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Denizen vs. Citizen — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Fiza Rafique — Updated on March 4, 2024
Denizen refers to an inhabitant or resident of a particular place, while citizen denotes a legal member of a state or country, with specific rights and duties.
Denizen vs. Citizen — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Denizen and Citizen


Key Differences

A denizen is broadly any person or animal that resides in a specific location, emphasizing their presence or habitation in that place without implying any legal status or rights. On the other hand, a citizen is a legal member of a specific nation or state, entitled to its protection and bound by its laws, often with the right to vote and other civil liberties.
While the term denizen can apply to any creature, human or animal, that lives in a given area, indicating a sense of belonging or adaptation to that environment, citizenship is exclusively a human legal concept. Citizens have specific legal rights, responsibilities, and privileges granted by the nation-state they belong to, whereas denizens simply inhabit a place.
Denizenship, as a concept, is more inclusive and less formal than citizenship. It can include people living in a place regardless of their legal status, tourists, migrants, and even transient populations. Citizenship, in contrast, is a formal relationship between an individual and a state, often requiring a process like birth, naturalization, or registration.
The rights and obligations of denizens are limited compared to those of citizens. For example, denizens may not have the right to vote, run for office, or access certain public services and benefits reserved for citizens. Citizens, conversely, are often entitled to vote, work without restriction, and access social services and protection from the state.
A denizen may be considered as someone who contributes to the social fabric of a place, participating in its community life and culture without possessing the full legal rights or obligations of citizenship. Citizens, however, are integral to the political and legal structure of the state, with a formal stake in its governance and future.

Comparison Chart


Inhabitant of a place
Legal member of a state or country


Limited, no formal legal rights or obligations
Specific legal rights and obligations


Humans and animals, based on residence
Humans, based on legal status

Legal Status

Not a legal status
Legal status with specific entitlements and duties


Broad and inclusive
Exclusive, based on legal criteria

Compare with Definitions


Applies to both people and animals in a given area.
The denizens of the deep sea fascinate marine biologists.


Exclusively applies to people with legal membership in a state.
Only citizens can run for public office in most countries.


An inhabitant of a particular place, without specifying legal status.
The coyotes have become common denizens of urban areas.


A person legally recognized by a state or nation, with specific rights and duties.
As a citizen, she was proud to vote in the national elections.


More about presence or habitation than legalities.
The artist became a well-known denizen of the local café scene.


Entitled to vote, work, and receive state protection and services.
Citizens of the country are eligible for universal healthcare.


Inclusive of anyone residing in a place, regardless of their legal status.
The city's denizens include a vibrant mix of students, workers, and artists.


Denotes a legal relationship with a state.
He became a citizen after completing the naturalization process.


Generally lacks formal legal rights and privileges.
As a denizen of the neighborhood, he knew every corner but had no voting rights.


Involves formal recognition and documentation.
Obtaining a passport is a benefit of citizenship.


A person, animal, or plant that lives or is found in a particular place
Denizens of field and forest


A legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized
A British citizen


An inhabitant; a resident
Denizens of Buenos Aires.
Turtles and other swamp denizens.


A person owing loyalty to and entitled by birth or naturalization to the protection of a state or nation.


One that frequents a particular place
A bar and its denizens.
Denizens of the deep sea.


A resident of a city or town, especially one entitled to vote and enjoy other privileges there.


An inhabitant of a place; one who dwells in.
The giant squid is one of many denizens of the deep.


A civilian.


To provide with denizens; to populate with adopted or naturalized occupants.
There [islets] were at once denizened by various weeds.


A native, inhabitant, or denizen of a particular place
Citizens of rural Utah.


A plant or animal naturalized in a region;
Denizens of field and forest
Denizens of the deep


A resident of a city or town, especially one with legally-recognized rights or duties.


A civilian, as opposed to a police officer, soldier, or member of some other specialized (usually state) group.


One who is domiciled in a country, and who is a citizen, though neither native nor naturalized, in such a sense that he takes his legal status from such country.


Having the condition or qualities of a citizen, or of citizens; as, a citizen soldiery.

Common Curiosities

What rights do citizens have?

Citizens have rights granted by their country's laws, including voting, freedom of speech, and access to public services.

Do denizens have political rights?

Denizens do not have guaranteed political rights like citizens, as their status does not entail legal recognition by a state.

What defines a denizen?

A denizen is defined as any inhabitant or resident of a specific place, without necessarily having legal rights or duties there.

Can denizens be animals or plants?

Yes, in ecological contexts, denizens can refer to animals or plants that inhabit a specific area.

How does one become a citizen?

Citizenship can be acquired by birth, naturalization, or other legal means as defined by national laws.

Can a person be a denizen and a citizen at the same time?

Yes, a person can be both a denizen of a locality by residence and a citizen of a country by legal status.

What is the significance of citizenship in a democracy?

Citizenship is crucial in a democracy, as it entails the right to vote, run for office, and participate in decision-making processes.

What duties do citizens have?

Citizens' duties include obeying the law, paying taxes, and sometimes serving in defense of the country.

Can citizenship be revoked?

Under certain circumstances, such as fraud or treason, a state can revoke citizenship.

How do countries differ in their treatment of denizens?

Countries differ in how they treat denizens, especially regarding residency rights, access to services, and potential pathways to citizenship.

Are denizens protected by law?

Denizens may enjoy certain protections or privileges locally, but these are not guaranteed by law as citizens' rights are.

Is citizenship the same in every country?

While the concept of citizenship is common, the specific rights, duties, and methods of acquisition vary by country.

What legal documents prove citizenship?

Passports, birth certificates, and naturalization certificates are common documents proving citizenship.

Can denizens own property?

Property ownership laws for denizens vary by country and may not require citizenship.

Do all denizens become citizens eventually?

Not all denizens become citizens; the process depends on legal criteria set by the country.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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