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Why Do We Say Germany (& Not Deutschland)?

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

Not long ago, a friend asked me why we say Germany when the Germans use the word Deutschland. The words aren't even related! It doesn't seem to make sense. Good question! I went to my favorite linguist, Stefan. It turns out we can blame the Romans ('s a conflict of Latin vs. the every-day language). Here's the quick run-down.

The word Deutsch comes from late Medieval German Deudsch which in turn comes from Early Medieval Thiudisk, meaning ‘of the people.’

So it's the language the people spoke versus the formal Latin which originated with the Romans. All the Germanic languages adopted variations on these roots.

The Dutch say de Duitsers in Duitsland.

Based on the Early Medieval Thiudisk, the Swedes say Tyksarna i Tyskland . While in Iceland, you'll hear them use Thyskirnir í Thyskalandi

The English used to refer to the Dutch in Ducheland (which was the whole region, not what we call today's Germany or the Netherlands). That's also where we get Pennsylvania Dutch - it was a generic description. Now it's solidified as a name even through the language is a dialect of German.

Further south, the Italians call Germans Tedeschi - kind of neat how that root keeps showing up. It even shows up in some last names. Perhaps their many-great grandfather was from a Germanic region.

For those of you who want all the fun in-depth details, our expert Stefan will share the full background in our next blog.

1909 Map of the German Confederation

Do you have any German, Danish, Dutch, Swedish or Norwegian documents you can't read? We can help. Find out more here.


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