Oxford English Dictionary

Some interesting definitions.

Native, One born in bondage; a born thrall One born in a place; one connected with a place by birth, whether subsequently resident there or not. – Legally, a person is a native of the place or country where the parents have their domicile, which may or may not be the place of actual birth.

Native-born, Having a certain position or status by birth. Belonging to a particular place or country by birth; sometimes spec. applied to persons of immigrant race born in a colony. (emphasis in the original)

Natural-born, Having a specified position or character by birth; used esp. with subject (emphasis in the original)

Naturalize, To admit (an alien) to the position and rights of citizenship; to invest with the privileges of a native-born subject.

Nation, An extensive aggregate of persons, so closely associated with each other by common descent, language, or history, as to form a distinct race or people



Here are dictionary definitions from the Founding Era through the mid 1800’s.

Walker’s Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language, 1791
NATIVE – conferred by birth; pertaining to the time or place of birth
NATURAL – not forced, not far-fetched

Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, 1818
NATIVE – Conferred by birth; belonging by birth
NATURAL – Bestowed by nature; not acquired; not forced

Richardson’s New Dictionary of the English Language, 1839
NATIVE – of or pertaining to birth
NATUR (E) or (AL) – To the aggregate of qualities inherent from the birth or creation of any thing; forming or constituting its being, essence, or existence; its kind or species.

Worcester’s Universal and Critical Dictionary of the English Language, 1847
NATIVE – Annexed to existence or birth; One born in a place or country;
NATURAL – Relating to or produced by nature; bestowed or dictated by nature; not acquired


Here the definitions of the words “native” and “natural” are analyzed in detail so that we may have a better understanding of each.

Several dictionaries were consulted, and the relevant entries are available under Native and Natural in the Definitions Category shown on the right.

For the first phase of analysis the definitions for each word were reviewed and the (Latin) origin of each word was  gathered together in a list and the duplicate definitions removed.  Several Latin-English dictionaries where consulted to determine the English definition of each Latin term.  (Collins Latin Concise Dictionary, The New College Latin and English Dictionary by John C. Traupman, Ph.D., and Notre Dame – Latin Online). The Latin root words and their definitions are listed in a PDF document which you can download or view.

As the analysis makes clear, the various Latin forms of “native” and “natural” do share common roots and overlap to some degree.  Both do pertain to “birth”.  Also as clear, and perhaps most important to take notice of, is that “native” is almost entirely related to “birth” whilst “natural” encompasses “quality” and “character”.

These results led to needing to determine the extent to which “native” might pertain to anything other than “birth”.

To determine this, all the definitions for “native” where compiled in a table and each definition was reviewed to determine whether it pertained to birth, birth plus additional attributes, or was ambiguous.  The details of this analysis are available in a PDF document which you can download or view.

This analysis shows that 57% of the definitions for “native” pertain solely to “birth” whilst only 13% pertain to birth with additional qualifiers.  33% of the definitions were ambiguous in some way.  Even including ambiguous and birth-plus in the same group still gives a 57-46 split.  (Percentages  exceed 100% due to items being assigned to more than one category.)

“Birth only” is strongly indicated as the most accurate definition of “native”.

We now turn to an analysis of “natural”.  This was more complex owing to the variety of definitions.  To simplify, the definitions were grouped into “families” of related concepts.  This resulted in five groups.  All the definitions for “natural” where compiled in a table and each definition was reviewed to determine to which family of concepts it pertained.

The details of this analysis are available in a PDF document which you can download or view.

49% of the definitions fell into the “other” category.  The natural conclusion is that additional concept families are needed.    Upon review it was determined that many of these definitions pertain to “the universe”, “science”, and “philosophy/religion/spirituality”.  Of the 21 definitions that fall into the “other” category, 9 are of this type.  The remaining 11 are split between self-referencing definitions (4), consanguinity(5), and the truly miscellaneous(2).

With the possible exception of consanguinity, none of these “others” are relevant.

The following definitions apply to “natural”:

genuineness, authenticity  – 14%
having particular characteristics – 12%
the normal course – 12%
consanguinity – 12%
untended, uninfluenced – 9%

There is a relatedness among these concepts that draws them together into a whole.  When considered in the context of “natural born” meaning “being born in the country to two citizen parents” that whole comes into clear focus.  A focus further sharpened since none of these concepts apply to “native”.

Natural and native have “birth” in common, but natural encompasses much more.

These meanings of “native” and “natural” have not wavered since the roots of this country first began to form.   Considering the etymology, the general meanings of natural and native have stood for thousands of years.

It is undeniable: natural is more than native.

Natural is “native” plus certain qualities.  And very particular qualities.  Qualities such as consanguinity.   Qualities of genuineness and authenticity.  Qualities not requiring any naturalizing influences.

Native is less than natural.  Natural subsumes native.

So then, when the US Constitution uniquely specifies “natural born citizen” for the office of President, and for no other office, and when “natural” is so clearly differentiated with such particular distinctions from “native”, reason forces the conclusion that mere birth on US soil – jus soli – is not sufficient for qualification for office.

Native born is not enough.  There are the added dimensions of “natural”, notably consanguinity and no requirement for any naturalizing influences (statutes).

If you do find a gross error or take issue with some point, you are welcome to assemble a collection of linguists and etymological scholars to work independently, submit their individual findings to a set of statisticians who themselves will work independently to tabulate the results, and then report back.

Or you can post your concerns below.

(Originally published 2009/04/03)



Random House Dictionary

  1. existing in or formed by nature (opposed to artificial ): a natural bridge.
  2. based on the state of things in nature; constituted by nature: Growth is a natural process.
  3. of or pertaining to nature or the universe: natural beauty.
  4. of, pertaining to, or occupied with the study of natural science: conducting natural experiments.
  5. in a state of nature; uncultivated, as land.
  6. growing spontaneously, without being planted or tended by human hand, as vegetation.

    Origin: L. naturalis


  1. based on an inherent sense of right and wrong <natural justice>
  2. a) being in accordance with or determined by nature  b) having or constituting a classification based on features existing in nature
  3. a) 1. begotten as distinguished from adopted ; also : legitimate 2. being a relation by actual consanguinity as distinguished from adoption <natural parents>  b) illegitimate <a natural child>
  4. having an essential relation with someone or something : following from the nature of the one in question <his guilt is a natural deduction from the evidence>
  5. implanted or being as if implanted by nature : seemingly inborn <a natural talent for art>
  6. of or relating to nature as an object of study and research
  7. having a specified character by nature <a natural athlete>
  8. a) occurring in conformity with the ordinary course of nature : not marvelous or supernatural <natural causes>  b) formulated by human reason alone rather than revelation <natural religion> <natural rights>  c) having a normal or usual character <events followed their natural course>
  9. possessing or exhibiting the higher qualities (as kindliness and affection) of human nature
  10. a) growing without human care ; also : not cultivated <natural prairie unbroken by the plow>  b) existing in or produced by nature : not artificial <natural turf> <natural curiosities>  c) relating to or being natural food
  11. a) being in a state of nature without spiritual enlightenment : unregenerate <natural man>  b) living in or as if in a state of nature untouched by the influences of civilization and society
  12. a) having a physical or real existence as contrasted with one that is spiritual, intellectual, or fictitious<a corporation is a legal but not a natural person>  b) of, relating to, or operating in the physical as opposed to the spiritual world <natural laws describe phenomena of the physical universe>
  13. a) closely resembling an original : true to nature  b) marked by easy simplicity and freedom from artificiality, affectation, or constraint  c) having a form or appearance found in nature

    Etymology: from Latin naturalis of nature, from natura nature

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.


  1. Present in or produced by nature: a natural pearl.
  2. Of, relating to, or concerning nature: a natural environment.
  3. Conforming to the usual or ordinary course of nature: a natural death.
  4. a) Not acquired; inherent: Love of power is natural to some people.  b) Having a particular character by nature: a natural leader.  c) Biology Not produced or changed artificially; not conditioned: natural immunity; a natural reflex.
  5. Characterized by spontaneity and freedom from artificiality, affectation, or inhibitions. See synonyms at naive.
  6. Not altered, treated, or disguised: natural coloring; natural produce.
  7. Faithfully representing nature or life.
  8. Expected and accepted
  9. Established by moral certainty or conviction: natural rights.
  10. Being in a state regarded as primitive, uncivilized, or unregenerate.
  11. a) Related by blood: the natural parents of the child.  b) Born of unwed parents: a natural child.
  12. Mathematics Of or relating to positive integers, sometimes including zero.


Random House Dictionary

  1. being the place or environment in which a person was born or a thing came into being: one’s native land.
  2. belonging to a person by birth or to a thing by nature; inherent: native ability; native grace.
  3. belonging by birth to a people regarded as indigenous to a certain place, esp. a preliterate people: Native guides accompanied the expedition through the rain forest.
  4. of indigenous origin, growth, or production: native pottery.
  5. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the indigenous inhabitants of a place or country: native customs; native dress.
  6. born in a particular place or country: a native New Yorker

    Origin:  L nativus inborn, natural, equiv. to nat(us) (ptp. of nasci to be born) + -ivus -ive;


  1. inborn , innate <native talents>
  2. belonging to a particular place by birth <native to Wisconsin>
  3. archaic : closely related
  4. belonging to or associated with one by birth
  5. natural , normal
  6. a) grown, produced, or originating in a particular place or in the vicinity : local  b) living or growing naturally in a particular region : indigenous
  7. simple , unaffected
  8. a) constituting the original substance or source  b) found in nature especially in an unadulterated form <mining native silver>

    Etymology:  from Latin nativus, from natus, past participle of nasci to be born

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary


  1. [before noun] relating to or describing someone’s country or place of birth or someone who was born in a particular country or place: She returned to live and work in her native Japan.  She’s a native Californian.
  2. describes plants and animals which grow naturally in a place, and have not been brought there from somewhere else: Henderson Island in the Pacific has more than 55 species of native flowering plants. The horse is not native to America – it was introduced by the Spanish.
  3. [before noun] relating to the first people to live in an area: The Aborigines are the native inhabitants of Australia. the native population native customs and traditions See also indigenous.
  4. your native language/tongue the first language that you learn: French is his native tongue.
  5. [before noun] A native ability or characteristic is one that a person or thing has naturally and is part of their basic character: his native wit See also innate.


  1. a person who was born in a particular place, or a plant or animal that lives or grows naturally in a place and has not been brought from somewhere else:a native of Monaco The red squirrel is a native of Britain.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.


  1. Existing in or belonging to one by nature; innate: native ability.
  2. Being such by birth or origin: a native Scot.
  3. Being one’s own because of the place or circumstances of one’s birth: our native land.
  4. Originating, growing, or produced in a certain place or region; indigenous: a plant native to Asia.
  5. a) Being a member of the original inhabitants of a particular place. b) Of, belonging to, or characteristic of such inhabitants: native dress; the native diet of Polynesia.
  6. Occurring in nature pure or uncombined with other substances: native copper.
  7. Natural; unaffected: native beauty.
  8. Archaic Closely related, as by birth or race.

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