-FryskA.J. Osinga Uitgeverij
  • Vries, Oebele2000Neermoormer, Lutjegastmer, Bûtenpostmer, Sleattemer. It mer-suffiks yn ôfliedingen fan plaknammenUs Wurk49121-138
  • Vries, Oebele2000Neermoormer, Lutjegastmer, Bûtenpostmer, Sleattemer. It mer-suffiks yn ôfliedingen fan plaknammenUs Wurk49121-138
  • Zantema, J.W1984Frysk wurdboek. Frysk-NederlânskA.J. Osinga Uitgeverij
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