History of the term Vlach

History of the term Vlach

Vlach is a Slavic-derived term from the Germanic word Valah/Valach used to designate the Romance speaking peoples of South-Eastern Europe: Romanians, Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians and Istro-Romanians.

While historically, it was used to refer to all Latin people of the Balkans, [citejournal|title=Decadence, Rome and Romania, the Emperors Who Weren't, and Other Reflections on Roman History|journal=The Proceedings of the [http://www.friesian.com/ Friesian School] |author= Kelley L. Ross|year=2003|quote=Note: The Vlach Connection|url=http://www.friesian.com/decdenc2.htm|accessdate=2008-01-13] nowadays, this term is only rarely used to refer to the Romanians, but is instead used to refer to the other Eastern Romanic peoples, living outside Romania.

Origins of the word

* "See also: History of the term Walha"

The Slavic term in turn derives from Germanic: it originates with "*Walha" by which the early Germanic tribes called their Celtic neighbours, possibly derived from the name of the tribe which was known to the Romans as Volcae (in the writings of Julius Caesar) and to the Greeks as "Ouólkai" (Strabo and Ptolemy).Fact|date=January 2008

As the Celts of Gaul were Romanized, the word changed its meaning to "Romanic people", as it is still kept in the name of the "Walloons" of Belgium, and in the German exonyms:
* "Welsche", often used in the German speaking part of Switzerland to refer to the people of the French-speaking Romandy,
* "Walsche", often used in the German speaking part of Italy to refer to Italians,
* "Walsche", used in Switzerland and Bolzano-Bozen for various Rhaeto-Romantic speaking peoples, and
* in numerous placenames (but also "Walnuss" (Walnut)), for instance "Walensee" and "Walenstadt", as well as "Welschbern" and "Walschtirol" (now almost always "Verona" and "Trentino"), and especially "Walachen"/"Walachei" (Wallachians/Wallachia).In English a similar form is used for (originally Romano-Celtic) Wales and Welsh, and for the ending "-wall" in Cornwall.

The word in Slavic languages

This word for Romanic people was borrowed from the Germanic Goths (as *walhs) into Proto-Slavic some time before the 7th century. However, the first source using the word was the writings of Byzantine historian Kedrenos, from the mid-11th century.Later on, the meaning of this noun in Slavic languages got narrower or just different:

The word in other languages

From the Slavs, it was passed on to other peoples, such as the Hungarians ("Oláh", referring to Romanians; "Olasz", referring to Italians, "Vlachok" referring to Vlachs, generally) and Byzantines/Greeks ("Βλάχοι", "Vláhi") and was used for all Latin people of the Balkans. It also acquired a secondary meaning, "shepherd" – from the occupation of many of the Vlachs of Greece and Serbia. In Albania, the opposite occurred: "çoban" "shepherd" (from Persian chopan, through Turkish) came to mean "Vlach". In German the word "vlach" was a pejorative name for an Orthodox Christian, a Serbian immigrant.

A name used for the Southern Vlachs of Greece is "Kutsovlach" (literally "limping Vlach"; possibly a reference to the way they spoke Greek), however the Aromanians consider it quite offensive. Another name which was previously used to refer to the Aromanians (mainly in the Slavic countries: Serbia, Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria) is "tsintsar", which is derived from the way the Aromanians say the word 'five': "tsintsi".

Another Balkanic ethnicity is the Morlachs or Mavrovalachi (Greek for "black Vlachs"), living in the Dinaric Alps.

Usage as autonym

The term was originally an exonym, as the Vlachs used various words derived from "romanus" to refer to themselves ("români, rumâni, rumâri, aromâni, arumâni", "armâni" etc), but there are some exceptions:

* the Aromanians of Greece, often use "Βλάχοι" (Vlachoi) rather than "Αρμάνοι" (Armanoi) in Greek-language contexts.

* the Megleno-Romanians are the only people who use exclusively the word Vlach ("Vlashi") for auto-designation. The loss of the name derived from "Romanus" most likely concluded in the early 19th century.

* the Romanian minority of Serbia living in Timok Valley (but not those of the Banat, see Romanians of Serbia), although speaking the standard Romanian dialect, are still referred as "Vlachs" in Serbian language. In the Yugoslavian census figures, the Aromanians of Macedonia and the Romanians of Serbia were both classified as "Vlachs".

ee also

* History of the term Walha
*Etymology of Romania
*Origin of Romanians
*English and Welsh


* [http://www.orbilat.com/General_Survey/Terms--Wallachians_Walloons_Welschen_etc.html Orbis Latinus: Wallachians, Walloons, Welschen]
* Victor A. Friedman, [http://www.farsarotul.org/The%20Vlah%20Minority%20in%20Macedonia.pdf The Vlah minority in Macedonia]
* Steriu T. Hagigogu, "Romanus şi valachus sau Ce este romanus, roman, român, aromân, valah şi vlah", Bucharest, 1939

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