In French, the word Québécois generally refers to a resident of Quebec, Canada. Its English equivalent is Quebecker, also spelled as Quebecer, but this latter alternative's ending might be mispronounced as "-sir".
The word Québécois in English more specifically designates a particular francophone (i.e. French-Canadian) ethnicity and culture found in Quebec. This ethnicity traces its roots to the French colonists of Quebec.
The idea that Québécois are French also has adherents among francophones. For example, the Parti Québécois, a provincial political party devoted to the sovereignty of Quebec, has long pursued policies promoting the use of French over other languages. Statements by Parti Québécois leaders, especially Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard, have been widely interpreted as assuming that Québécois are francophone, although these inferences are questionable. Nevertheless, for an anglophone to describe himself or herself in Canadian French as Québécois would be unexceptionable; in Canadian English it would be contrary to general usage.
Some francophone Quebeckers object to the English use of Quebecois to designate francophone Quebeckers alone, much as many anglophones find the French use of anglo-saxon to describe any anglophone offensive. However, Quebecois is neither derogatory nor offensive in English, and it does describe a culture whose existence is widely acknowledged by both anglophones and francophones.
The Québécois are the most numerous group of French-Canadians, though communities of French-Canadians can be found across the country, especially in Manitoba, Ontario, and the Maritimes; French-speaking cultural groups elsewhere in Canada include the Métis and Acadians. Other Francophone communities in North America are to be found in New England and Louisiana. In fact, there are more people of French, French-Canadian and Acadian descent in the United-States than in all of Canada. Currently, there are two distinguishable groups: the Franco-Americans and the Cajuns or Cadiens.
The term pure laine ("old stock", literally "pure wool"), is sometimes taken to be synonymous with Québécois. This term refers to someone whose ancestry is almost entirely Québécois. As with any ethnicity in a multicultural country such as Canada, few people can accurately claim to be pure laine. The idea of pure laine has been at the root of some heated polemic battles about ethnicity, culture, and belonging in recent years in Quebec; many find the idea and its linking with Québécois identity and culture to be racist, and belief in the identity of French origins with the Quebecois is by no means universal.
Many of the well known cultural items of the Québécois are well-known throughout the world. Traditional aspects of Québécois culture include a variety of folk songs and dances (many with Celtic roots, as the French-Canadians intermarried a great deal with Irish immigrants), as well as items of cuisine such as 'tourtière', 'paté chinois', 'sucre à la crème', 'creton', maple sugar products, pea soup with ham, and the latter-day creation of poutine.
The Québécois culture underwent a profound shift with the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, after the end of the Duplessis years and with the waning of the influence of the Catholic church. New movements in art, literature, and music sprang up: a revolutionary artistic movement, Les Automatistes, was born in Quebec as a response to the conformity of the Duplessis era. This included world-renowned artists like Paul-Émile Borduas, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Jean-Paul Mousseau, and Marcelle Ferron.
The term Québécois may also refer to the Québécois dialect of French, which is mostly oral but has been transcribed by many songwriters and playwrights such as Michel Tremblay. The best-known lect of Québécois French is the so-called joual dialect, which combines traditional Quebec accent and vocabulary with a distinct vocabulary unto itself, including many anglicisms (adapted English words) and many latter-day French words that are not used in France as well. (For more information see the article on Québécois French.)
Québécois literature is an important part of worldwide Francophone heritage. Some important Québécois authors include Émile Nelligan, Octave Crémazie, Saint-Denys Garneau, Anne Hébert, and Gilles Archambault.
Québécois singers such as Robert Charlebois and Céline Dion have become world-famous. Other noted Québécois singers include Georges Dor, composer of "La Complainte de La Manic", Gilles Vigneault composer of "Mon Pays" (the tune was also used for the disco song "From New York to L. A."), Félix Leclerc, and the remarkable La Bolduc.
Today Quebec is home to a multi-ethnic society with a francophone majority and large anglophone and allophone minorities. The wide variety of ethnic groups in Quebec includes ten First Nations and the Inuit of Nunavik. Many believe that Québécois society is therefore adapting to and enriching itself with the cultures of recent immigrants to Quebec. Haitian, francophone African, Latino, and Arab cultures are among the most numerically significant populations of recent immigrants. These cultures exert an especially important influence in Montreal and increasingly Quebec City. Today, thousands of people from around the world adopt French when they move to Quebec, in part because provincial law requires them to speak it (their children must go to French schools, for example).
Note that in French, the term québécois can also refer to a resident of Quebec City. As city names do not have a gender in the French language, the distinction is made clear by the phrase québécois de Québec instead of québécois du Québec.