German (Etymology)

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The term German is derived from the Old High German diutisc (West Franconian * Þeodisk ), which originally meant “belonging to the people” ( Germanic Þeudā, Old High German diot [a]people ”). Above all, this word was used to describe the vernacular of all speakers of a Germanic idiom, as opposed to the Welsh of the Romanic neighboring peoples, French or Italian, and also in contrast to the Latin of the Christian priests in their own area of ​​the Germanic peoples.

Linguistic and historical roots

The developed Indo-European word root * teuta had the meaning "people, people". This is also supported by e.g. B. Celtic terms such as Túatha Dé Danann (cf. Thiuda ).

The first important evidence 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 model he found the term ἐθνικός “belonging to the people” as an alternative to Jewish . The non-Jewish peoples who were also to be converted to Christianity were summarized with this word. Wulfila translates it into Gothic and used the word þiudisko for it . Wulfila wrote for his Gothic tribal comrades, he had to use a term that they could understand and refer to: þiudisko as that belonging to their (own) people.

While the individual languages ​​and dialects of the Germanic peoples had their own names - "Franconian", "Gothic" etc. - there was also the word * þeudisk for the contrast between Latin and the vernacular , but from the beginning ( 786 ) until the year 1000 was only passed down in the Middle Latin form theodiscus . The origin of this word is, due to similarities in phonetic form, with great probability in the West Franconian (or old Dutch) area of ​​the Franconian Empire. The Franks initially called their language "frenkisk" and the Romance languages ​​were collectively referred to as * walhisk , but when, in the course of the early Middle Ages, in the bilingual West Franconia the political and linguistic term "Franconian" no longer coincided, because the Romansh-speaking population no longer coincided referred to as "Franconian" (cf. French: français), the word * þeudisk prevailed here for the linguistic contrast to * walhisk and a change in meaning took place, with the meaning changed from "vernacular" to "Germanic instead of Romance" . Since there was no reason to change the name in the East Franconian Empire (later Germany), this did not occur until later, perhaps following the West Franconian model. Gradually, theodisce / * þeudisk changed the meaning from “vernacular” to “Germanic” and, many centuries later, ultimately to “German”.

A Germanic language was mentioned for the first time as a popular language in a letter from the papal nuncio Gregory of Ostia to Pope Hadrian I about a synod that took place in England in 786. Wigbod, a chaplain of Charlemagne, informed the Pope, also 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”) had been communicated “so that all it could understand ” (quo omnes intellegere potuissent) . In its (old high) German form diutsch or tiutsch it can first be documented in the writings Notkers des Deutschen . Another early source is the Annolied , probably from the pen of a Siegburg monk from the 11th century, where diutischemi lande, diutsche lant, diutischimo lante "deutschem land" as well as diutischin sprecchin "German or Germanic speak" and diutschi man (as Collective term for the tribes of the Saxons , Franks and Baiern ) is the speech.

Overview of the linguistic development of the Urgermanic * þiudiskaz "German"

language Variant, cognate, loan word Dating meaning
Urgermanic * þiudiskaz Before 100 BC Chr. Reconstructed, 'Belonging to the people or tribesman'
Gothic þiudisk, þiudiskō 330-380 'Pagan, paganist, infidel'. That is, a non-Christian or a non-Jew.
Old Norse þýðverskr 800-900 Spokesman for Germanic, but not Nordic.
Danish tysk today 'German'
Icelandic þýskur, þýskur today 'German'
Middle Latin theodiscus, diutiscus 786-800 'Belong to (own) people'. That is, a speaker of the Germanic vernacular as opposed to Latin and the Romance languages.
Old French tiois, tiesche 800-1200 Generally for a speaker of the Germanic vernacular, a non-Romane.
French thiois today In Belgium a spokesman for the Platdiets , in France a spokesman for Lorraine .
Old High German thiutisk > 1000 The Germanic vernacular, folkish, vernacular
Old High German diutisc 1000 The Germanic vernacular, folkish, vernacular
Old High German diutic 1090 In the Annolied 'diutischin liute' is used as a collective term for the various tribes of the East Franconian Empire.
Middle High German diutisch, tiutsch, diutsch, tiutsch, tiusch 1050-1350 The Germanic vernacular, folkish, vernacular
New High German German, German 1650-1850 The vernacular of the Holy Roman Empire, folk, vernacular, German, the written German language.
German German today 'German'
High and High Alemannic tüütsch, tiitsch today 'German'
Luxembourgish däitsch today 'German'
Old Frisian * thiadisk 750 (approximately) A speaker of the Germanic vernacular. Comment: reconstructed.
Old Frisian thiōsk 1100 (approximately) Spokesman for Germanic, but not Frisian.
West Frisian dùtsk today 'German'
Old Saxon thiudisc, thiudisk > 1000 The Germanic vernacular, folkish, vernacular
Middle Low German düdesch 1500 The vernacular of the Holy Roman Empire, Low German, the standard German written language. Also: folkish, vernacular.
Low German duuts, dütsch, düütsch today 'German'
Old English theodisc, þēodisc 700-800 'Belong to the people'. Also within the Church is the Old English translation of the Latin gentilis , 'pagan'.
Middle English duch, duche, dewche, dowche 1100-1450 Spokesman for West Germanic but not English. Often used for Dutch people (Dutch, Flemish) because of trade contacts. Dutch influences (th> d) show in the word development.
English Dutch today 'Dutch'
Scottish Dutch today 'Dutch'
Old Dutch * Þeodisk 700 A speaker of the Germanic vernacular. Comment: reconstructed.
Middle Dutch dietsc 1
Duutsc 2
1150-1250 1 The Flemish, Zealand and Brabant dialects of Dutch.
2 The remaining Dutch dialects, or similar Germanic dialects in general.
Early un-Dutch Duytsch, Duijtsch 1518-1550 'The Dutch language', as a secondary meaning, could also refer to related Germanic dialects.
Early un-Dutch Nederduytsch 1550-1750 'The Dutch Language'
Early un-Dutch Duytsch 1599 Before the first time, Duytsch is used specifically as a term for German, instead of Dutch or similar Germanic dialects in general.
Dutch Duits today 'German'
Dutch Diets today The Middle Dutch Language (poetic)

Development in Eastern Franconia

In East Franconia , from which Deutsch -Land = German-speaking country developed, the dialect of the tribe was even more important, as there was also a demarcation between the individual Germanic tribes. Otfrid von Weißenburg used the Latin word theodisce in his Gospel book in 865 and clarified it with frenkisg .

In 955 King Otto united the tribes of the Saxons, (Eastern) Franks, Swabians, Bavaria and Bohemia for the battle on the Lechfeld . The common action and the victory strengthened the cohesion of the tribes with the related languages, so that when they encountered Romans they identified themselves as a common group, as members of a common people, as folk people , theodisks . The Italians adopted this self-designation and call their northern neighbors tedeschi (pronounced: tedeski) to this day . In Germany , however, the Upper German-Swabian pronunciation of the adjective suffix as "-sch" apparently spread with the rule of the Hohenstaufen. The German-language self-designation is no longer Deutisk , but contracted and the ending softened to a sibilant: German .

The term Regnum Teutonicum has been used since the 11th century for the largest, German-speaking part of the Holy Roman Empire . The function of the summary becomes clear in the poetry of the Middle Ages, but also in the Berlin manuscript of the Sachsenspiegel from 1369, in which it says: "Iewelk düdesch lant hevet sinen palenzgreven: sassen, beieren, vranken unde svaven" ("Anything German-speaking (or . Germanic-speaking) country has its Count Palatine: Saxony, Baiern, Franconia and Swabia ”).

Development in modern times

In the course of Renaissance humanism in the 15th century, a feeling of belonging to the respective fatherlands or nation began to develop within some elites , so that the territorial lords of the empire towards the end of the 15th century usually referred to this as Teutschland , which was a linguistic and honorary community for the The main point of reference for their political action became (instead of the duchies as before).

Foreign names

In other languages, the names for German are derived from a large number of other basic words in addition to 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 tribe of the Alemanni (e.g. in French, Spanish, Arabic). There is also a Slavic root word nemet or niemc with the meaning 'mute'. There are also derivations from the word for the Saxon people (e.g. in Finnish, Estonian) or that of the Bavarians (e.g. in Lower Sorbian ).


Individual evidence

  1. þiudisko
  2. Peter Polenz: History of the German language. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2020, p. 36.
  3. Lutz Mackensen: Origin of Words. The etymological dictionary of the German language. Bassermann, Munich 2014, p. 102.
  4. Peter Polenz: History of the German language. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2020, pp. 36–7.
  5. ^ Wilhelm Schmidt: History of the German language. A textbook for studying German. 7th, improved edition. Stuttgart / Leipzig 1996, p. 80 f.
  6. ^ Hagen Schulze: Small German story. dtv, Munich, 7th edition 2005, p. 19.
  7. ^ Friedrich Kluge: Etymological dictionary of the German language . 21st edition, Berlin / New York 1975, ISBN 3-11-005709-3 , p. 129.
  8. Wolfgang Pfeifer et al., Etymological Dictionary of German (1993)
  9. ^ M. Jansen, Atlas van de Nederlandse taal: Editie Vlaanderen. Lannoo Meulenhoff, 2018. pp. 29–30.
  10. ^ M. Jansen, Atlas van de Nederlandse taal: Editie Vlaanderen. Lannoo Meulenhoff, 2018. pp. 29–30.
  11. M. Philippa, F. Debrabandere, A. Quak, T. Schoonheim and N. van der Sijs. Etymologically Woordenboek van het Nederlands. Instituut voor de Nederlandse Taal, Leiden, 2003–2009.
  12. ^ Eike von Repgow: Des sachsenspiegel first part. Based on the Berlin manuscript from 1369. Edited by Carl Gustav Homeyer . 3rd, revised edition. Dümmler, Berlin 1861, p. 227 (E-Text).
  13. ^ Thomas Lau : Teutschland. A search for traces in the 16th century. Theiss, Stuttgart 2010, p. 25 f.