Colonists are the living inhabitants of each RimWorld colony. Each colonist has specific skills, positive and negative traits, and a character backstory. In general, every human is a colonist except for raiders/travelers/prisoners. The colonists come in various outfits based on their background, which can be seen by looking at the 'Character' tab in game.
Prisoners (also known as Hats) are people, usually raiders, hostile tribals, or your own colonists undergoing a mental break, who have been taken captive. They are unable to leave their prison barracks and can only use facilities (such as a food dispenser or shelf) on their own if they are placed inside the prison barracks.
You should notice that your colonists won't haul food away from cells, even when directed to do so. Animals may still enter the cell on their own and eat that food however.
Raiders, are enemies who attack in groups during the period where the storyteller's threat cycle is active - or at possibly any time in the case of Randy Random. The group size and strength of a raiding party is determined by 'points', which will be explained in-depth further down this article.
Visitors are friendly faction members that come and mill about the player's colony. Sometimes one of the them has items to trade, indicated by a question mark. Their arrival could prove advantageous if the colony is assaulted by a mutual enemy while they are present. When leaving, visitors will often rescue their own downed pawns.