On our honeymoon, Kari and I spent a couple days in Germany. The cities of Deutschland are beautiful. We enjoyed the great beer and food they make in Alemania. Some day I hope to return to Tyskland. But before I do, I want to figure out why there are so many names for the same country.
Every language has its own way of saying the name of a given country, but most countries in Europe are pronounced similarly across European languages. England is pretty universally known as some variation of England/Angleland. Spain is something like Spain/España. Italy is a variation of Italia. But Germany is a weird exception. The chart below shows the difference pretty clearly:
There are some interesting differences here and there, but for the most part there’s a clear agreement on what these countries are called except for Germany. Wikipedia has a pretty in-depth article and map specifically about this topic, but to summarize it’s because of the country’s non-unified history. Before 1871, the region that we call Germany today existed as several distinct countries and the various names for the modern nation of Germany reflect that history.
- Germany and Germania come from the Roman’s name for the region, Germania.
- Allemagne and Alemania come from the Alemanni tribe, who lived along the border of modern France.
- Deutschland and Tyskland come from an Old High German word for “of the people”.
- Saksa is named for the Saxons, from northern Germany.
- Niemcy comes from a Proto-Slavic word meaning “the mutes”. Basically Niemcy means “the people who can’t talk (like us)”.
So there it is – now that I know why Germany has so many different names, all I need to do is plan my next trip back.