Names of the Serbs and Serbia

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The Serbs (Serbian: Срби/Srbi, pronounced [sr̩̂biː]) have been referred to with several names by other peoples, although the endonym is and has always been Srbi.


The earliest found mention of the Serbs is from Einhard's Royal Frankish Annals, written in 822, when Ljudevit went from his seat at Sisak to the Serbs (believed to have been somewhere in western Bosnia),[1] with Einhard mentioning "the Serbs, who, it is said, control the greater part of Dalmatia" (ad Sorabos, quae natio magnam Dalmatiae partem obtinere dicitur[2]).[1] De Administrando Imperio, written by Constantine VII in the mid-10th century, tells of the early history of the Serbs, whose polity he called "Serblia" (Σερβλία), and whose ruler he called "Prince of the Serbs" (ἄρχων Σερβλίας). He mentions White Serbia (or Boiki). Furthermore, he says that the town of Servia received its name from the Serbs who once lived there.[3]

According to the Tale of Bygone Years, the first Russian chronicle, Serbs are among the first five Slav peoples who were enumerated by their names.[4] Al-Masudi (896–956) called them Sarabin.[5] In Latin, it was transcribed as Sorabi, Serbi, Serbii, Serbli, Surbi, Seruiani, Serviani etc.


Etymological origin
  • The root *sъrbъ has been variously connected with Russian paserb (пасерб, "stepson"), Ukrainian priserbitisya (присербитися, "join in"), Old Indic sarbh- ("fight, cut, kill"), Latin sero ("make up, constitute"), and Greek siro (ειρω, "repeat").[6]
  • Polish linguist Stanisław Rospond (1906–1982) derived the denomination of Srb from srbati (cf. sorbo, absorbo).[7] German-Sorbian scholar Heinz Schuster-Šewc (de) (born 1927) listed the *srъb- / *sьrb- roots in Slavic words meaning "to sip, munch", found in Polish s(i)erbać, Russian сербать, etc., and also cognates in non-Slavic languages, such as Lithuanian suřbti, Middle German sürfen, which all derive from Indo-European onomatopoeic roots *serbh- / *sirbh- / *surbh- meaning "to sip, to breast-feed, to flow". According to him, the basis of the ethnonym lays in "kinship by milk" and "brotherhood in milk" which was widespread in early ethnic groups (between both relatives and non-relatives) and thus carried the secondary meanings of "those who belong to the same family, kinsman"; "member of the same kin, tribe"; and finally an ethnonym (name of a people, nation).[8]
Antique origin

Some scholars argue that the Serb ethnonym is antique.[9] According to this theory, it is connected to the mentions of Tacitus in 50 AD, Pliny the Elder in 77 AD (Naturalis Historia) and Ptolemy in his Geography 2nd century AD, of the Sarmatian tribe of Serboi of the North Caucasus and Lower Volga. One theory is that it is of ultimately Iranian origin.[10][11]

Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (325-391) referred to the Carpathians as "Montes Serrorum" in his works, according to some, connected to the Serbs.[citation needed] In 1878, Henry Hoyle Howorth connected Ptolemy's mention of the town of Serbinum (Σέρβινον), modern Gradiška, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the Serbs, and also found the Serb ethnonym in the works of Vibius Sequester.[13]

  • In De Bello Gothico Procopius (500-565) uses the name Sporoi as an umbrella term for the Slavic tribes of Antes and Sclaveni, it is however not known whether the Slavs used this designation for themselves or he himself coined the term, it has been theorized however that the name is corruption of the ethnonym Serbs. A large number of linguists agree that 'Sporoi' (Spores) is another name for the Serbs.[14] Sporoi may be identical with 'Sorpi=Serpi=Serbi' and 'Sclavini'.[7]



The term "Rascia" (sr. Рашка/Raška) was used as an exonym for Serbia in Western sources since the late 12th century, along with other names such as Servia, Dalmatia and Slavonia. It was derived from the town of Ras, a royal estate, and seat of an eparchy. The first attestation is in a charter from Kotor dated to 1186, in which Stefan Nemanja, the Grand Prince (1166–1196), is mentioned as "župan of Rascia". It was one of the common names for Serbia in western sources (Papacy, German, Italian, French, etc.), often in conjunction with Serbia (Servia et Rascia). "Rascia" was never used in Byzantine works.

The term is often used in modern historiography to refer to the medieval "Serbian hinterland", that is, the inland territories in relation to the maritime principalities at the Adriatic (the "Pomorje"). The early medieval Serbian Principality is erranously (as anachronistical) known in historiography as Raška.[15] In DAI, the Serbian hinterland is called "baptized Serbia", while Ras is only mentioned as a border town.[15] The misconceptions arose from the Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja.[15]

Between the 15th and 18th centuries, the term (Latin: Rascia, Hungarian: Ráczság) was used to designate the southern Pannonian Plain inhabited by Serbs, or "Rascians" (Latin: Rasciani, Natio Rasciana, Hungarian: Rác(ok)), who had settled there following the Ottoman conquests and Great Serb migrations.


  • The Serbs were often called "Triballi" in Byzantine works.[16] The Triballi was an ancient Thracian tribe that inhabited the area of the Morava Valley in southern Serbia. They were last mentioned in the 3rd century. The educated Byzantine authors sought an ancient name for the Serbs, and adopted it as the most likely.[17] It was in use between the 11th and 15th century.
  • In the Byzantine chronicle Alexiad, covering the 11th century (written in 1148), Anna Komnene mentions the Serbs by the names Sklaveni and Dalmati (Δαλμάται, Dalmatai), with Dalmatia starting from Kosovo and Metohija.[18] John Kinnamos, in his work covering 1118–76, wrote: "the Serbs, a Dalmatic (Dalmatian) tribe" (Σέρβιοι, ε-8-νος Δαλματικών), thus using "Dalmat(ian)s" or "Dalmatic (Dalmatian) people" in the context of the Serbs, and "Dalmatia" in the context of Serbia. There are numerous other, less prominent, instances, poetic for example — Theodore Prodromus, Michael Italicus and the typikon of the Pantokrator monastery, among others.
Early modern
  • "Vlachs", referring to pastoralists, was a common exonym for Serbs in the Ottoman Empire and later.[14] The term "Vlachs" was also used for Slavs who shared lifestyle (as shepherds) with Romance peoples (Vlachs); it was used for the Serbs who settled the Military Frontier.[19][20][21][22] Croatian nationalist historiography (including Ustashe propaganda[23]) claim that the settlers were not Serbs, but Vlachs; that Serbs of Croatia are not Serbs.[22] All South Slavic ethnic groups had some Romance ingredient, although there is no evidence that all or most Serbs in Croatia were of Vlach origin.[23] In Bosnia, Orthodox Christians were called "Vlachs", actually used as a synonym of "Serbs".[24] It was used as a derogatory term, and as a common name for Orthodox Serbs in Catholic lands, and lesser in the Ottoman Empire. Tihomir Đorđević (1868–1944), as did other academics, stressed that the name "Vlach" did not only refer to genuine Vlachs (Romance-speaking people), but also to cattle breeders in general.[14] In a letter of Emperor Ferdinand sent on 6 November 6, 1538 to Croatian ban Petar Keglević, he wrote "Captains and dukes of the Rasians, or the Serbs, or the Vlachs, who are commonly called the Serbs".[14] Serbs that took refuge in the Habsburg Military Frontier were called "Vlachs" by the Croats.[14] In the work About the Vlachs (1806), Metropolitan Stevan Stratimirović stated that Roman Catholics from Croatia and Slavonia scornfully used the name "Vlach" for "the Slovenians (Slavs) and Serbs, who are of our, Eastern [Orthodox] confession", and that "the Turks (Muslims) in Bosnia and Serbia also call every Bosnian or Serbian Christian a Vlach".[25] That the name "Vlach" used to signify the Serbs is testified by Vuk Karadžić in his many recorded proverbs.[14] The term may have originated from Stari Vlah, from where refugees arrived in what was then the Holy Roman Empire.[26]
  • In Dalmatia, terms used for Serbs were: "Morlachs" (Morlaci), "Vlachs" (Vlasi), Rkaći,[27] Rkači, "Greek Dalmatians" (Garčki Dalmatini), or "Greek people".[28] The Catholics used the pejorative word rkać, derived from Venetian, for Orthodox people.[29] The terms Rišćani, Rkaći (Grkaći), Morlaci (crni Vlasi), were used for primitive shepherds, Serbs, who moved in Bukovica, and mountain pastures on the border of Lika (Velebit) and Bosnia (Dinara).[30]
  • "Schismatics"
  • Illyri ("Illyrians") and Natio Illyrica ("Illyrian nation"), in official Habsburg documents.[31] The Rescriptum Declaratorium Illyricae Nationis from 1779, declared by Maria Theresa, officially established the position of Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Habsburg Monarchy.


Because of a confusion of ethnicity/nationality with religious affiliation, many authors from historic times referred to and recorded Serbs by the following names:



Male given names

Srba, Srbislav, Srbivoje, Srbko, Srboje, Srbomir, Srborad, Srbomil, Srboljub, Srbobran.

Female given names

Srbijanka, Srbinka, and others.


Srbinac, Srbinić, Srbinov, Srbinovac, Srbinović, Srbinovski, Srbić, Srbović, Srbljanović, Srbljanin, Srbljak, Srpčić, Serban, and others.


Connected to Serbs[edit]

West Slavic

Connected to Raška, Raci[edit]


Renderings in other languages[edit]

Historical renderings in other languages:

  • Servii, Latin rendering.[32]
    • Serviani/Servians, medieval French and English rendering of the Serbs.

Modern renderings in other languages:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b * Ćirković, Sima (2004). The Serbs. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 14–15. ISBN 9781405142915. 
  2. ^ Einhard (1845). Einhardi Annales. Hahn. pp. 83–. ad Sorabos, quae natio magnam Dalmatiae partem obtinere dicitur 
  3. ^ Moravcsik 1967, p. 153, 155
  4. ^ Povest vremennih let (Moscow, Leningrad: Akademiya nauk SSSR, 1990), pp. 11, 207.
  5. ^ Ataullah Bogdan Kopanski (1995). Sabres of Two Easts: An Untold History of Muslims in Eastern Europe, Their Friends and Foes. Institute of Policy Studies. ISBN 978-969-448-031-2. In his work entitled Muruj adh- dhahab or The Golden Meadows, Mas'udi called them sara- bin (Serbs). 
  6. ^ "Этимология слова серб". Archived from the original on 2016-10-11. серб - род. п. -а, Сербия. Заимств. из сербохорв. срб, србин, србљин, которое засвидетельствовано в ср.-греч. , , др.-сербск. срьбинь, срьблинь (Нидерле, Маnuеl I, 94; Slov. Star. 2, 487). Древнее слав. племенное название, родственное в.-луж., н.-луж. serb "серболужичанин", ср.-лат. Zribiа "Мейссения" (Козьма Пражский, часто). В качестве названия вост.-слав. племени встречается только у Конст. Багр. (Dе adm. imp., гл. 9). Нидерле (Slov. Star. 4, 156) считает это искаженной формой сверяне. Этноним *sьrbъ (первонач. "союзник") родствен словам пасерб "пасынок", укр. присербитися "присоединиться" (Миккола, AfslPh 42, 91; РФВ 48, 273; Сольмсен, KZ 37, 592 и сл.). Сомнительно родство с себер, вопреки Сольмсену (там же), Преобр. (II, 267, 276 и сл.), Калиме (ZfslPh 17, 349 и сл.). Последнее слово нельзя возвести к *sьbrъ; ср. Миккола, там же. Недостоверны сравнения *sьrbъ с др.-инд. sarbh- "бить, рубить, убивать", вопреки Потебне (РФВ I, 91), или с лат. sero, -еrе "нанизывать, составлять (вместе)", греч. "ставлю в ряд" (Ильинский, ИОРЯС 24, I, 138 и сл.). •• [Мошинский (Zasiag, стр. 147 и сл.) возводит слав. sьrbъ, к и.-е. *ser-v- "охранять", которое дало в классическом скифском *хаrv-, откуда слав. *хrvati. – Т.] 
  7. ^ a b Lukaszewicz 1998, p. 132.
  8. ^ Schuster-Šewc, Heinz. "Порекло и историја етнонима Serb "Лужички Србин"". (in Serbian). Translated by Petrović, Tanja. Пројекат Растко - Будишин. 
  9. ^ Ćirković 2004, pp. XII, 13.
  10. ^ Robert J. Donia, John Van Antwerp Fine (2005). Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 9781850652120. , p. 14; The Croats and Serbs were probably originally Iranians. At least linguists have concluded that both their tribal names as well as the preserved names of their leaders were Iranian.
  11. ^ Heather, Peter (2010). Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199752720. , pp. 404-406
  12. ^ Anna Kretschmer. "DJORDJE BRANKOVIC AS ETYMOLOGIST" (PDF). The Romance Balkans: 47. 
  13. ^ Howorth (1878), pp. 66-68
  14. ^ a b c d e f Elements of Ethnic Identification of the Serbs. By Danijela Gavrilović. Facta Universitatis. Series: Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology Vol. 2, n° 10, 2003, pp. 717 - 730.
  15. ^ a b c Novaković, Relja (2010) [1981]. "Gde se nalazila Srbija od VII do XII veka: Zaključak i rezime monografije" (Internet ed.). 
  16. ^ Zbornik radova Vizantološkog instituta. 44. Naučno delo. 2007. The Serbs were often called Triballi by Byzantine authors. 
  17. ^ Fanula Papazoglu (1978). The Central Balkan Tribe in Pre-Roman Times: Triballi, Autariatae, Dardanians, Scordisci and Moesians. Hakkert. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-90-256-0793-7. 
  18. ^ Anne Comnene, Alexiade (Regne de L'Empereur Alexis I Comnene 1081-1118) II, pp. l57:3-l6; 1.66: 25-169. Texte etabli er traduit par B. Leib t. I-III (Paris, 1937-1945).
  19. ^ B. Fowkes (6 March 2002). Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict in the Post-Communist World. Palgrave Macmillan UK. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-4039-1430-9. ... but in fact the name was also applied to Slavs who shared the same pastoral, nomadic life as the Romanian shepherds. The Orthodox refugees who settled on the border (krajina) between Habsburg and Ottoman territory, and who are in part the ancestors of the Krajina Serbs who lived in Croatia until driven out recently, were also described officially as Vlachs and given privileged military status under that name (the Habsburg ruler Ferdinand II issued a 'Statute of the Vlachs' for them in 1630). To apply the term Vlach to someone, therefore, was to say that they were either nomads or free peasant-soldiers. It did not imply a definitive conclusion about their ethnic group. 
  20. ^ Lampe & Jackson 1982, p. 62

    In 1630 the Habsburg Emperor signed the Statuta Valachorum, or Vlach Statutes (Serbs and other Balkan Orthodox peoples were often called Vlachs). They recognized formally the growing practice of awarding such refugee families a free grant of crown land to farm communally as their zad- ruga. In return all male members over sixteen were obliged to do military service. The further guarantees of religious freedom and of no feudal obligations made the Orthodox Serbs valuable allies for the monarchy in its seventeenth-century struggle ...

  21. ^ Béla K. Király; Gunther Erich Rothenberg (1979). Special Topics and Generalizations on the 18th and 19th Centuries. Brooklyn College Press. p. 301. ISBN 978-0-930888-04-6. After Ferdinand II issued the Statuta Vlachorum on October 5, 1630,51 the first broad privileges for Vlachs (Serbs) in the Varazdin region, the Vienna Court tried to remove the Military Frontier from civil jurisdiction. The Statuta defined the rights and obligations of frontiersmen and provided the first formal administrative organization for the Military Frontier, which was now detached from Croatia. ... The term Vlach was often used interchangeably with Serb because the latter, too, were mostly a pastoral people. 
  22. ^ a b Trbovich 2008, p. 190

    This also explains why extremist Croat nationalism is both reflected and rooted in the attempted revision of history. The Croats have always resented the rights granted to Serbs in Croatia, and most especially Krayina's historic separate existence. Croat historians have claimed that Krayina's settlers were not Serbs but “Vlachs,”81 [footnote:] While all Orthodox settlers were indeed called Vlachs by the Habsburg authorities, and some truly were Vlachs and different from the Serbs, the majority were Serbian and even the Vlachs assimilated into Serbs by the nineteenth century. As Nicholas Miller explains, “the term Vlach became a weapon in the war to devalue Serbian claims to territory and history in Croatia.”

  23. ^ a b Aleksa Djilas (1991). The Contested Country: Yugoslav Unity and Communist Revolution, 1919-1953. Harvard University Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-674-16698-1. While no South Slav group was without some Vlach ingredient, there is no evidence that all or most Serbs in Croatia were of Vlach origin. The thesis that Croatian Serbs were "Vlasi" occurred regularly in Ustasha propaganda — without any serious evidence to support it. 
  24. ^ Entangled Histories of the Balkans: Volume One: National Ideologies and Language Policies. BRILL. 13 June 2013. pp. 42–. ISBN 978-90-04-25076-5. 
  25. ^ T. Đorđević, 1984:110
  26. ^ Mihailo Simić (1991). Rimokatolička crkva i Srbi. Simex. p. 15. 
  27. ^ Andrić, Jasna. "Nadimak" Rkać"(Rkač)." Etnološka tribina 18.11 (1988): 43-58.
  28. ^ Milorad Ekmec̆ić (1989). Stvaranje Jugoslavije 1790-1918. Prosveta. p. 187. За српско становништво у Дал- мацији се употребљава званични израз Морлаци, или „Сгесо- -Ва1таИ", што је превођено као Власи, Ркаћи („Аркачи"), „Гарчки Далматини", или „народ Грчки"-113 
  29. ^ Dragoslav Vasić; Nada Jakšić (2003). Vožd Karađorđe i Srpska revolucija: kazivanja i filmovi o heroju topolskome. Topola film. Католици православне називају погрдним именом „ркаћ", ркаћи. Реч коју је установио лингвиста Миклошић дошла је од венецијанског израза „грекаћо" за при- паднике православне вере и православних цркава. А православни ... 
  30. ^ Ratko Jelić (1971). Almanah: Srbi i pravoslavlje u Dalmaciji i Dubrovniku. Savez udruženja pravoslavnog sveštenstva SR Hrvatske. pp. 128, 160. 
  31. ^ Serbski li͡etopis za god. ... Pismeny Kral. Sveučilišta Peštanskog. 1867. pp. 250–. 
  32. ^ p. 608
  33. ^ "Serf, Serven / Serviër, Serviërs".