Why is Germany called Deutschland?

The old Louis Armstrong lyric “You say tomāto and I say tomăto” finds a similar disconnect in how people the world over refer to Germany. Why do we call Deutschland Germany? 

Many countries have a name that they call themselves (known as an endonym) but are called different names by other countries (known as an exonym). The same applies to Germany.  To name just a few of the endonyms for Germany: in the Scandinavian languages Germany is known as Tyskland, in Polish as Niemcy, in Portuguese as Alemanha,in Italian as Germania, in French as Allemagne, in Dutch as Duitsland and in Spanish as Alemania.  Not to be forgotten, the exonym Germans use is Deutschland.


Legends of Germany Collectible German Beer Stein with Metal Lid

Just like with words, names evolve over time.  Germany, for example, was called Germany by its inhabitants long before the country was united and began to call itself Deutschland. The geographic central location of Germany in western Europe means that it has historically shared borders with different national and ethnic groups, and many languages use the name of the first Germanic tribe that were located in the area. 

An example of this is that the Romans named the land north of the Danube and east of the RhineGermania which has its roots in the first Germanic tribe they heard about from the nearby Gauls. The root of the name is from the Gauls, who called the tribe across the river the Germani, which might have meant “men of the forest” or possibly “neighbor.”

The name was anglicized by the English when they made a small adjustment to the ending of Germany to get Germany. Then there were the Alemanni, a southern Germanic tribe that lived in the geographic area of Switzerland and the Alsace from which the French, Spanish and Portuguese came to name the land Allemagne, Alemanía and Alemanha.  

If you consider yourself as a Germanophile, think of Germany not only in terms of German Beer Steins, Lederhosen, Oktoberfest, Dirndls, Ludwigs Castle, Rothenburg, German Beer etc but also as Tyskland, Alemania, Niemcy…