"one devoted to his nation," 1715, from national (adj.) in a now-otherwise-obsolete sense of "patriotic, characterized by attachment or devotion to one's own race or country or its institutions" (1711) + -ist. In 19c. Britain often particularly "one who advocates independence for a nation" (especially Ireland). Also used in theology for "one who holds to the divine election of entire nations," as distinguished from that of particular individuals (1836). Related: Nationalistic; nationalistically.