Slavs (ethnonym)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Slavic ethnonym (and autonym), Slavs, is reconstructed in Proto-Slavic as *Slověninъ, plural Slověně. The earliest written references to the Slav ethnonym are in other languages.

Early mentions[edit]

Sporoi (Greek: Σπόροι) or Spori was according to Eastern Roman scholar Procopius (500–560) the old name of the Antes and Sclaveni, two Early Slavic branches. Procopius stated that the Sclaveni and Antes spoke the same language, but he did not trace their common origin back to the Veneti (as per Jordanes) but to a people he called Sporoi.[1] He derived the name from Greek σπείρω ("I scatter grain"), because "they populated the land with scattered settlements".[2] He described their society as democratic, and their language as barbaric.[3]

Roman bureaucrat Jordanes wrote about the Slavs in his work Getica (551): "although they derive from one nation, now they are known under three names, the Veneti, Antes and Sclaveni" (ab una stirpe exorti, tria nomina ediderunt, id est Veneti, Antes, Sclaveni); that is, the West Slavs, East Slavs, and South Slavs.[4] He stated that the Veneti were the ancestors of the Sclaveni and the Antes, the two having used to be called Veneti but are now "chiefly" (though, by implication, not exclusively) called Sclaveni and Antes.[5][better source needed] Jordanes' Veneti and Procopius' Sporoi were used for the ethnogenetic legend of the Slavs, the ancestors of the Slavs (the subsequent ethnic group name).[6]

Thus, the Slav ethnonym at first denoted the southern group of the early Slavs. This ethnonym is attested by Procopius in Byzantine Greek as Σκλάβοι (Skláboi), Σκλαβηνοί (Sklabēnoí), Σκλαυηνοί (Sklauēnoí), Σθλαβηνοί (Sthlabēnoí), or Σκλαβῖνοι (Sklabînoi),[7] while his contemporary Jordanes refers to the Sclaveni in Latin.[8] In Ancient Greek there are no words with the root sl-, thus the original ethnonym was transformed into skl-, as that root was present (in sklērós, "hard").[9]

Church Slavonic manuscripts[edit]

In East Church Slavonic manuscripts, the ethnonym is spelt Slověne (Словѣне), such as in the Primary Chronicle, Sofia First Chronicle, Novgorod First Chronicle and Novgorod Fourth Chronicle.[10] In the source dating to 898 included in the Primary Chronicle, the term is used both for East Slavic tribes and more often for a people (in the Kievan Rus' society, alongside Varangians, Chuds and Kriviches).[11]


The Slavic autonym *Slověninъ is usually considered a derivation from slovo "word", originally denoting "people who speak (the same language)", i. e. people who understand each other, in contrast to the Slavic word denoting "foreign people", namely němci, meaning "mumbling, murmuring people" (from Slavic *němъ "mumbling, mute"). The latter word may be the derivation of words to denote "Germans" or "Germanic peoples" in many later Slavic languages: e. g., Czech Němec, Slovak Nemec, Slovene Nemec, Belarusian, Russian and Bulgarian Немец, Serbo-Croatian Немац and Nijemac, Polish Niemiec, Ukrainian Німець, etc.,[12] but another theory states that rather these words are derived from the name of the Nemetes tribe,[13][14] which is derived from the Celtic root nemeto-.[15][16]

The word slovo ("word") and the related slava ("glory, fame") and slukh ("hearing") originate from the Proto-Indo-European root *ḱlew- ("be spoken of, glory"), cognate with Ancient Greek κλέος (kléos "fame"), whence comes the name Pericles, Latin clueo ("be called"), and English loud.[citation needed]

Alternative proposals for the etymology of *Slověninъ propounded by some scholars have much less support. B. Philip Lozinski argues that the word *slava once had the meaning of "worshipper", in this context "practicer of a common Slavic religion", and from that evolved into an ethnonym.[17] S. B. Bernstein speculated that it derives from a reconstructed Proto-Indo-European *(s)lawos, cognate to Ancient Greek λαός (laós) "population, people", which itself has no commonly accepted etymology.[18] Meanwhile, others theorize that Slavyane (Russian: Славяне) is of toponymic origin, from a place named Slovo or a river named Slova;[19] this, according to some, is implied by the suffix -enin.[citation needed] The Old East Slavic Slavuta for the Dnieper River was argued by Henrich Bartek (1907–1986) to be derived from slova and also the origin of Slověne.[20]

The English term slave derives from the ethnonym Slav. In medieval wars many Slavs were captured and enslaved, which led to the word slav becoming synonym to "enslaved person".[21][22] In plus, the English word Slav derives from the Middle English word sclave, which was borrowed from Medieval Latin sclavus or slavus,[23][better source needed] itself a borrowing and Byzantine Greek σκλάβος sklábos "slave," which was in turn apparently derived from a misunderstanding of the Slavic autonym (denoting a speaker of their own languages). The Byzantine term Sklavinoi was loaned into Arabic as Saqaliba (صقالبة; sing. Saqlabi, صقلبي) by medieval Arab historiographers. However, the origin of this word is disputed.[24][25]

The popular Italian-language (and international) salutation Ciao is derived from the word.[26][27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paul M. Barford (2001). The Early Slavs: Culture and Society in Early Medieval Eastern Europe. Cornell University Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8014-3977-3.
  2. ^ Михайло Грушевський; Andrzej Poppe; Marta Skorupsky; Uliana M. Pasicznyk; Frank E. Sysyn (1997). History of Ukraine-Rus': From prehistory to the eleventh century. Kiyc Cius. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-895571-19-6.
  3. ^ Lukaszewicz 1998, p. 130.
  4. ^ Frank A. Kmietowicz (1976). Ancient Slavs. Worzalla Publishing Company. Jordanes left no doubt that the Antes were of Slavic origin, when he wrote: 'ab una stirpe exorti, tria nomina ediderunt, id est Veneti, Antes, Sclaveni' (although they derive from one nation, now they are known under three names, the Veneti, Antes and Sclaveni). The Veneti were the West Slavs, the Antes the East Slavs and the Sclaveni, the South or Balkan Slavs.
  5. ^ Jordanes, Getica 5.
  6. ^ Kazansky, M. M. (2014). "Славяне и дунайские германцы в VI веке: свидетельства письменных источников и некоторые археологические данные" (PDF). ББК. 63. ISBN 978-5-903454-91-4.
  7. ^ Procopius, History of the Wars, VII. 14. 22–30, VIII. 40. 5.
  8. ^ Jordanes, The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, V. 33.
  9. ^ Lukaszewicz 1998, p. 131.
  10. ^ А.А. Шахматов. Разыскания о древнейших русских летописных сводах. Рипол Классик. pp. 304–. ISBN 978-5-517-87978-3.
  11. ^ Виктор Живов (5 September 2017). Разыскания в области истории и предыстории русской культуры. ЛитРес. pp. 180–. ISBN 978-5-457-50213-0.
  12. ^ Stephen Barbour and Cathie Carmichael (eds.), Language and Nationalism in Europe (2000), p. 193.
  13. ^ The Journal of Indo-European studies, vol. 2 (1974).
  14. ^ Grzegorz Jagodziński, O przenoszeniu nazw ludów (in Polish).
  15. ^ Xavier Delamarre (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Éditions Errance, p. 233.
  16. ^ John T. Koch (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, p. 1351.
  17. ^ B. Philip Lozinski, "The Name 'Slav'", in: Essays in Russian History. A Collection Dedicated to George Vernadsky, edd. A. D. Ferguson and A. Levin. Archon Books, Hamden, Connecticut 1964, S. 19–32 (online text).
  18. ^ Bernstein 1961.
  19. ^ Татьяна Григорьевна Винокур (2004). Древнерусский язык. Лабиринт. p. 37. ISBN 978-5-87604-147-0.
  20. ^ Etudes slaves et est-européennes: Slavic and East-European studies, vol. 3 (1958), p. 107.
  21. ^ "Slave". Retrieved 2017-02-02.
  22. ^ "Slave". The Free Dictionary.
  23. ^ "Slav". Oxford Dictionaries.
  24. ^ F. Kluge, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 2002, s. v. "Sklave".
  25. ^ Ф. М. Достоевский, Полное собрание сочинений: в 30-ти т. Т. 23. М., 1990, с. 63, 382.
  26. ^ Quaderni di semantica. 25–26. Società editrice il Mulino. 2004. pp. 214–215. In the case of the sequence Slav > sclavus > scia(v)o > ciao, however, there is no problem, because the etymology is absolutely reliable
  27. ^ Folia Linguistica Historica: Acta Societatis Linguisticae Europaeae. 12. Mouton. 1992. pp. 110–118–. This is also the case for ciao and sciao, for the etymology of these words is the late Latin word sclavus, ultimately of Slavic origin, originally meaning "Slavic", and then "slave". As is known, most western European words that designate "slave" derive from the word sclavus: not only English slave, but also German Sklave, Dutch slaaf, Danish slave, Swedish slaaf, Welsh slaf, Breton sklav, French esclave, Spanish esclavo, Portuguese escravo, Albanian Skllaf, Modern Greek skla- vos, ...

Further reading[edit]