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Name of Romania


Name of Romania

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) 1
  • Etymology of Romania (România) 2
  • Spelling reforms 3
  • Other uses of Romania and other derivatives of Romanus 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Etymology of the ethnonym Romanian (român)

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:[2] "Duke Ramunc of Walachia,/with seven hundred vassals, galloped up before her/like flying wild birds men saw them ride".[3] It is argued that "Ramunc" could represent a symbolic figure, representing Romanians.[4]

The self-designation of Romanians as Romans is mentioned in scholarly works as early as the 16th century by mainly Italian humanists travelling in Transylvania, Moldavia and Walachia. Thus, Tranquillo Andronico writes in 1534 that Romanians (Valachi) "now call themselves Romans".[5] 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 "Stii romineste ?" ("do you speak Romanian ?" for originally Romanian "știi românește ?").[6] Ferrante Capeci writes around 1575 that the inhabitants of those Provinces call themselves “Romanians”,[7] while Pierre Lescalopier notes in 1574 that those inhabiting Walachia, Moldavia and the most part of Transylvania say to be descendants of Romans, calling their language "romanechte" (French transcription for Romanian românește - Romanian).[8]

Other first-hand evidence about the name Romanians used to call themselves comes from authors having lived in Transylvania and/or Romanian principalities: the Transylvanian Saxon Johann Lebel confirms in 1542 that common Romanians call themselves "Romuini",[9] Orichovius (Stanislaw Orzechowski) notes as late as 1554 that "in their own language, Romanians are called Romini, after the Romans, and Walachs in Polish, after the Italians",[10] Anton Verancsics writes around 1570 that Romanians living in Transylvania, Moldavia and Walachia call themselves Romans (Romanians)[11] and 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")[12]

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.[13]

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).[14]

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.[15] 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".[16]

Etymology of Romania (România)

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 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 embracing Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania is mentioned by the chronicler Miron Costin in the 17th century.[17]

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.[18]

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

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, 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 -i.e., 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) being then used in the eve of the 19th century to designate the common homeland of Romanians.

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

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

  • Since 7th century, name for region surrounding Ravenna (Romagna in Italian) where the Byzantines kept off the Germanic rulers.
  • It has been an alternative name for the Byzantine Empire (also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, Ρωμανία Rōmanía in Greek - compare with the name Ρουμανία Roumanía for Romania). The name was also kept by non-Latin peoples, such as the Byzantines, who used to call themselves "Romaioi" (Ρωμαίοι, also the origin of the first name Romeo). In the Arabic and Ottoman Turkish languages, it came to mean further Eastward regions of the empire, like Rûm and Rumelia in Asia. Rumi was also an Arabic word for Christian.
  • 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


  1. ^ Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language, 1998; New Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language, 2002
  2. ^ Nibelungenlied#Authorship
  3. ^ "Der herzoge Ramunch vzer Vlâchen lant/mit Sibenhunduert mannen chom er fvr si gerant/sam die wilden vogele so sah man si varn", Das Niebelungenlied, Adventure 22, page 52v, stanza 1370 in Version C
  4. ^ "Der Nibelunge not", 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 cu "Herzog Ramunc aus dem Walachenland", in "Sudost-Forschungen", XI, 1946-1952, p. 284-290)
  5. ^ "nunc se Romanos vocant" A. Verres, Acta et Epistolae, I, p. 243
  6. ^ " 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,..." Cl. Isopescu, Notizie intorno ai romeni nella letteratura geografica italiana del Cinquecento, in Bulletin de la Section Historique, XVI, 1929, p. 1- 90
  7. ^ “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
  8. ^ "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 … " 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
  9. ^ "Ex Vlachi Valachi, Romanenses Italiani,/Quorum reliquae Romanensi lingua utuntur.../Solo Romanos nomine, sine re, repraesentantes./Ideirco vulgariter Romuini sunt appelanti", Ioannes Lebelius, De opido Thalmus, Carmen Istoricum, Cibinii, 1779, p. 11–12
  10. ^ "qui eorum lingua Romini ab Romanis, nostra Walachi, ab Italis appellantur" St. Orichovius, Annales polonici ab excessu Sigismundi, in I. Dlugossus, Historiae polonicae libri XII, col 1555
  11. ^ „...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...“ De situ Transsylvaniae, Moldaviae et Transaplinae, in Monumenta Hungariae Historica, Scriptores; II, Pesta, 1857, p. 120
  12. ^ "Valachos...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.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Stelian Brezeanu, Romanitatea Orientalǎ în Evul Mediu, Editura All Educational, București, 1999, p. 229-246
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ The first known mention of the term "Romania" in its modern denotation dates from 1816, as the Greek scholar 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

  • Origin of the name of Romania
  • Baldwin I of Romania
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