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I was looking for a word to say islander, i.e. someone that lives/was born in an island.

I've come across 島人 and 島民 and asked two native speakers about their user meaning. While they both agreed that the second one is the more common option, I didn't quite understand the usage of the first.

Is 島人 simply rare/less used or is it actually wrong? It appears in my dictionary just fine but I'd like to look more into this.

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If I heard "とうじん" in daily conversation, I might ask "とうじんって何?". (Maybe I'd think of it as 唐人.) If I see the kanji 島人, I might read it as しまびと or maybe しまんちゅ. (If I hear とうみん, I'd think of it as 島民 or 冬眠) – user1016 Dec 30 '12 at 14:57
(Like...[村人]{むらびと} and [村民]{そんみん}, maybe) – user1016 Dec 30 '12 at 16:21

As you probably know, 民 means people (民族) rather than a person and calling someone a 島民 has the connotation of seeing him as part of a island community. (The island community as a whole would also be 島民.)

島人 means just someone living on (or coming from) an island, but cannot really be used in daily conversation, at least not as とうじん without causing confusion. As an act of creative license, you are free to use 島人 in literature, but you would probably like to specify the reading とうじん with 振り仮名 as more natural readings of 島人 would be しまびと or しまんちゅ. The former is just what it says (島の人); the latter is the Okinawan reading of 島人 (cf. [海人]{うみんちゅ}) and can be used to say that someone is an islander from Okinawa.

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