Name of the Czech Republic

Name of the Czech Republic

The name of the Czech Republic derives from the Slavic tribe of Czechs (Czech: Čechové). Because the name of the country has evolved significantly over time both in Czech and other languages, it remains a source of debate and contention.

Nearly two decades after the split of Czechoslovakia into Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the latter continues to be known by several competing names in English and Czech. "Czech Republic" (Czech: Česká republika) is the unquestioned long-form name.

The Czech term for the Czech lands (i.e. Bohemia, Moravia, Czech Silesia) is Česko. Today, it is also the official short form for the Czech Republic. The term Česko is first documented in 1777. Česko and its foreign equivalents (German: Tschechien) are also the terms officially preferred by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1993.[1] However, the term "Czechia" (/ˈtʃɛki.ə/) has not caught on among English speakers.


Czech name

The Czech name of the country comes from the Czechs (Czech: Čechové), a Slavic tribe residing in central Bohemia which subdued the surrounding tribes in the late 9th century and created the Czech/Bohemian state. The origin of the name of the tribe itself is unknown. According to a legend, it comes from their leader Čech, who brought them to Bohemia. Most scholarly theories regard Čech as a sort of obscure derivative, e.g. from četa (military unit).[2]

There has been several variants of the name of the country used over the centuries depending mainly on the evolution of the Czech language. The digraph "cz" was used until the 15th century reform, being eventually replaced by "č" which changed the original Czechy into Čechy. In the late 19th century the names of countries started to lose the suffix -y in favor of -sko (e.g. Rakousy-Rakousko for Austria, Uhry-Uhersko for Hungary). While the first notion of Česko appears for the first time in the late 18th century, it came into official use only with the independence of Czechoslovakia (Česko-Slovensko or Československo) as the first part of its name in 1918. When Czechoslovakia broke up in 1993, the Czech part of the name was intended to serve as a name of the Czech state. There, however, started a dispute since many perceived the "new" word Česko, which had been only rarely used before alone, as harsh sounding or as a mere remnant of Československo,[3] while the older and more familiar Čechy was rejected by many because it was primarily associated only with Bohemia proper and to use it also for the whole country was no longer seen as appropriate, especially among the inhabitants of Moravia, despite it is common in other languages (Polish, Slovene, etc.).

The use of the word "Česko" by the Czech media and public has increased in recent years, and it is also in official use now.[4] Some Czech politicians and public figures have expressed concern about the disuse of "Česko" and "Czechia". In 1997, an organization to promote the names was established. The following year, a conference of professionals aimed at encouraging the use of the names was held at Charles University in Prague. The Czech Senate held a session on the issue in 2004.

English name

The traditional name of the country in English is "Bohemia". It comes from the Celtic tribe of Boii which inhabited the area from the 4th century BC. The original Latin name Boiohaemum comes from Germanic Boi-heim meaning "home of the Boii." The name survived all the following migrations affecting the area including the arrival of the Slavic tribes and creation of the Czech state. The country was since then known officially as Duchy and later Kingdom of Bohemia and from the 14th century as the Lands of the Bohemian Crown. The major change came in 1918 when the Austro-Hungarian monarchy disintegrated, the king of Bohemia was deposed and the new Republic of Czecho-Slovakia was proclaimed, despite the original propositions[5] using the traditional name of Bohemia for the new state. The new name reflected the union of Czech and Slovak people and contained for the first time in history the English variant "Czech", which was until then employed only to denote ethnic or Czech-speaking Bohemians. The Czech people and their language was for centuries called "Bohemian" in English. Only during the rise of nationalism in the 19th century the derivative of the Czech endonym (using Polish spelling[6] identical with the antiquated Czech) appeared in English to distinguish between various ethnicities living in the country, namely Czech- and German-speaking ones.

With the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 the question of the new short-form name appeared since the word "Czech" has been used only as an adjective or the name of the people and language but not the country itself. Instead of returning to the traditional "Bohemia" the newly coined name "Czechia" was officially adopted. This name, however, despite the initial promotion by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has never been adopted by the Czech and foreign authorities or the general public and remains as of 2010 only rarely used. As "Czechia" remains uncommon, and the long form is unwieldy, people often resort to the adjective "Czech".[7]

Other languages

The renaming of the country in 1918 and 1993 occurred also in the majority of other languages, with only a few (Polish Czechy, Hungarian Csehország, Slovene Češka, etc.) retaining the original form used before. Unlike English, many of those aforementioned languages successfully adopted also the new short-forms like Tschechien in German, Чехия (Chekhia) in Russian, Τσεχία (Tsechia) in Greek, Češka in Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Slovene, Tsjekkia in Norwegian, Tjeckien in Swedish, Tjekkiet in Danish or Tsjechië in Dutch. The Italian Cechia and the French Tchéquie are rarely used, while the Spanish Chequia is more common.[8]


  1. ^ "Ministerstvo zahraničních věcí České republiky". Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  2. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2011-02-11.
  3. ^ Looking for a name – Radio Prague (2011-01-21). Retrieved on 2011-01-27.
  4. ^ According to the official Czech list of country names (Jména států a jejich územních částí. Český úřad zeměměřický a katastralní, Praha 2009, ISBN 978-80-86918-57-0): Česko je kodifikovaný jednoslovný název státu, který se podle ústavy oficiálně nazývá Česká republika (Česko is a standardized one-word name of the state, which is officially named Česká republika according to its constitution)
  5. ^ Edvard, Beneš (1917). Bohemia's case for independence. London: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0405027346. 
  6. ^ Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved 2011-02-11.
  7. ^ Pilsner Urquell. Retrieved on 2011-01-27.
  8. ^ República Checa in Diccionario panhispánico de dudas, Real Academia Española, 2005.

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