The number of Swiss nationals has grown from 1.7 million in 1815 to 7 million in 2016. More than 1.5 million Swiss citizens hold multiple citizenship. About 11% of citizens live abroad (0.8 million, of whom 0.6 million hold multiple citizenship). About 60% of those living abroad reside in the European Union (0.46 million). The largest groups of Swiss descendants and nationals outside Europe are found in the United States and Canada.
Although the modern state of Switzerland originated in 1848, the period of romantic nationalism, it is not a nation-state, and the Swiss are not usually considered to form a single ethnic group, but a confederacy (Eidgenossenschaft) or Willensnation ("nation of will", "nation by choice", that is, a consociational state), a term coined in conscious contrast to "nation" in the conventionally linguistic or ethnic sense of the term.
The demonym Swiss (formerly in English also Switzer) and the name of Switzerland, ultimately derive from the toponym Schwyz, have been in widespread use to refer to the Old Swiss Confederacy since the 16th century.
The ethno-linguistic composition of the territories of modern Switzerland includes the following components:
The core Eight Cantons of the Swiss Confederacy were entirely Alemannic-speaking, and German speakers remain the majority. However, from as early as the 15th century, parts of French-speaking Vaud and Italian-speaking Ticino were acquired as subject territories by Berne and Uri, respectively. The Swiss Romandie was formed by the accession of French-speaking Geneva and Neuchâtel and the partly francophone Valais and Bernese Jura (formerly part of the Prince-Bishopric of Basel) to the Restored Swiss Confederacy in 1815. Romansh was formerly considered a group of Italian dialects, but Switzerland declared Romansh a national language in 1938 in reaction to the fascist Italian irredentism at the time.