Name of the Czech Republic

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The name of the Czech Republic derives from the Slavic tribe of Czechs (Czech: Čechové). The name of the country has evolved significantly over time both in Czech and other languages, and it remains a source of debate and contention.

Nearly two decades after the split of Czechoslovakia into Slovakia (Slovak Republic) and the Czech Republic, the latter continues to be known by several competing names in English and Czech. "Czech Republic" (Czech: Česká republika) is the unquestioned long-form name.

The Czech term for the Czech lands (i.e. Bohemia, Moravia, Czech Silesia) is Česko. The English equivalent "Czechia" /ˈɛki.ə/, though attested as early as 1866,[1] is rarely used in the English-speaking world.[2]

Czech name[edit]

The name of the country comes from the Czechs (Czech: Čechové), a Slavic tribe residing in central Bohemia which subdued the surrounding tribes in the late 9th century and created the Czech/Bohemian state. The origin of the name of the tribe itself is unknown. According to legend, it comes from their leader Čech, who brought them to Bohemia. Research regards Čech as a derivative from the root čel- (member of the people, kinsman).[3]

Several variants of the name have been used over the centuries, due to the evolution of the Czech language. The digraph "cz" was used until the 15th century reform, being eventually replaced by "č" which changed the original Czechy into Čechy. In the late 19th century the names of countries started to lose the suffix -y in favor of -sko (e.g. Rakousy-Rakousko for Austria, Uhry-Uhersko for Hungary). While the notion of Česko appears for the first time in the late 18th century, it only came into official use in 1918 as the first part of the name of the newly independent Czechoslovakia (Česko-Slovensko or Československo) . When Czechoslovakia broke up in 1993, the Czech part of the name was intended to serve as the name of the Czech state. The decision started a dispute as many perceived the "new" word Česko, which before had been only rarely used alone, as harsh sounding or as a mere remnant of Československo,.[4] The older and more familiar Čechy was rejected by many because it was primarily associated with Bohemia proper and to use it for the whole country was seen as inappropriate. This feeling was especially prominent among the inhabitants of Moravia. Derivatives of Bohemia are used for this purpose in such languages as Polish and Slovenian.

The use of the word "Česko" by the Czech government, media and public has increased in recent years.[5] During the 1990s, "Česko" was rarely used and viewed as controversial: some Czech politicians and public figures (e.g. media magnate Vladimír Železný) expressed concern about the non-use of Česko and Czechia; on the other side, individuals such as president Václav Havel and minister Alexandr Vondra have strongly opposed using these forms. In 1997, the Civic initiative Czechia was formed by linguists and geographers in Brno to promote the use of Czechia.[6] The following year, a conference of professionals aimed at encouraging the use of the name was held at Charles University in Prague; moreover, the Czech Senate held a session on the issue in 2004.[7][8]

English name[edit]

The historical English name of the country is Bohemia. The origin of this name goes back to the Celtic tribe of Boii, which inhabited the area from the 4th century BC. Boiohaemum, as it is known in Latin, comes from the Germanic “Boi-heim,” meaning "home of the Boii." The name survived all the following migrations affecting the area, including the arrival of the Slavic tribes and the creation of the Czech state. In the 9th century, the country became officially known as the Duchy of Bohemia, changing to the Kingdom of Bohemia in the 11th century, and the Crown of Bohemia in the 14th century. The name Bohemia persisted for centuries, consisting of three historical lands; Bohemia (Čechy) in narrower meaning, Moravia (Morava) and Czech Silesia (Slezsko); and temporarily also of Upper and Lower Lusatia (from the 14th century until 1635). Due to the fact that the Bohemian part of the country had a higher hierarchical status, the three lands were together called “Bohemia.” The people and the language of this land were commonly referred to as Bohemian. During the 19th century national revival the derivative of the Czech endonym (using antiquated Czech or Polish spelling[9]) appeared in English to distinguish between the Czech and German speaking peoples living in the country. The earliest evidence of the English substantive word "Czech" (for the inhabitants and language) and its adjective derivative (for the nation) comes from 1850. The first evidence of the usage of the name Czechia [ˈtʃɛki.ə] in English comes from a report on Austrian-Prussian war in 1866.[10]

In 1918, the name and the geographical boundaries changed when the Austro-Hungarian monarchy (containing Czech lands) disintegrated and the new Republic of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed, despite initial proposals[11] to use the traditional name “Bohemia” for the newly formed state. After the establishment of Czechoslovakia, the name "Czechia" appeared in English, alongside the official name, as a reference to all the Czech lands[12] and as a differentiation between the Czech and Slovak parts of the state. The first written evidence comes from the article "Literary History of the Czechs", published on January 4, 1925 by The New York Times.[13] The name was commonly used in the Anglophone press until the German occupation of the Czech lands in 1939.[14][15][16]

With the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the question of a new short-form name for the country appeared. Despite the official decision by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to recommend the name "Czechia",[17] it has not been fully adopted by Czech authorities. In contrast to this lack of support, representatives of English speaking countries have shown a willingness to accept the name. The situation was most accurately expressed by British secretary for press and politics Giles Portman: "...But, Czechs still use the name Česká Republika rather than Česko, and the English equivalent, the Czech Republic, rather than Czechia. Were that pattern to change, we would have no problem at all with adapting accordingly. But we feel that the initiative for that change must come from the Czech side and not from us...“.[18]  

At present, the name Czechia is not well known by the general public and is rarely used.[19] As "Czechia" is uncommon and the long form is unwieldy, the general population often use the adjective "Czech" for the country's name[20] (similar to the use of "Dominican" for the Dominican Republic and "Saudi" for Saudi Arabia),[21]  These two tendencies have sometimes been the subject of jokes among English speakers.[22] In 2013, Czech president Miloš Zeman recommended the wider official use of Czechia.[23]

Other languages[edit]

The renaming of the country in 1918 and 1993 was reflected in the majority of other languages, with only a few (Polish Czechy, Hungarian Csehország, and Bosnian, Croatian, Macedonian, Serbian and Slovene, Češka, etc.) retaining the form used previously. Unlike English, many languages also adopted the new short-forms such as Tschechien in German, Чехия (Chekhiya) in Russian and Bulgarian, Τσεχία (Tsechia) in Greek, Cehia in Romanian, Tsjekkia in Norwegian, Tjeckien in Swedish, Tjekkiet in Danish, Tšehhi in Estonian, Tsjechië in Dutch, Čekija in Lithuanian, or Çekya in Turkish. The Italian Cechia and the Portuguese Chéquia/Tchéquia are rarely used, while the Spanish Chequia and the French Tchéquie[24] are more common.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Latest from Prussia. The Mercury, page 4, Saturday 21 July 1866
  2. ^
  3. ^ [1]. The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic: Původ jména Čech. Retrieved 2012-10-11.
  4. ^ Looking for a name – Radio Prague (2011-01-21). Retrieved on 2011-01-27.
  5. ^ According to the official Czech list of country names (Jména států a jejich územních částí. Český úřad zeměměřický a katastralní, Praha 2009, ISBN 978-80-86918-57-0): Česko je kodifikovaný jednoslovný název státu, který se podle ústavy oficiálně nazývá Česká republika ("Česko is a standardized one-word name of the state, which is officially named Česká republika according to its constitution")
  6. ^ Official pages
  7. ^ Pozvánka na 7. veřejné slyšení Senátu - 11. 5. 2004 (Funkční rozlišování spisovných názvů Česká republika a Česko a jejich cizojazyčných ekvivalentů)
  8. ^ 7. veřejné slyšení - 11. 5. 2004 (Funkční rozlišování spisovných názvů Česká republika a Česko a jejich cizojazyčných ekvivalentů)
  9. ^ Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved 30th August 2012 from website:
  10. ^ The Mercury (Hobart, Australia: 1860-1954), Saturday 21 July 1866
  11. ^ Beneš, Edvard (1917). Bohemia's case for independence. London: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-405-02734-6. 
  12. ^ Munzar J., Drápela M.V.: Czechia = Bohemia + Moravia + Silesia (Moravian Geographical Report. Brno: Ústav Geoniky, 1999. s. 58-61. Moravian Geographical Report, sv. 7, č. 2.) [2], 1999
  13. ^ New York Times: Literary history of Czechs (Jan.4, 1925)
  14. ^ New York Times: Soviet Note to Germany (Mar.20, 1939)
  15. ^ Palestine Post: Unified Control (Dec.28, 1939)
  16. ^ Barrier Miner: Dr. Benes Broadcasts To His Countrymen (Mar.16, 1940)
  17. ^ Recommendation of Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Czech embassies from 1998 [3] and Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport from 1999 [4]
  18. ^ Horová E.: Record of Proceedings of the 7th Public Hearing of the Senate, May 11, 2004 (Czech) recording Portman's letter from April 4, 2000 from the British embassy in Prague
  19. ^ An exception is for example, Murphy, Terry G.; Jordan-Bychkov, Alexander B.; Bychkova Jordan, Bella (2008). The European culture area : a systematic geography (5th ed.). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-5671-3.  which in its preface states: … we have opted for commonly used anglicized short forms rather than formal country names.… The one case that might be less familiar to readers concerns the Czech Republic. Increasingly one hears the short form Czechia. Even though that name is not as widely known as other truncations (e.g., Slovakia for the Slovak Republic), we have decided to use Czechia for consistency and to reflect its growing use in the country itself. National Geographic has used "Czechia" since 2005. (NG Editors) Also Czech libraries have introduced "Czechia" into their bibliographic standards. Authority database of the NL CR)
  20. ^ Bičík R., Perlín R.: Press statement on the importance of the correct use of this country’s name in foreign languages (2001)
  21. ^
  22. ^ Petr Berka; Aleš Palan; Petr Šťastný (2008). Tulloch Scott, Catriona, ed. Xenophobe's Guide to the Czechs. London: Xenophobe's Guides. p. 1. ISBN 9781902825236. 
  23. ^ The Independent, October 11, 2013
  24. ^ Le Monde [5], Le Figaro [6]
  25. ^ República Checa in Diccionario panhispánico de dudas, Real Academia Española, 2005.

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