col·​o·​nist ˈkä-lə-nist How to pronounce colonist (audio)
plural colonists
see usage paragraph below
: a member or inhabitant of a colony (see colony sense 1)
the Jamestown/Plymouth colonists
especially : a person who migrates to and settles in a foreign area as part of a colony
Honeybees aren't native to North America; early colonists brought them over from Europe to provide honey and beeswax. Paige Embry
Usage of Colonist and Colonizer

Colonist and colonizer both have meanings closely tied to the word colonialism in its use referring to domination of a foreign people or area. Colonist, which comes directly from the noun colony, is the more common—and usually more neutral—term. Colonizer, which comes from the verb colonize, is used especially in contexts in which the exploitative nature of colonialism is being discussed or evoked; in phrases like "colonizer mindset/mentality" it implies a benefit from or even active participation in that exploitation.

Examples of colonist in a Sentence

British colonists settled the area in the 18th century. over time the colonists began to sense that they were becoming a people unto themselves
Recent Examples on the Web The very first French colonists landed here before the town was established in 1716. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 25 Mar. 2024 In the novel, Mickey 7 is a space colonist known as an expendable. Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Mar. 2024 Microbes and our hands The vast majority of microbes on and in the human body are persistent but harmless colonists. Sabrina Sholts, Smithsonian Magazine, 12 Mar. 2024 American colonists started a revolution partly over taxes. John Stossel, Orange County Register, 28 Feb. 2024 Zubrin writes that Mars’ colonists will generate a lot of their early income from the sale and licensing of intellectual property mainly for consumption back on Earth. Bruce Dorminey, Forbes, 18 Feb. 2024 The Beaver Moon takes its name from early Native American tribes as well as American colonists, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac, when beavers begin sheltering in their lodges after gathering enough food to last the winter. John Tufts, The Indianapolis Star, 2 Jan. 2024 The site also boasted musket parts and 1,200 pieces of lead shot—mostly hunting ammunition—as well as stone and glass beads that colonists likely traded with Native Americans. Sonja Anderson, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 Mar. 2024 French-Creole colonists brought the beignet to the city in the 18th century. Lanee Lee, Forbes, 22 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'colonist.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1701, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of colonist was in 1701

Dictionary Entries Near colonist

Cite this Entry

“Colonist.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


col·​o·​nist ˈkäl-ə-nəst How to pronounce colonist (audio)
: a person who lives in a colony
: a person who takes part in founding a colony

More from Merriam-Webster on colonist

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!