in·​dig·​e·​nous in-ˈdi-jə-nəs How to pronounce indigenous (audio)
: produced, growing, living, or occurring natively or naturally in a particular region or environment
indigenous plants
the indigenous culture
Indigenous or less commonly indigenous : of or relating to the earliest known inhabitants of a place and especially of a place that was colonized by a now-dominant group
Indigenous peoples
indigenously adverb
indigenousness noun

Did you know?

Indigenous derives from the Latin noun indigena (meaning "native"), which was formed by combining Old Latin indu (meaning "in" or "within") with the verb gignere (meaning "to beget"). Another term that comes from the indigena root is indigene, a word for a plant or animal that lives, grows, or originates in a certain area. Indigene is the older of the two; it has been used in English since the late 16th century, whereas the earliest documented use of indigenous occurred nearly 50 years later. Indigenous is used in scientific contexts to describe organisms and the habitats to which they belong, and in expressly non-scientific contexts, as in "emotions indigenous to the human spirit." Most often, however, it's used to describe the native inhabitants of a place.

Choose the Right Synonym for indigenous

native, indigenous, endemic, aboriginal mean belonging to a locality.

native implies birth or origin in a place or region and may suggest compatibility with it.

native tribal customs

indigenous applies to that which is not only native but which, as far as can be determined, has never been introduced or brought from elsewhere.

indigenous plants

endemic implies being peculiar to a region.

a disease endemic in Africa

aboriginal implies having no known others preceding in occupancy of a particular region.

the aboriginal peoples of Australia

Example Sentences

Viking invaders quickly subdued the indigenous population, known as the Picts. Jared M. Diamond, Collapse, 2005 Unlike France, Italy relies on dozens of indigenous regional grape varieties for its prodigious range of wines. Gerald Asher, Gourmet, September 2002 Though Gilded Age architecture was not indigenous to America, at least it was borrowed from belle epoque Europe, from which much of America's late-nineteenth-century culture evolved. Robert D. Kaplan, An Empire Wilderness, 1988 There are several indigenous groups that still live in the area. the culture of the indigenous people of that country
Recent Examples on the Web De Barros Gomes’ curatorial work focuses on race, indigenous histories, ethnicity and diversity. Susan Dunne, Hartford Courant, 30 Jan. 2023 The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM) chose Gupta to be on the official calendar because of his quintessential Indian core, of incorporating indigenous construction and the flamboyant details of his craftsmanship. Allyson Portee, Forbes, 27 Jan. 2023 Boluarte, again, appealed to her former base of voters, indigenous Peruvians. Tara John, CNN, 27 Jan. 2023 The rural regions have their indigenous sources of pollution that are largely unnoticed and unaddressed under the lens of urban air quality monitoring. Moorthy M Nair, Quartz, 27 Jan. 2023 Aliyev took a completely different path, wiping out indigenous Armenian culture in Azerbaijan’s territory by the destruction of monuments—remnants of a history that his regime now insists never existed to begin with. Simon Maghakyan, Time, 15 Dec. 2022 Valdez and Esmeralda add magic to their coffee by providing spiritual readings that are tied to Mexican indigenous culture. Jessica Rodriguez, Journal Sentinel, 22 Oct. 2022 The ceremony was rich with the indigenous Maori culture of New Zealand and first nation culture of Australia. Dallas News, 22 Oct. 2022 As a folk artist, Locke used his talents to teach others about Native American history and especially enjoyed working with children on the reservations to ensure the survival and growth of indigenous culture, the website said. Gretchen Ehlke, ajc, 3 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'indigenous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Late Latin indigenus, from Latin indigena, noun, native, from Old Latin indu, endo in, within + Latin gignere to beget — more at end-, kin

First Known Use

1632, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of indigenous was in 1632


Dictionary Entries Near indigenous

Cite this Entry

“Indigenous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​dig·​e·​nous in-ˈdij-ə-nəs How to pronounce indigenous (audio)
: produced, growing, or living naturally in a particular region or environment
indigenous plants
indigenous tribes
indigenously adverb

Medical Definition


in·​dig·​e·​nous in-ˈdij-ə-nəs How to pronounce indigenous (audio)
: having originated in and being produced, growing, or living naturally in a particular region or environment
a disease indigenous to the tropics
colonization by small numbers of indigenous enteric bacteriaC. M. Kunin et al.
: being inborn or innate
a type of behavior that is indigenous to human beings
indigenously adverb

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