Where does the word ‘German’ come from?

German (Etymology)

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The term German derives from the Old High German diutisc (West Franconian *Eodisk), which originally meant “belonging to the people” (Germanic ” eud “,Old High German diot[a, Volk).With this word, the vernacular of all the speakers of a Germanic idiom was delineated to the catfish of the neighboring Romanesque peoples, French or Italian, and also in contrast to the Latin of Christian priests in the own territory of the Germanic peoples.


Linguistic and historical roots

The indo-European word root *teuta bore the meaning “people, people”.This is also supported by, for example, Celtic terms such as Tatha D茅 Danann (cf.Thiuda).

The first important document is a passage from the 4th century, a passage in the Gothic translation of the Bible by Bishop Wulfila (Gal.2:14). In his Greek template, he found the term “belonging to the Gentile people” as a counter-term to Jewish.The non-Jewish peoples, who were still to be converted Christianly, were summarized with this word. Wulfila translates it into Gothic, using the word “iudisko”.


Wulfila wrote for his Gothic tribal comrades that he had to use a term that they could understand and refer to: iudiscoo as belonging to the (own) people.

While the individual languages and dialects of the Germanic peoples had their own names 鈥?”Franconian”, “Gothic”, etc.鈥?the Old High German word diutisc prevailed as the overall term for the dialects of the Continental West Germanic dialect continuum,


because one saw a common contrast with other languages.These others were the Romance languages in the countries to which one had come through the migration of peoples, respectively. in the Romanesque “France” as well as the Latin of the clerics. The language of their own people (theut) orthe group of peoples within which it was possible to communicate was therefore the Theudic language, the German language.

For the first time, the German language was mentioned as a popular language in a letter from the papal nuncio Gregory of Ostia to Pope Hadrian I about a synodthat had taken place in England in 786.Wigbod, a chaplain of Charlemagne, also informed the Pope in 786 that in a synod under King Offa of Mercien the council resolutions tam latine quam theodisce (“in Latin as well as in the vernacular”) were communicated, “so that everyone could understand it. (quo omnes intellegere potuissent).



In its (old-high) German form diutsch ortiutsch can first be documented in the writings Notkers of the German.Another early find is the Annolied, probably from the pen of a Siegburg monk from the 11th century, where von Diutischemi lande, Diutsche lant, Diutischimo lante (German land) and Diutischin sprecchin (speak German) and Diutschi man (Germans, for the first time as a collective term for the tribes of the Saxons, Franks and Baiern) is mentioned.

Development in Eastern Franconia

In Eastern Franconia, from which German-country = German-speaking country developed, the dialect of the tribe had even greater importance, since there the demarcation also ran between the individual Germanic tribes. Otfrid von Wei脽enburg used the Latin word theodisce in 865 in his Gospel book and illustrated it with frenkisg.

King Otto united the tribes of the Saxons, (Eastern) Franconia, Swabia, Bavaria and Bohemia in 955 for the Battle of the Lechfeld.The joint action and victory strengthened the cohesion of the tribes with the related languages, so that in encounters with novels they described themselves as a common group, as members of a common people, as peoples, theodiske.The Italians adopted this self-description and still call their northern neighbours tedeschi (pronounced: tedeski).In Germany, however, the Upper German-Swabian pronunciation of the adjective suffix as “-sch” apparently spread with the Staufer rule.This is the German-language self-description today no longer Deutisk, but pulled together and softened the ending to hissing sound: German.

Since the 11th century, the term Regnum Teutonicum has been used for the largest part of the Holy RomanEmpire.The function of the summary is evident in the poetry of the Middle Ages, but also in the Berlin manuscript of the Sachsenspiegel of 1369, which states: “Iewelk d眉desch lant hevet sinen palenzgreven: sassen, beieren, vranken unde svaven” (“Everything German-speaking (orGermany) has its Count Palatine: Saxony, Baiern, Franken and Swabia”).


Developments in modern times

In the course of Renaissance humanism in the 15th century, a sense of belonging to the respective fatherlands or nations began to develop within some elites, so that the territorial lords of the empire began to develop towards the end of the 15th century. In the late 19th century, this was commonly referred to as Teutschland, which became the main point of reference for its political activities (rather than the duchies as before).


The German-speaking area has long been politically ununited.The inhabitants of the western part, who later developed their own Dutch (or Flemish)identity, originally considered themselves belonging to this area (see Dutch (name) and the name of the Dutch in English as Dutch as well as the historical self-description of some speakers of the Jersey Dutch as Negroduit or the name of the Pennsylvania German as Pennsylvania Dutch).The boundaries between “nederduits” or “nederlands” and “duits” were still fluent for a long time, for example with the Mennonites, who speak a Low German-Dutch compensatory dialect and settled in West Prussia and the United States for reasons of faith.After the world wars, they had partly defined themselves as Dutch in the United States, but today (as long as they do not consider themselves to be their own people) see themselves as Germans. On the other hand, the Alsatians and Lothringer stake in the majority today either as French Alsatian (Alemannic) orMoselle Franconian language or as independent.

Third-party names

Main article: German in other languages

In other languages, the names for German are derived from a variety of other basic words besides the Old High German diutisc.First and foremost, these are the Latin root German for the Germanic peoples (e.g. in English, Greek, Indonesian) and the name of the Alemannic tribe (e.g. in French, Spanish, Arabic).There is also a Slavic word strain nemet or niemc with the meaning ‘silent’.There are also derivations of the word for the people of Saxony (e.g. in Finnish, Estonian) or that of the Baiern (e.g. in Lower Sorbian).

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