Inuk, Inuit (Linguistic recommendation from the Translation Bureau)


The Translation Bureau originally published a linguistic recommendation on the words Inuk and Inuit in 2009. On this page, you’ll find an updated version of the linguistic recommendation.

On this page

A note about the recommendation

The Translation Bureau recommends using the terms Inuk and Inuit both as nouns and as adjectives in English.

Inuit can be used adjectivally in all contexts. However, Inuk can be used only to modify one person, in keeping with its sense in Inuktitut, the language from which it is borrowed.

“Inuk” and “Inuit” used as nouns

A concern for reconciliation and inclusivity requires that, when referring to Indigenous persons, we use the terms preferred by the community. Thus, we refer to the traditional inhabitants of Canada’s northern regions and Arctic coastline by the terms Inuk and Inuit.

Inuk is the singular noun, used to refer to one person, regardless of gender. It is always capitalized and can be preceded by a definite or indefinite article:

  • He is the first Inuk to have been called to the Nunavut Bar.
  • She is an Inuk from Kuujjuaq in northeastern Quebec.

Inuit is the plural noun. It is always capitalized. Because the word Inuit is already plural in form in Inuktitut, it is used in English without the English plural ending “s”:

  • Correct: Inuit are working to preserve their language.
  • Incorrect: Inuits are working to preserve their language.

Since Inuit means "the people" in Inuktitut, do not use the definite article “the” or the word “people” in combination with Inuit:

  • Correct: Inuit use traditional hunting methods.
  • Incorrect: The Inuit use traditional hunting methods.
  • Incorrect: The Inuit people use traditional hunting methods.

Note: In addition to singular and plural forms, Inuktitut has a dual form used to refer to two people: Inuuk. Although Inuuk is used less frequently in English, it is still accepted.

“Inuk” and “Inuit” used as adjectives

Either Inuk or Inuit can be used as an adjective to describe a person. These terms are always capitalized:

  • The Inuk Elder was honoured for contributions to the community.
  • This award-winning Inuit designer combines fashion and tradition.

But the adjective Inuk can be used only to describe one person, never two or more. With plural nouns referring to human beings, the adjective that’s used is Inuit:

  • The non-profit organization is the voice of Inuit women in Canada.
  • The website showcases original art created by Inuit artists.

In addition, Inuk is never used to modify anything non-human. The adjective used to describe one or more places, things, qualities or ideas is Inuit:

  • This Inuit hamlet is a cultural hub in summer.
  • Traditional Inuit garments were made from animal skins and fur.
  • Inuit hospitality is legendary.
  • In the Inuit concept of health, the mind, body, spirit and environment are interconnected.

Additional information

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© His Majesty the King in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Public Services and Procurement
A tool created and made available online by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada

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