The Malayali (Malayalam: മലയാളി) are a Dravidian ethnic group chiefly inhabiting the Indian state of Kerala and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep and have Malayalam language as their mother tongue. They share a common ancestry, culture, and history. A significant Malayali population, who migrated recently, also exist in other parts of India, the Middle East, North America, and Europe. According to the Indian census of 2011, there are approximately 33 million Malayalis in Kerala, making up 96.7% of the total population of the state. Hence the word Keralite is often used synonymously with Malayali, though a proper definition is ambiguous.
According to the Indian census of 2001, there were 30,803,747 speakers of Malayalam in Kerala, making up 93.2% of the total number of Malayalam speakers in India, and 96.7% of the total population of the state. There were a further 701,673 (2.1% of the total number) in Karnataka, 557,705 (1.7%) in Tamil Nadu, and 406,358 (1.2%) in Maharashtra. The number of Malayalam speakers in Lakshadweep is 51,100, which is only 0.15% of the total number, but is as much as about 84% of the population of Lakshadweep. In all, Malayalis made up 3.22% of the total Indian population in 2001. Of the total 33,066,392 Malayalam speakers in India in 2001, 33,015,420 spoke the standard dialects, 19,643 spoke the Yerava dialect and 31,329 spoke non- standard regional variations like Eranadan. As per the 1991 census data, 28.85% of all Malayalam speakers in India spoke a second language and 19.64% of the total knew three or more languages.
Large numbers of Malayalis have settled in Delhi, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Mumbai (Bombay),Ahmedabad, Pune, and Chennai (Madras). A large number of Malayalis have also emigrated to the Middle East, the United States, and Europe. There were 644,097 people with Malayalam heritage in the United States, according to the 2012 census, with the highest concentrations in Bergen County, New Jersey and Rockland County, New York, including a large number of professionals. There were 7,093 Malayalam speakers inAustralia in 2006. The 2001 Canadian census reported 7,070 people who listed Malayalam as their mother tongue. The vast majority of them live in the Greater Toronto Area and Southern Ontario. The 2006 New Zealand census reported 2,139 speakers. 134 Malayalam speaking households were reported in 1956 in Fiji. There is also a considerable Malayali population in the Persian Gulf regions, especially in Dubai.