Germany / Deutschland / Allemagne

germanyGermany has quite different names in different languages – the native name in German is Deutschland, in French it’s Allemagne, while in English it’s Germany. Where do these different names come from?

The name Germany comes from the Latin Germania, which Julius Caesar apparently got from a Gallic tribe and used to refer to the area east of the Rhine and north of the Danube. It probably meant “neighbour”. That area has been occupied by many different tribes other the millenia, some of whom lent their names to names of the region or languages spoken there. The modern country of Germany only came into being in 1871.

Deutschland is thought to come from the Old High German diutisc or something similar, which in turn came from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic Þeudiskaz, which is thought to mean “of the people”, “of the folk”. The names for Germany in the other Germanic languages come from the same root: Duitsland in Afrikaans & Dutch, Tyskland in Danish, Norwegian & Swedish, and Þýskaland in Icelandic.

The French name, Allemagne, comes from the Alamanni, an alliance of Germanic tribes who lived along the upper reaches of the River Main and were first mentioned in the 3rd century AD by the Roman Emperor Caracalla. Other languages that use a simliar name for Germany include Basque (Alemania), Catalan (Alemanya), Turkish (Almanya) and Welsh (Yr Almaen).

In many of the Slavic languages, the name for Germany comes from an old Slavic word for ‘mute’ (Nemets), as the Slavs thought the Germanic tribe who were unable to speak Slavic languages to be mute. Or the names might come from the Nemetes or Nemeti, a Germanic tribe that lived along the Danube. These names include Njemačka (Croatian), Německo (Czech), Niemcy (Polish), and Немачка (Nemačka – Serbian).

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