The inhabitants of Bosnia called themselves various names: from Bosniak, in the full spectrum of the word's meaning with a foundation as a territorial designation, through a series of regional and confessional names, all the way to modern-day national ones.
In this regard, Christian Bosnians had not described themselves as either Serbs or Croats prior to the 19th century, and in particular before the Austrian occupation in 1878, when the current tri-ethnic reality of Bosnia and Herzegovina was configured based on religious affiliation.
Bosnensis), is originally a name defining the inhabitants of the medieval Bosnian state".
Some may point to an Islamic heritage, while others stress the purely secular and national character of the Bosniak identity and its connection with Bosnian territory and history.
Moreover, individuals outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina may hold their own personal interpretations as well.
As such, "Bosniak" is etymologically equivalent to its non-ethnic counterpart "Bosnian" (which entered English around the same time via the Middle French, Bosnien): a native of Bosnia.
the suffix -(n)in had been replaced by -ak to create the current form Bošnjak (Bosniak), first attested in the diplomacy of Bosnian king Tvrtko II who in 1440 dispatched a delegation (Apparatu virisque insignis) to the Polish king of Hungary, Władysław Warneńczyk (1440–1444), asserting a common Slavic ancestry and language between the Bosniak and Pole.
Over two million Bosniaks live in the Balkans, with an estimated additional million settled and living around the world.