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Theodiscus, the Latinised form of a Germanic word meaning "vernacular" or "of the people", is a Medieval Latin adjective referring to the Germanic vernaculars of the Early Middle Ages. The Old High German language in Latin sources of the time is referred to as theodisca lingua. It also appears as theudiscus, theotiscus, thiudiscus. The various Latin forms are derived from West Germanic *þiudisk and its later descendants.[1]

The use of theodisce/deutsch was first attested [2][3] in 786 in a report to Pope Hadrian I. Texts from a synod held in Corbridge, England were read tam latine quam theodisce "both in Latin and in the vernacular".

It is derived from Common Germanic *þiudiskaz. The stem of this word, *þeudō, meant "people" in Common Germanic, and *-iskaz was an adjective-forming suffix, of which -ish is the Modern English form. The Old English form is þéodisc, the Old High German one diutisc (attested ca. 1090 in the Annolied). The contrasting term appears to have been walhisk ("Welsh"), which was used to refer to Celtic and Roman (Gallo-Roman), but not Slavic, populations.

The Proto-Slavic language borrowed the word as ťōďь with the meaning "not one's own" (the opposite of svojь), giving rise to contemporary Polish cudzy, Czech cizí, Serbo-Croat tuđi, Russian чужой etc.

The Proto-Indo-European root *teutéh2- ("tribe"), which is commonly reconstructed as the basis of the word, is related to Lithuanian tautà ("nation"), Old Irish túath ("tribe, people") and Oscan touto ("community").[4] French tout and its cognates in other Romance languages are unrelated, being derived from Latin tōtus ("whole, complete, all", from an older *tŏvĕtǒs, "filled, stuffed").[5]

The word came into Middle English as thede, but was extinct in Early Modern English (although surviving in the English place name Thetford, 'public ford'). It survives as the Icelandic word þjóð for "people, nation", the Norwegian (Nynorsk) word tjod for "people, nation", and the word for "German" in many European languages including German deutsch, Dutch Duits, Yiddish daytsh, Danish tysk, Norwegian tysk, Swedish tyska, Spanish tudesco and Italian tedesco.

While morphologically similar, the modern term Teutonic is a direct derivation from Teutones and seems to be more distantly related.

Starting with the publication of Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico (ca. 50 BC), a report on the Gallic War supplemented with various ethnographic remarks, Latin scholars generally considered the Teutones as the epitome of a wandering Germanic tribe.[6] In later years, Roman writers would sometimes use the term Teutonicus as a poetic pars pro toto synonym for their existing adjective Germanicus. Both linguistically and ethnographically, while the Teutonic ethnos and the term from which their name was derived are generally identified as Germanic, some modern scholars consider the Teutones to be more closely associated with the Celtic Helvetii than with Germanic groups. The IE root *teutā ("people") is well attested in both the Germanic and the Celtic lexica.[7][8]

Around the year 900, Germans writing in Latin started to use the more learned teutonicus to replace the earlier theodiscus, the Latinised form of Germanic diutisc ("vernacular"). Hence the official Latin title of the Teutonic Order (Ordo domus Sanctæ Mariæ Theutonicorum Ierosolimitanorum - "Order of St. Mary's house of the Germans of Jerusalem").

The term Teutonic was used by the economist William Z. Ripley to designate one of the three "races" of Europe, which later writers called the Nordic race. Due to related abuses down to the first half of the 20th century, the term "teutonisch" has since fallen out of favour amongst German-speaking scholars, and is restricted to a somewhat ironical usage similar to the archaic teutsch, if used at all. While the term is still present in English, which has retained it in some contexts as a translation of the traditional Latin Teutonicus (most notably the aforementioned Teutonic Order), it does not correspond with German "teutonisch" except when referring to the historical Teutones.

Theodism is a neologism for a branch of Germanic neopaganism based on the Old English form of the word.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ W. Haubrichs, "Theodiscus, Deutsch und Germanisch - drei Ethnonyme, drei Forschungsbegriffe. Zur Frage der Instrumentalisierung und Wertbesetzung deutscher Sprach- und Volksbezeichnungen." In: H. Beck et al., Zur Geschichte der Gleichung "germanisch-deutsch" (2004), 199-228
  2. ^ Alice L. Harting-Correa: Walahfrid Strabo's Libellus de Exordiis Et Incrementis Quarundam in ... [1]
  3. ^ Cornelis Dekker: The Origins of Old Germanic Studies in the Low Countries [2]
  4. ^ Mallory, J. P.; Adams, D. Q. (2006), The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World, USA: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-929668-5 , p. 269.
  5. ^ Though apparently listed as related in: American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, New College Edition, Houghton-Mifflin, Boston, 1981. ISBN 0-395-20360-0. P. 1546, at teuta.
  6. ^ BG 1.33.4; BG 1.40.
  7. ^ Birkhan, Kelten, 993.
  8. ^ teutonic - Definitions from