The Meaning of Nationality: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of nationality? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word nationality, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word nationality mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as other dictionaries like American Heritage and Collins English dictionary, the word nationality is a noun that can refer to a person’s national character, national status, legal relationship involving allegiance with an individual and protection on the part of a state, someone’s citizenship, political independence, a member of a group of people or ethnic group who have a common origin, tradition, and language. The pronunciation of nationality is ˌnæʃəˈnælɪtɪ. Someone’s nationality might refer to being a citizen of a particular nation, ties to a home country or metropolis, their relationship of property, a body of people with common descent, a particular national quality on relative position to others, the nationality of a ship, the nationality of an immigrant, international law as it relates to a stateless person or nationality act, ethnic origins with relation to a small colony or sovereign state, and more fundamental freedoms and national legislation.

Having a sense of nationality can refer to taking pride in your political rights or having pride in where you are from. There are also many different legal terms that can refer to some nationality or lack thereof as it relates to the legal identification of a person. Someone’s effective nationality may be different than their citizenship or some country due to the reduction of statelessness, the status of stateless persons, or European convention or American convention. The legal status of a person’s nationality may change depending on national independence, international covenant, state jurisdiction, a conflict of laws, a travel document or some other form of protocol.

Multiple languages contain their own words for nationality. You will notice that a lot of these words look and sound very similar to the word nationality. These are called cognates, which are often formed when words have the same origin or root. This list of translations of nationality is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Slovene: državljanstvo‎ (neut.)
  •  Hungarian: nemzetiség‎ (of a nation), állampolgárság‎ (of a state)
  •  Russian: национа́льность‎ (fem.), наро́дность‎ (fem.), гражда́нство‎ (neut.) (citizenship)
  •  Greek: εθνικότητα‎ (fem.)
  •  German: Nationalität‎
  •  Portuguese: nacionalidade‎ (fem.)
  •  Swahili: uraya‎, utaifa‎
  •  French: nationalité‎ (fem.)
  •  Vietnamese: quốc tịch‎
  •  Danish: nationalitet‎ (common)
  •  Faroese: tjóðskapur‎ (masc.)
  •  Italian: nazionalità‎ (fem.)
  •  Arabic: جِنْسِيَّة‎ (fem.)
  •  Bulgarian: национа́лност‎ (fem.), гражда́нство‎ (neut.) (citizenship)
  •  Armenian: ազգություն‎, քաղաքացիություն‎ (citizenship)
  •  Finnish: kansallisuus‎
  •  Afrikaans: nasionaliteit‎
  •  Korean: 국적‎ (國籍)
  •  Dutch: nationaliteit‎ (fem.), staatsburgerschap‎ (neut.)
  •  Czech: národnost‎ (fem.) (ethnicity), občanství‎ (neut.) (citizenship)
  •  Spanish: nacionalidad‎ (fem.)
  •  Mandarin: 國籍‎, 国籍‎ (guójí)
  •  Romanian: naționalitate‎ (fem.)
  •  Haitian Creole: nasyonalite‎
  •  Luxembourgish: Nationalitéit‎
  •  Tagalog: katauhambansa‎
  •  Ukrainian: наро́дність‎ (fem.), громадя́нство‎ (neut.) (citizenship)
  •  Swedish: nationalitet‎ (common)
  •  Polish: narodowość‎ (fem.)
  •  Belarusian: нацыяна́льнасць‎ (fem.), грамадзя́нства‎ (neut.) (citizenship)
  •  Norman: nâtionalité‎ (fem.)
  •  Persian: ملیت‎ (melliyyat)
  •  Khmer: សញ្ជាតិ‎ (sanh chiet)
  •  Japanese: 国籍‎ (こくせき, kokuseki)

How can the word nationality be used in a sentence?

The word nationality can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to memorize their definition. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today to remember its definition, or make flashcards or a quiz for yourself. Below are several examples of the word nationality. 

Jolie lived in the United States, but had a French nationality. She was able to gain access to the country and protection of the state through an African charter.

It does not matter if I am a citizen of a particular country or have a different nationality from you, I vouch for the universal declaration of human rights and elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. 

Her citizenship depended on the standing of things with her visa as she was in the process of emigrating from Canada to the United States. She may be considered as having nationalities of the Americas, but her heart would always be in Canada.

The young team of international leaders met people of all kinds of different nationalities at the international convention with their model United Nations group.

What is the origin of the word nationality?

According to Etymonline, the word nationality has been used as a noun since the 1690s to refer to a separate existence as a nation or some form of national unity and integrity. This comes from the French nationalité. This word has been used to reger to someone who belongs to or is a citizen of a group since 1828, and to mean a racial or ethnic group since 1832. Related words are listed below formed by different suffixes and the word nation:

  •  nationalism
  •  nationhood
  •  nationwide
  •  nationalise
  •  national
  •  nation
  •  nation-state
  •  nationalist
  •  nationalistic
  •  nationalize

What are synonyms of nationality?

There are a few different words that a person could choose to use instead of the word nationality. These are called synonyms, which are words that have the same definition or meaning as another word. These are useful to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for nationality is provided by Thesaurus. There are not any opposite words or antonyms for nationality.

  •  body politic
  •  country
  •  allegiance
  •  community
  •  citizenship
  •  origin
  •  ethnic group
  •  political home
  •  society
  •  race
  •  nation
  •  native land

Overall, the word nationality refers to a person’s country of residence or citizenship, most often. There are definitely circumstances in which a person’s nationality is a gray area. The word nationality can also be used in a legal sense to refer to a person’s legal ties to a certain country. Someone’s nationality is different from their ethnicity, but these are sometimes the same.


  1. NATIONALITY Synonyms: 12 Synonyms & Antonyms for NATIONALITY | Thesaurus 
  2. Nationality | Meaning, Origin, Translation | Word Sense 
  3. nationality | Origin and meaning of nationality | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  4. Nationality | Definition of Nationality | Merriam-Webster