Slavic Languages: "Germans" (Collectively)


New Member
German - Germany
Good morning, everyone.

I need help in translating the word "Germans," well, choosing the right word for this context.

1. Is there a word that is used to mean Germans, East and West Germany exclusively? I'm guessing "niemiec" and its cognates is the correct one, yes?

2. Is there a word that refers to Germany + Austria exclusively? I'm guessing no. Correct me if I'm wrong, please.

3. Is there a word that refers to the people of Germany, Austria, German parts of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, etc. collectively? (In the sense of "Slav" being used for used for Russians, Bulgarians, Poles, etc. collectively). There might not be a separate word, but can niemiec (+ cognates) be used in this sense? (For example, niemiec as generic "Germans" while Germanec is used for Germany specifically and Avstrijec, Rakušan for Austrian).

4. What word was used for Germans outside of Austria before the foundation of the German state? In medieval dramas, for example, when referring to the people living in the hundreds of princely states in the Holy Roman Empire. Dramas such as ones set in the 30 Years War, etc.

I don't mind anachronisms used by film and TV writers as long as it's clear and specific. I need a term that includes Germany, Austria, Switzerland, etc. but excludes England, Norway, Denmark and other Germanic peoples.
  • rusita preciosa

    Modus forendi
    Russian (Moscow)
    1. немец (m), немка (f), немцы (pl); восточный/западный немец (Eastern/Western German)
    2. No
    3. No, we would use some descriptive terms (e.g. немецкоязычный швейцарец - German-language Swiss). For Austria and Liechtenstein where everyone speaks German, we would not have a term, they would be австриец, лихтеншейнец. For German-speaking parts of Europe we would use just that: немецкоязычные страны (German-language countries)
    4. I do not think we have a term. For the 30-year war (in the simplistic terms) we use Габсбургский блок (Habsburg bloc) vs. aнтигабсбургскaя коалиция (anti-Habsburg coalition).


    Senior Member

    1. Nemec (m), Nemka (f), Nemci (pl), Nemčija (country)

    2. No

    3. Maybe German (m), Germanka (f), Germani (pl), but that would include all Germanic people.

    4. Švab (m), Švabica (f), Švabi (pl) is a derogatory word for Germans and jodlar (m), jodlarka (f), jodlarji (pl) for Austrians. They are not used outside colloquial language though.


    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)

    1. Němec/Němka, pl. Němci live in Německo (Deutschland). But not exclusively, there are Germans living in other countries for generations, e.g. Bohemian and Moravian Germans, they always were and still are called Germans (Němci), not Austrians (Rakušané).

    2. Nowadays no, historically it was Římská říše (Svatá říše římská, Heiliges Römisches Reich [Deutscher Nation]) or Německá říše (Deutsches Reich) or Třetí říše (Drittes Reich).

    3. No. (německy mluvící země = German-speaking countries)

    4. Švábové (Schwaben, hence šváb = Schabe, cockroach), Sasové/Sasíci (Saxons in Sachsen/Saxony), Braniboři (Brandenburger), Prusové/Prajzové/Prušáci (Prussians, Preußen), etc.
    Braniboři v Čechách (Die Brandenburger in Böhmen) is the first opera by Bedřich Smetana.
    (interestingly brambor 'potato' < Brandenburger, as the Prussian army used to eat potatoes)
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    Senior Member
    English - England (RP-ish)
    I'm not a native BCS speaker but I'll take a crack.

    1. Yep; "N(ij)emac" (the feminine form being "N(j)emica."

    2. Not that I know of.

    3. No. You could talk about the German-speaking region, which is "njemačko govorno područje" but I don't think there's a collective ethnic term.

    4. According to Croatian Wikipedia, "Švabe" can also be used to refer to Germans even though it only applies to one region, and given what others have said in this thread, it might be somewhat derogatory in Croatian too. Maybe a native speaker can shed some more light on that.
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    New Member
    Technically, in standard Bulgarian the term nemci denotes ethnic Germans, or (native) speakers of German, while germanci refers to citizens of Germany specifically (but it can be also used in the sense of "Germanic peoples" or "ancient Germanics"). However, on "lower" levels of the language the two terms are interchangeable most of the time.


    Senior Member
    In the older times in Russia, everyone who could not articulate properly in Russian would be called немец/немчин (the same root -нем- as in немой, mute.) Absolute majority of them were foreigners, plural немцы/немчины.
    "... и вылили королю все ведро воды за ворот и насилу нашли королевского доктора-немчина, который один знал, ..."

    Hundreds years later, немцы was narrowed to the people of German origin, with no distinction. (Specifically Germans were known first as тевтоны|тевтонцы, but this name hasn't survived as such in Russian and can be used only with regards to Germans who lived thousand years ago. More ancient German tribes are called nowadays германцы).

    However, the collective name германец existed also until, maybe, the end of the World War I (германский фронт) to call the same people as немцы (which is collective for пруссаки, швабы, саксонцы, баварцы, фризены, франки). During the World War II, the front line was немецкий фронт.

    Немцы is the only common standard name for modern Germans in Russian. There is a couple of substandard modern names, too: дойчи (plural) and немчура (singular collective.)
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    Chrzaszcz Saproksyliczny

    Senior Member
    Polish - Prussia
    1. As above, "Niemiec" (masc.), "Niemka" (f.), "Niemcy" (plural masc. or mixed), "Niemki" (plural feminine)
    2. No
    3. No
    4. Niemcy. The word "Germanie" exists, but only for Germanic tribes of ancient and early middle ages.

    Modern slurs include "Szwaby" (derived from Schwaben). Historically, there were many terms which were time- and area-specific, but "Niemcy" seems the most universal, and is not derogatory today (although it used to mean "unable to speak").