Name of Romania

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The name of Romania (România) comes from the Romanian Român, which is a derivative of the Latin adjective Romanus (Roman).[1] Romanians are a people living in Central and South-Eastern Europe speaking a Romance language.

Etymology of the ethnonym Romanian (român)[edit]

During the transition from Vulgar Latin to Romanian, there were some phonetical changes that modified romanus into român or rumân. The accusative form romanum was retained.

  • ending "-m" dropped (occurred in all Romance languages)
  • ending "-u" dropped (regular change; in Old Romanian was however still present)
  • "a" → "â" (regular change; vowels before nasal stops turned into "â"/"î")
  • "o" → "u" (regular change; however, in some regions of Romania, the variant with "o" was kept)

A reference to the name Romanian could be contained in the Nibelungenlied (written between 1180 and 1210), where a "Duke Ramunc of Walachia,/with seven hundred vassals, galloped up before her/like flying wild birds men saw them ride".[2] It is argued that "Ramunc" could describe a symbolic figure, representing Romanians.[3] In a document issued about the same period (1190 ?) by King Béla III of Hungary the then recent uprising of the Bulgarians and Vlachs is mentioned with the words "against the fury of the Bulgarians and Romanians" [4]

In the Renaissance Romanians begin to be mentioned in journey and political reports, providing information about the name they give themselves, about their language, customs and the countries they inhabit. The self-designation of Romanians as Romans is mentioned in some 30 scholarly works as early as the 16th century by mainly Italian humanists travelling in Transylvania, Moldavia and Walachia.[5] Thus, Tranquillo Andronico writes in 1534 that Romanians (Valachi) "now call themselves Romans".[6] In 1532, Francesco della Valle accompanying Governor Aloisio Gritti to Transylvania, Walachia and Moldavia notes that Romanians preserved the name of the Romans (Romani) and "they call themselves in their language Romanians (Romei)". He even cites the sentence "Sti Rominest ?" ("do you speak Romanian ?" for originally Romanian "știi românește ?") Further, this author reports what he could learn from local orthodox monks, that "in the present they call themselves Romanians (Romei)" .[7] Reporting his mission in Transylvania, the Neapolitan Jesuit Ferrante Capeci writes around 1575 that the inhabitants of those Provinces call themselves "Romanians" ("romanesci"),[8] while Pierre Lescalopier, relating his voyage from Venice to Constantinople, notes in 1574 that those inhabiting Walachia, Moldavia and the most part of Transylvania say to be descendants of the Romans, calling their language "romanechte" (French transcription for Romanian românește - Romanian).[9] The Italian Dalmatian historian Johannes Lucius writes in 1666: "But the to-day Walachians, whatever Walachian language they speak, don't call themselves Wlachians or Walachians but Romanians and they boast their origin from the Romans and acknowledge to speak the Roman language".[10]

Other first-hand evidence about the name Romanians used to call themselves comes from authors having lived in Transylvania and/or Romanian principalities: the learned Lutheran preacher and first Transylvanian Saxon historiograph Johann Lebel attests in 1542 that common Romanians call themselves "Romuini",[11] the Polish Humanist Stanislaus Orichovius notes as late as 1554 that "these left behind Dacians in their own language are called Romini, after the Romans, and Walachi in Polish, after the Italians",.[12] Another humanist, who took up residence in Transylvania as a bishop of Alba Iulia, the Dalmatian Antonius Verantio, who later would become cardinal and viceroy of Habsburg Hungary, also states in 1570 that "the Wallachians call themselves Romans" and provides an example: "When they ask somebody whether they can speak Wallachian, they say: do you speak Roman? and [when they ask] whether one is Wallachian they say: are you Roman?" [13] while the Jesuit Theology professor Martinus Szent-Ivany cites in 1699 Romanian expressions: "Sie noi sentem Rumeni" (modern standard Romanian "Și noi suntem români") and "Noi sentem di sange Rumena" (in modern standard Romanian "Noi suntem de sânge român")[14] The geographer Anton Friedrich Büsching writes in 1754 that "the Wallachians, who are remnant and progeny of the old Roman colonies thus call themselves Romanians, which means Romans" [15] The Hungarian writer András Dugonics in 1801 states: "But those Romans who remained in Dacia mixed their Roman language with the language of the Sarmatians [of the Slavs] and that of the Dacians. Thus a special language was formed, the Wallachian language (oláh nyelv), which is nothing else but a mixture of the Latin language with the Slavic and Dacian language (dákus), and they themselves are today called the Romans (rómaiak), ie rumun" [16] the English author John Paget, in 1839, in his book, "Hungary and Transylvania" writes: ""the Wallack of the present day calls himself "Rumunyi" and retains a traditional pride of ancestry, in spite of his present degradation."[17]

Historical Romanian documents display two spelling forms of "Romanian": "român" and "rumân". For centuries, both spelling forms are interchangeably used, sometimes in the same phrase.[18]

In the 17th century the term "Romanian" also appears as Rumun (Johann Tröster), Rumuny (Paul Kovács de Lisznyai), Rumuin (Laurentius Toppeltinus), and Rumen (Johannes Lucius and Martin Szentiványi).[19]

In the Middle Ages the ethno-linguistical designation rumân/român also denoted common people. During the 17th century, as serfdom becomes a widespread institution, common people increasingly turns into bondsman. In a process of semantic differentiation in 17th-18th centuries the form rumân, presumably usual among lower classes, got merely the meaning of bondsman, while the form "român" kept an ethno-linguistic meaning.[20] After the abolition of the serfage by Prince Constantine Mavrocordato in 1746, the form "rumân" gradually disappears and the spelling definitively stabilises to the form "român", "românesc".[21]

Etymology of Romania (România)[edit]

Neacșu's Letter, the oldest surviving document written in Romanian has the oldest appearance of the word "Rumanian"
The first map of Romania (Greek: Rumunia) published in Geograficon tis Rumunias, Leipzig, 1816. Author: Dimitrie Daniil Philippide
Map of Rumania from 1855. Author: Cezar Bolliac

The earliest preserved document written in the Romanian language is a 1521 letter that notifies the mayor of Brașov about an imminent attack by the Turks. This document, known as Neacșu's Letter, is also notable for having the first occurrence of "Romanian" in a Romanian text, Wallachia being called here the Romanian LandȚeara Rumânească (Țeara < Latin Terra = land). As in the case of the ethnonym "român/rumân", Romanian documents use both forms, Țara Românească and Țara Rumânească, for the country name.

A common Romanian area called The Romanian Land and embracing Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania is mentioned by the chronicler Miron Costin in the 17th century.[22]

In the first half of the 18th century the erudite prince Dimitrie Cantemir systematically used the name Țara Românească for designating all three Principalities inhabited by Romanians.[23]

Actually, as argued by Ioan-Aurel Pop, the name "Romania" isn't but a version of the name "Romanian Land", just as in England - Anglia, or Scotland - Scotia.[24]

The etymology of "România" didn't follow the Romanian pattern of word formation for country names, which usually adds the suffix "-ia" to the ethnonym by keeping its accent, like in "grec" → "Grecia", "Bulgar" → "Bulgaria", "rus → "Rusia", etc. Since it is a self-designation, the word "România" has an older history, coming from "românie" which in turn resulted as a derivation of the word "român" by adding the suffix "-ie" with an accented last syllable, like in ""moș → moșie", "domn" → "domnie" or "boier" → "boierie" (lord → lordship). Initially, "românie" may indeed have meant "Romanianship" (just like "rumânie" meant "serfdom" before disappearing), as suggested by Nicolae Iorga's theory of the "Romaniae", i.e. self-organized communities of romanophone peasants all across medieval Europe.[25]

The name "România" as common homeland of the Romanians is documented in the early 19th century.[26]

The name "Romania" (România) was first brought to Paris by young Romanian intellectuals in the 1840s, where it was spelled "Roumanie" in order to differentiate Romanians (fr.: Roumains) from Romans (fr.: Romains). The French spelling version (Roumanie) spread then over many countries, such as Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany.

In English, the name of the country was originally borrowed from French "Roumania" (<"Roumanie"), then evolved into "Rumania", but was eventually replaced after World War II by the name used officially: "Romania". With a few exceptions such as English and Hungarian ("Románia"), in most languages, the "u" form is still used (German and Swedish: Rumänien; Bulgarian: Румъния; Serbian: Румунија / Rumunija, Polish: Rumunia, etc.). In Portuguese, to distinguish them from the Romans, the Romanians are called romenos and their country Roménia. The e reflects the distinct quality of the Romanian â, even though it's not very similar.

Spelling reforms[edit]

After the Communist seizure of power, a spelling reform simplified the Romanian alphabet substituting î for â. The name of the country became officially Republica Populară Romînă. Soon an exception was made to allow â for român and its derivations, while î kept used elsewhere. Since, and even after the post-Communist spelling reform, român is spelled with a.

Other uses of Romania and other derivatives of Romanus[edit]

  • Since 7th century, name for region surrounding Ravenna (Romagna in Italian) where the Byzantines kept off the Germanic rulers.
  • The Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire was known during the Middle Ages as the Roman Empire, or more commonly Romania (Ρωμανία in Greek; compare with the modern name Ρουμανία "Roumanía" for Romania). In Western Europe for political and linguistic reasons the Empire came to be referred to as the Greek Empire and eventually the Byzantine Empire. The Greek-speaking Ottoman Christians continued to refer to themselves as Romans (Ρωμαίοι "Romaioi", also the origin of the first name Romeo) long after being absorbed by the Ottoman Empire, only adopting the Greek identity in the 19th century. In the Arabic and Ottoman Turkish languages, Romania came to mean further Eastward regions of the empire, like Rûm and Rumelia in Asia. Rumi was also an Arabic word for Christian.
  • It has been an alternative name for the Latin Empire, centred on Byzantium, set up by Roman Catholic Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade with the intention of replacing the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire with a Roman Catholic empire.
  • In Romance linguistics it designates all Romance linguistic areas.
  • The word Romanus is also kept elsewhere in other parts of the Roman Empire in the name of the Romansh language of Switzerland.
  • In the Balkans there are Romanic people that have an ethnonym derived from "Romanus", including Aromanians (armâni, arumâni or rămăni) and Istro-Romanians (rumâri). The Megleno-Romanians originally used the form rămâni, but it was lost by the 19th century and used the word Vlași borrowed from Bulgarian.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language, 1998; New Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language, 2002
  2. ^ "Der herzoge Ramunch vzer Vlâchen lant/mit Sibenhunduert mannen chom er fvr si gerant/sam die wilden vogele so sah man si varn", Version C Das Niebelungenlied, 1370, 1-4 Archived 2008-06-05 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Der Nibelungenlied", XII, ed. K. Lachmann, Berlin, 1878, p. 174; Francis P. Magoun jr. in "Geographical and Ethnic Names in the Nibelungenlied", p. 129-130; Fritz Schuster, "Herzog Ramunc aus dem Walachenland", in "Sudost-Forschungen", XI, 1946-1952, p. 284-290)
  4. ^ "contra furorem Bulgarorum et Rume⟨n⟩orum" in Imre Nagy (editor): Hazai okmánytár. Codex diplomaticus patrius Hungaricus, vol. VIII. Budapest 1891, nr. 5, p. 9-11; Imre Szentpétery (editor): Regesta regum stirpis Arpadianae critica diplomatica, vol. I, part 1 (1001-1270). Budapest 1923, nr. 157, p. 50; see also Alexandru Simon: Între coroanele Arpadienilor şi Asăneştilor: implicaţiile unui document de la Béla III, în "Studii şi materiale de istorie medie", vol. XXVIII, 2010, p. 127-136.
  5. ^ Ioan-Aurel Pop, Italian Authors and the Romanian Identity in the 16th Century, Revue Roumaine d'Histoire, XXXIX, 1-4, p. 39-49, Bucarest, 2000
  6. ^ "Connubia iunxit cum provincialibus, ut hoc vinculo unam gentem ex duabus faceret, brevi quasi in unum corpus coaluerunt et nunc se Romanos vocant, sed nihil Romani habent praeter linguam et ipsam quidem vehementer depravatam et aliquot barbaricis idiomatibus permixtam." in Magyar Történelmi Tár – 4. sorozat 4. kötet – 1903. - REAL-J; also see Endre Veress, Fontes rerum transylvanicarum: Erdélyi történelmi források, Történettudományi Intézet, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, Budapest, 1914, Vol. IV, S. 204 and also Maria Holban, Călători străini în Țările Române, Editura Științifică, București, 1968, vol.1, p. 247 and also in Gábor Almási, I Valacchi visti dagli Italiani e il concetto di Barbaro nel Rinascimento, Storia della Storiografia, 52 (2007): 049-066
  7. ^ " dimandano in lingua loro alcuno dimanda se sano parlare in la lingua valacca, dicono a questo in questo modo: Sti Rominest ? Che vol dire: Sai tu Romano,..." and further "però al presente si dimandon Romei, e questo è quanto da essi monacci potessimo esser instruiti" in Claudio Isopescu, Notizie intorno ai Romeni nella letteratura geografica italiana del Cinquecento, in "Bulletin de la Section Historique de l'Académie Roumaine", XIV, 1929, p. 1- 90 and also in Maria Holban, Călători străini în Țările Române, Editura Științifică, București, 1968, vol.1, p. 322-323 For the original text also see Magyar Történelmi Tár, 1855, p. 22-23
  8. ^ " Valachi, i quali sono i più antichi habitatori ... Anzi essi si chiamano romanesci, e vogliono molti che erano mandati quì quei che erano dannati a cavar metalli..." in Maria Holban, Călători străini despre Țările Române, vol. II, p. 158–161 and also in Gábor Almási, Constructing the Wallach "Other" in the Late Renaissance in Balázs Trencsény, Márton Zászkaliczky (edts), Whose Love of Which Country, Brill, Leiden, Boston 2010, p.127 and also in Gábor Almási, I Valacchi visti dagli Italiani e il concetto di Barbaro nel Rinascimento, Storia della Storiografia, 52 (2007): 049-066, p.65
  9. ^ "Tout ce pays la Wallachie et Moldavie et la plus part de la Transivanie a esté peuplé des colonie romaines du temps de Traian l'empereur...Ceux du pays se disent vrais successeurs des Romains et nomment leur parler romanechte, c'est-à-dire romain ... " cited from "Voyage fait par moy, Pierre Lescalopier l'an 1574 de Venise a Constantinople", fol 48 in Paul Cernovodeanu, Studii si materiale de istorie medievala, IV, 1960, p. 444
  10. ^ "Valachi autem hodierni quicunque lingua Valacha loquuntur se ipsos non dicunt Vlahos aut Valachos sed Rumenos et a Romanis ortos gloriantur Romanaque lingua loqui profitentur" in: Johannes Lucii, De Regno Dalmatiae et Croatiae, Amsteldaemi, 1666, pag. 284
  11. ^ "Ex Vlachi Valachi, Romanenses Italiani,/Quorum reliquae Romanensi lingua utuntur.../Solo Romanos nomine, sine re, repraesentantes./Ideirco vulgariter Romuini sunt appelanti", cf. Ioannes Lebelius, De oppido Thalmus. Carmen historicum, edidit Ioannes Seivert, Cibinii, 1779, p. 11 - 12. In Adolf Armbruster: Romanitatea românilor. Istoria unei idei, ediţia a II-a. Bucureşti 1993, p. 39
  12. ^ "hos Dacos reliquerunt qui eorum lingua Romini ab Romanis, nostra Walachi, ab Italis appellantur" in Stanislaus Orichovius, Annales polonici ab excessu Sigismundi, 1643, p.119
  13. ^ "...Valacchi, qui se Romanos nominant..." "Gens quae ear terras (Transsylvaniam, Moldaviam et Transalpinam) nostra aetate incolit, Valacchi sunt, eaque a Romania ducit originem, tametsi nomine longe alieno..." and "Interrogantes quempiam an sciret Valacchice: scisne, inquunt, Romane? et an Valachus esset: num Romanus sit? quaerunt" De situ Transsylvaniae, Moldaviae et Transaplinae, in Monumenta Hungariae Historica, Scriptores; II, Pest, 1857, p. 120, 134-135 cited in Adolf Armbruster: Romanitatea românilor. Istoria unei idei, ediţia a II-a. Bucureşti 1993, p. 42, p.100-101 also see Maria Holban (ed.), Călători străini despre Țările Române, vol. I (Bucureşti: Editura Ştiinţifică, 1968), 399-403.
  14. ^ "Valachos qui Moldaviam et Transalpinam incolunt, seipsos pro Romanorum progenie tenere; dicunt enim communi modo loquendi: Sie noi sentem Rumeni: etiam nos sumus Romani. Item: Noi sentem di sange Rumena: Nos sumus de sanguine Romano" Martinus Szent-Ivany, Dissertatio Paralimpomenica rerum memorabilium Hungariae, Tyrnaviae, 1699, p. 39-40.
  15. ^ "Walachen, welche ein Überbleibsel und eine Nachkommenheit der alten Römischen Colonien sind, daher sie sich Romunius oder Rumuin d.h. Römer, nennen" A.F. Büsching, Neue Erdbeschreibung, Hamburg, 1764, p. 1257.
  16. '^ "Kik pedig a' Rómaiak közül Dáciában ineg-maradtak ; a' Római nyelvet (melyen ok beszéllöttenek) a' Szarmaták' nyelvvével (mely a' Tót nyelvvel egy vala) azután a' Dákusokéval-is öszsze-vegyítvén, egy különös Oláh-nyelvet szerzettek, mely nem egyéb, hanem Deák, Tot, és Dákus-nyelvből öszsze-habartt, és föl-eresztött szülemény. Ók magokat most-is Rómaiaknak nevezik (Rumun).'"A magyaroknak uradalmaik, mint a régi, mind a mostani üdökben, Pesten és Pozsonyban, 1801, p. 154
  17. ^ Hungary and Transylvania, 1839, p. 186.
  18. ^ "am scris aceste sfente cǎrți de învățături, sǎ fie popilor rumânesti... sǎ înțeleagǎ toți oamenii cine-s rumâni creștini" "Întrebare creștineascǎ" (1559), Bibliografia româneascǎ veche, IV, 1944, p. 6. "...că văzum cum toate limbile au și înfluresc întru cuvintele slǎvite a lui Dumnezeu numai noi românii pre limbă nu avem. Pentru aceia cu mare muncǎ scoasem de limba jidoveascǎ si greceascǎ si srâbeascǎ pre limba româneascǎ 5 cărți ale lui Moisi prorocul si patru cărți și le dăruim voo frați rumâni și le-au scris în cheltuială multǎ... și le-au dăruit voo fraților români,... și le-au scris voo fraților români" Palia de la Orǎștie (1581–1582), București, 1968. " În Țara Ardealului nu lăcuiesc numai unguri, ce și sași peste seamă de mulți și români peste tot locul...", Grigore Ureche, Letopisețul Țării Moldovei, p. 133-134.
  19. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-01-27. Retrieved 2010-02-20. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ Stelian Brezeanu, Romanitatea Orientalǎ în Evul Mediu, Editura All Educational, București, 1999, p. 229-246
  21. ^ In his well-known literary testament Ienăchiță Văcărescu writes: "Urmașilor mei Văcărești!/Las vouă moștenire:/Creșterea limbei românești/Ș-a patriei cinstire." In the "Istoria faptelor lui Mavroghene-Vodă și a răzmeriței din timpul lui pe la 1790" a Pitar Hristache writes: "Încep după-a mea ideie/Cu vreo câteva condeie/Povestea mavroghenească/Dela Țara Românească.
  22. ^ Așa și neamul acésta, de carele scriem, al țărâlor acestora, numele vechiŭ și mai direptŭ ieste rumân, adecă râmlean, de la Roma. Acest nume de la discălicatul lor de Traian, și cât au trăit (....) tot acest nume au ținut și țin pănă astăzi și încă mai bine munténii decât moldovénii, că ei și acum zic și scriu țara sa rumânească, ca și românii cei din Ardeal. (...)Și așa ieste acestor țări și țărâi noastre, Moldovei și Țărâi Muntenești numele cel direptŭ de moșie, ieste rumân, cum să răspundŭ și acum toți acéia din Țările Ungurești lăcuitori și munténii țara lor și scriu și răspundŭ cu graiul: Țara Românească. In De neamul moldovenilor
  23. ^ "Hronicon a toată Țara Românească (care apoi s-u împărțit în Moldova, Munteniască și Ardealul) ...", D. Cantemir, Hronicul vechimei româno-moldo-vlahilor, in Operele Principelui Dimitrie Cantemir, Academia Română, Bucuresti, 1901, p. 180.
  24. ^ Ioan-Aurel Pop, Istoria și semnificația numelor de român/valah și România/Valahia, reception speech at the Romanian Academy, delivered on 29 Mai 2013 in public session, Bucharest, 2013, p.20. See also I.-A. Pop, "Kleine Geschichte der Ethnonyme Rumäne (Rumänien) und Walache (Walachei)," I-II, Transylvanian Review, vol. XIII, no. 2 (Summer 2014): 68-86 and no. 3 (Autumn 2014): 81-87.
  25. ^ "Et, en même temps, les populations romanes, en Gaule aussi bien qu'à Rome, dans l'ancienne capitale de même que sur la rive de l'Adriatique, dans les vallées des Balcans, sur le Danube et dans les Carpathes, en Sardaigne, réduites à se protéger et à s'organiser elles-mêmes, s'érigèrent en démocraties populaires, ayant l'orgueil de représenter, devant un maître établi dans leur voisinage ou sur leur territoire même, des Romaniae, des pays de romanité nationale, dont le souvenir s'est perpétué dans les noms de la Romagne italienne, de même que dans celni des Roumanches alpins, dans celui des Romani, des Roumains de la péninsule balcanique et du territoire de l'ancienne Dacie." p.36 and "Quand, sous Justinien, la Rome d'Orient marcha de nouveau à la conquête de sa frontière danubienne, elle trouva ces démocraties paysannes déjà organisées en χώραι, en "terres", dont les Roumains — successeurs de ces Romani dont ils gardèrent le nom et la langue — firent țeri (singulier țara)", p.47 in La "Romania" danubienne et les barbares au Vie siècle,' Revue Belge de philologie et d'histoire, III (1924), 35-51
  26. ^ The first known mention of the term "Romania" in its modern denotation dates from 1816, as the Greek scholar Dimitrie Daniel Philippide published in Leipzig his work "The History of Romania", followed by "The Geography of Romania". On the tombstone of Gheorghe Lazăr in Avrig (built in 1823) there is the inscription: "Precum Hristos pe Lazăr din morți a înviat/Așa tu România din somn ai deșteptat."

External links[edit]