Historical names of Transylvania
The first document in which the Medieval Latin term Ultra siluam ("beyond the forest") is used in reference to the area dates from 1075. The term Partes Transsylvanæ ("parts beyond the forest") dates from the same century (used in Legenda Sancti Gerhardi, and subsequently, as Transsilvania by Medieval Latin documents compiled in the Kingdom of Hungary).
The first Hungarian form recorded was Erdeuelu (12th century, in the Gesta Hungarorum), while the first Romanian form recorded was in 1432 as Ardeliu. The initial a/e difference between the names can be found in other words common to Romanian and Hungarian, such as agriș/egres ("gooseberry").
The consensus of Hungarian linguists and Hungarian historians on the etymology of both Erdély and Transylvania is as follows:
- The modern Hungarian form Erdély was derived from Erdő-elve ("in front of the forest"). Erdő meaning "mountain deep forest", the elve suffix is a derivative of the older form elü, meaning literally "in front of" and also it was the standard name of a certain type of border guarding region and the associated social and economical organisation (like "Havaselve", lit. "in front of the snowy mountains", the old Hungarian name of Muntenia, that lies beyond the Carpathian mountains if viewed from Hungary, and was under strong Hungarian political influence during the Middle Ages). The elü/elve suffix suggests a point of view east of the Carpathians, namely, the Hungarians created these names in Atelkuzu/Etelköz, long before they settled in the Carpathian Basin.
- The Medieval Latin form Ultrasylvania (1077), later Transylvania (from an other point of view after the foundation of Hungary in 895), was a direct translation from the Hungarian form (rather than the Hungarian being derived from the Latin).
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Several Romanian perspectives argue that the meaning of the term is unknown, and have suggested alternative etymologies:
- A letter from around 960 from the Khazar king Joseph to Chasdai ibn Shaprut, the Rabbi of Córdoba, mentions the Ardil country (Eretz Ardil), rich in gold and silver. Today, in Hebrew, Ardeal is written identically: ארדיל. This theory therefore suggests that Ardi(a)l was the primary form of the name and thus "Ardeal" is an original Romanian toponym.[improper synthesis?]
- The only word in which ély means over (as Hungarian etymologists suggest) is this one. There are several Hungarian words borrowed from Romanian that end in ély but does not mean over ... (i.e. Hun. borbély > Rom. bărbier, Eng. barber cannot be translated as over the beard). The problem with this approach is twofold. On the one hand, there is at least another geographical name that ends with "elve", the earliest recorded form of "ély", and also it is semantically consistent with the above mentioned meaning. This is "Havaselve", the Hungarian name of Muntenia, and means "beyond the snowy mountains". On the other hand, it is doubtful whether there are several Romanian borrowings ending in "ély". The actual example, "borbély", has a far more likely German origin, "der Barbier".
The oldest occurrences of this form are from the 13th century:
- In the year 1241: in Annales Sancti Trudperti and in the Annals of Zwifalt: "Tartari terras Pannonie, Septum urbium, Moraviae vestaverunt”
- In the year 1242: in the notes of the friar Erfurt: „Eodem anno Tartari in Ungaria, terra scilicet Septem castrorum, civitatem dictam Hermanii villam in Aprili expugnantes, usque ad centum ibi peremerunt...”
- In the year 1285: "...Eodem anno Tarthari terram Ungarie que dicitur Septemcastris, intraverunt et multos christianos captivaverunt et occiderunt” and "...quid audientes Septemcastrenses”.
- In the year 1296: a reference to a particular "maister Dietrich von Siebenbuergen”.
- In the year 1300: Ottacher of Styria mentions "Sybenburger”.
There exist a number of theories on the etymology of Siebenbürgen, the German name for Transylvania.
The most widely accepted theory is that Siebenbürgen refers to the seven principal fortified towns of the Transylvanian Saxons. The name first appeared in a document from 1296. An alternate Medieval Latin version, Septem Castra ("Seven fortresses") was also used in documents. The towns alluded to are: Bistritz (Bistrița, Beszterce), Hermannstadt (Sibiu, Nagyszeben), Klausenburg (Cluj-Napoca, Kolozsvár), Kronstadt (Brașov, Brassó), Mediasch (Mediaș, Medgyes), Mühlbach (Sebeș, Szászsebes), and Schässburg (Sighișoara, Segesvár).
Other theories include:
- Siebenbürgen means "Seven Castles" but does not refer to the towns of the Transylvanian Saxons. Transylvania and the Mureș valley seem to have been the first portion of land within the Carpathians where Magyars gained a foothold. According to legend, each of the seven Magyar chieftains erected an earthen 'castle' in this region.
- Siebenbürgen means explicitly "Seven Towns" or "Seven Castles". However, this etymology seems to originate in the dialectical tradition of the first, mainly Low German, Flemish and Dutch settlers, in whose homelands there are hilly regions called "Zevenbergen" (in southern Holland) and "Sevenbergen" (east of the town of Hameln on the river Weser, Germany).
- Saxon settlement in Transylvania began in Sibiu. An early German name for the town was Cibinburg (akin to the Cibiniensis Latin name of the area). The alternate name Cibinburg was corrupted into Siebenbürgen, and became the name for the whole region.
The Slavic names of the region (Sedmigradsko or Sedmogradsko (Седмиградско or Седмоградско) in Bulgarian, Sedmogradska in Croatian, Sedmograjska in Slovene, Sedmihradsko in Czech, Sedmohradsko in Slovak, Siedmiogród in Polish, Semihorod (Семигород) in Ukrainian), as well as its Walloon name (Zivenbork), are translations of the German one.
In Ukrainian, the name Zalissia (Ukrainian: Залісся), meaning "beyond the forest" is also used.
- Benkő Loránd; Kiss Lajos; Papp László (1984). A magyar nyelv történeti-etimológiai szótára (in Hungarian). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN 963-05-3810-5.
- Engel, Pál (2001). Realm of St. Stephen: History of Medieval Hungary, 895–1526 (International Library of Historical Studies), London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 1-86064-061-3
- Pop, Ion-Aurel (1997). "Istoria Transilvaniei Medievale: De la Etnogeneza Romanilor pana la Mihai Viteazul" [The Medieval History of Transylvania: from the Romanian Ethnogenesis until Michael the Brave] (in Romanian). Retrieved 2013-10-03.
- Otrokocsi, F. F. (1693). Origines Hungaricae (in Latin) I. p. 27. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
- Halevi (1914). Sefer ha-Kuzari. Vilna.
- Marțian, Ion (1925). Ardealul nu derivă din ungurește (in Romanian). Bistrița.
- Marțian, Ion. Ardealul. Ist. p. 10.
- Tonciulescu, P.L. (2002). Ardealul, pământ și cuvânt românesc (in Romanian). Bucharest. p. 110.
- Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores X. Hannover. 1852. p. 59.
- Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores XVII. 1861. p. 294.
- Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores XVI. 1859. p. 34.
- "Annales Polonorum". Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores XIX. p. 684.
- Urkundebuch zur Geschichte der Deutschen in Siebenbürgen I (nr. 201). p. 143.
- Wolff, Apud J. (1886). "Die Landesnamen Siebenbürgens'". Programm des vierklassigen evangelischen Gymnasiums in Mühlbach (in German). Hermannstadt. p. 16.
- Kontler, László (1999). A History of Hungary: Millennium in Central Europe. Budapest: Atlantisz. ISBN 963-9165-37-9.
- Popa, Klaus (1996). "An Outline of Transilvanian-Saxon History". Retrieved 2013-10-03.