Etymology

 

Etymology



The name of Romania (România) comes from Romanian (Român) which is a derivative of the Latin: Romanus (Roman). The fact that Romanians call themselves a derivative of Romanus (Romanian: Român/Rumân) is mentioned as early as the 16th century by many authors, including Italian Humanists travelling in Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia. The oldest surviving document written in the Romanian language is a 1521 letter known as "Neacşu's Letter from Câmpulung".

This document is also notable for having the first occurrence of "Rumanian" in a Romanian written text, Wallachia being here named The Rumanian Land - Ţara Rumâneasc? (Ţara from the Latin: Terra land). In the following centuries, Romanian documents use interchangeably two spelling forms: Român and Rumân. Socio-linguistic evolutions in the late 17th century led to a process of semantic differentiation: the form "rumân", presumably usual among lower classes, got the meaning of "bondsman", while the form român kept an ethno-linguistic meaning. After the abolition of serfdom in 1746, the form "rumân" gradually disappears and the spelling definitively stabilises to the form "român", "românesc". The name "România" as common homeland of all Romanians is documented in the early 19th century. This name has been officially in use since December 11-1861. English-language sources still used the terms "Rumania" or "Roumania", borrowed from the French spelling "Roumanie", as recently as World War II, but since then those terms have largely been replaced with the official spelling "Romania".

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