late 14c., natif, "natural, inborn, hereditary, connected with something in a natural way," from Old French natif "native, born in; raw, unspoiled" (14c.) and directly from Latin nativus "innate, produced by birth," from natus, past participle of nasci (Old Latin gnasci) "be born," related to gignere "beget," from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.
From early 15c. as "born in a particular place, of indigenous origin or growth, not exotic or foreign," also "of or pertaining to one by birth" (as in native land). Also used from early 15c. in a now-obsolete sense of "bound; born in servitude or serfdom." Of metals, minerals, etc., "occurring in a pure state in nature," 1690s.
Native American in reference to the aboriginal peoples of the Americas is attested by c. 1900 as the name of a journal "devoted to Indian education."
In the early 1970s, ... activist Indians began calling themselves Native Americans (from the peyote-using Native American Church, incorporated in 1918 in Oklahoma and subsequently in other states). The newer term, aside from disassociating its users from the reservation life of the past, was a form of one-upsmanship, since it reminded whites just who was on the premises first. [Hugh Rawson, "Wicked Words"]
mid-15c., "person born in bondage, one born a serf or villein," a sense now obsolete, from native (adj.), and in some usages from Medieval Latin nativus, noun use of nativus (adj.). Compare Old French naif, which also meant "woman born in slavery." From 1530s as "one born in a certain place or country." Applied from c. 1600 to original inhabitants of non-European nations where Europeans hold political power, for example American Indians (by 1630s); hence, used contemptuously of "the locals" from 1800. Related: Natives.
updated on August 01, 2019