Castrenianumin toimitteita 51
Livvistä liiviin. Itämerensuomalaiset
Abstract: THE FINNIC ETHNONYMS
This book deals with Finnic ethnonyms,
i.e. names referring to Finnic groups either linguistically or
geographically. The Finnic languages can be classified in
several ways, depending on the system used to define languages
and dialects, and the boundaries thereof. The relationship
between the Finnic languages and the peoples speaking them can
be variously described, this being contingent on whether it is
the native speakers themselves or the neighbouring Baltic,
Germanic or Slavic tribes who are attempting to determine the
The connections of the Finnic peoples
with peoples located in other geographical areas can be seen
in the occurrence of Finnic ethnonyms from old historical
sources. Old Roman and West European sources like Tacitus'
Germania (De origine et situ Germaniae) include
valuable information about (Swedish) finne, Finland and
(Estonian) Eesti, eestlane, and as far as the early
records of the East Finnic peoples (Vepsians, Votes, Chudes
etc.) are concerned, the early Russian sources are invaluable.
The history of the Goths (De Origine Actibusque Getarum,
c. 550 A. D.) by Jordanes, although concentrating
mainly on the history of the Goths, also contains lists of
peoples that are of the utmost importance for the study of the
history of the North European and Uralic tribes. Likewise
Nestor's Chronicle (Povest' vremennyh let), with
its stress on the early history of the Russian Empire and
rulers of Kiev, maintains marginal but, nevertheless,
important records concerning the Finnic peoples. A source of
indisputable value and an accurate description of the German
conquest of Estonia and Latvia is Henrici Chronicon
Livoniae, the Livonian Chronicle of Henric (the
text is probably from 1224–1227, Tarvel 1982, 6).
Topographical terms like 'land', 'hill',
'shore' and 'isle' (e.g. Votian mäciläizeD 'the people
of hill', orkolaizeD 'the people of valley') have been
used as ethnic classifiers, rather than as place names and
proper nouns, in some multiethnic territories. This seems
generally to be the case in areas like Ingria where language
boundaries are not very sharp and the speakers havealways had
close contact with other ethnic groups, or at least have been
able to understand their language. However, some ethnonyms
that have a semantically transparent structure, e.g. (Estonian
and Votian) maarahvas, (Livonian) raandali, make
one ask whether such types of expression have been essential
as ethnic classifiers in an earlier period, too. Some
etymologies suggested for Finnic ethnonyms seem to support
Most of the ethnonyms used for different
countries and areas or peoples in the world today are based on
expressions that are proper nouns when they enter the language.
It can be assumed that the need for proper nouns arises when
topographical descriptions are no longer able to sufficiently
distinguish areas, languages and their speakers. On the other
hand, there are old Finnic ethononyms like (Finnish) Suomi
and Häme that, although they were borrowed as proper
nouns, probably originated from a semantically neutral
expression like 'land'.
Ethnonyms can be split up ethnically and
geographically on a semantic basis, the former referring to a
people and population, the latter to a geographical object.
Finnic ethnonyms usually signify both the speakers of a
language and the area inhabited by an ethnic group, although
even a superficial analysis will reveal that either the ethnic
or the geographic denotation was created by means of
derivation or arose from a secondary meaning. Of Finnic
ethnonyms (Finnish) Suomi, Karjala, Vatja, Inkeri, Viro
and (Latvian) Igaunija can be considered of
geographical origin, whereas (Swedish) finne, (Finnish)
lyydi(läinen), vepsä(läinen), tsuudi, eesti(läinen) and
liivi(läinen) are primarily of ethnic origin.
The common noun source of the Finnic
ethnonyms cannot be traced from any clear lexical or semantic
category. Neutral meanings such as 'land', 'man', 'people', 'language'
seem to be primarily stative, whereas antonymic expressions
like Livonian raandali 'Livonians (people of the coast)'
>< saarli 'Estonians (people of the island)',
raanda-kuràli (~ raandali) 'Livonian (Curonians of
the coast)' >< moo-kuràli 'Latvian (Curonians of the
land)' or Latvian Igaunija (see later) are more
classifying. Theories based on the meaning 'wedge' ((Votian)
vad'd'aa tseeli 'Votian language', vad'd'a 'wedge')
are rejected in this work.
Finnic ethnonyms can be grouped
according to their background as follows:
Proper nouns that entered the
language as proper nouns or that are merely opaque: (Finnish)
eesti, liivi, lyydi, Inkeri, Suomi, vatja, vepsä,
Proper nouns that originally
referred to a smaller area, i.e. only a part of their
present-day denotation. These types of ethnonyms sometimes
closely resemble place names: (Finnish) Inkeri, Karjala,
Suomi, vatja, Viro.
Proper nouns that have lost both
their connection with the original common noun and semantic
motivation: (Finnish) Karjala.
Expressions with a transparent
common noun origin: (Estonian (Votian)) maakeel, maarahvas,
(Livonian) kalàmi'eD, raandali.
Ethnonyms that are used only by
non-Finnic-speaking tribes: (Estonian) Eesti (originally),
(Swedish) finne, (Russian) chud'.
The etymologies for the most widely
spread Finnic ethnonyms suggested or favoured in this volume
can be summarized as follows:
The name Finland (Swedish) Finland,
finne 'Finn' has never been used by the Finns themselves.
The oldest record (Tacitus 98 A. D.: fenni) and the
compound word structure of Finland lead one to conclude
that finne must be considered a primary alternate for
The stem finne (< findo 'Finder'
< *fenthan- ~ *fenthn-) may originate from the same
word as (Old High German) fendo, (Middle High German)
vende 'pedestrian; wanderer' (*fanthian-), (Old
High German) fand_on, (Anglo-Saxon) fandian 'research;
try, check', (Middle High German) vanden 'visit', (Gothic)
finthan, (Old High German) finthan etc., 'find,
notice, get aware', etc. The original meaning suggested for
finne by Hultman as early as 1896 is 'wanderer', an
explanation describing the way of life of the people (cf. (Livonian)
kalàmi'eD 'Livonians; fishermen'). This meaning
conforms with what Tacitus wrote about the fenni.
Fishers, hunters and people with no permanent dwelling place
may be appropriately described as 'wanderers'.
Apart from Finnish the name Suomi
'Finland' is known in other Finnic languages as well:
(Karelian) suomi 'Finland, Finnish language' ~ (Ludian)
suom(i) id., suomelain'e 'Finn' ~ (Votian)
soomi 'Finland, Finnish language', soomalain(õ),
soom(õ)lain 'Finn' ~ (Estonian) Soome 'Finland',
soomlane 'Finn' ~ (Livonian) sùom 'Finland; an
inhabitant of Finland; Finn', sùomli 'Finn'. The oldest
record is apparently the personal name Suomi (811).
The most prominent theory for Suomi
was suggested by Koivulehto (in Virittäjä 1993). In his
opinion the same Baltic word (Lithuanian) zem-,
(Latvian) zeme 'land', often considered to be at the
origin of the words (Finnish) Häme and (Sami) N
sabme 'Sami, Lapp; Lapland; Sami language', sabmelas
'Sami, Lapp(ish)', can also be seen in the origin of Suomi.
Koivulehto suggests that Proto-Finnic *^sämä had a
parallel form in early Proto-Sami. The Proto-Sami form (later
*saamee) was later re-borrowed by the Baltic languages
(*saama-s). Koivulehto suggests that in the next stage
the word was borrowed again by Proto-Finnic, where it began to
take on the meaning South-West Finland, the territory closest
to Sweden. The Proto-Baltic long a was substituted by
Proto-Finnic long o as in the case of certain other
Baltic loan words: (Finnish) huone, tuohi, vuohi, vuota.
Nevertheless, we need not base our
theory on Proto-Sami. Kalevi Wiik (1996) proposes that instead
of Proto-Sami, the word might have been borrowed back by
Proto-Baltic *^säämää from Proto-Finnic *^sämä
(< Proto-Baltic *^zeme). The Proto-Finnic open vowel
would have then been substituted with the only open vowel
possible in Proto-Baltic, long a.
The sibilant in the present-day Finnic
and Baltic languages can be explained by assuming that in
Baltic the original Proto-Finnic *^s ("sh") was
retained when the word *^saamaas was reborrowed by
Proto-Baltic. In Latvian *^s has become s
through its own development, a fact which explains the form of
the name Samu sala. Thus, in this particular case it
seems reasonable to assume that the name Suomi was
reborrowed by Proto-Finnic only when h became
established as an independent sound in the Proto-Finnic
phonemic paradigm. h is retained in some relatively old
Germanic loan words like (Finnish) hipiä and hurskas.
Because ^s occurred in neither Proto-Germanic nor in
Proto-Scandinavian at that time (cf. LÄGLOS 1 1991, XI), there
is no indication as to how ^s might have been
substituted in Proto-Finnic.
In the present work it is suggested that
from the very beginning Suomi and its earlier variants
referred to the same area in Southwest Finland. This theory is
based on the following scenario:
During the battle-axe culture
Proto-Baltic *^zeme was borrowed into Proto-Finnic (*^sämä)
as suggested by Koivulehto. The name roughly denotes the area
where the battle-axe culture finds have been made.
At the time of the next West Finnish
archaeological culture (Kiukainen culture) *^sämä split
into two. This change took place when *^sämä was
borrowed back into Proto-Baltic (*saama) and it began
to take on the meaning of a much narrower area on Finland's
southwest coast, whereas *^sämä (<< (Finnish) Häme;
(Sami) sabme) continued to be used as the name for the
inland area of the former battle-axe culture.
The next major cultural change that
may be observed in the area of the Kiukainen culture shows the
influence of Scandinavian bronze culture. Proto-Baltic
*saama was inherited by the Proto-German language of this
new culture. In Proto-German *^s did not occur and was
substituted by *s, while *aa was substituted by
*oo (Proto-Baltic *saama > *sooma- >
Proto-Finnic *soome-). Both of these sound changes are
characteristic of Proto-Germanic.
The ethnonym (Finnish) Karjala
'Karelia', karjalainen 'Karelian' (1143 in the Novgorod
Chronicle) was used reflexively by various groups speaking
Finnish dialects, Karelian and Izhorian. There are two
alternate theories for the origin of this name both of which
are based on the hypothesis that it has a common origin with (Finnish)
karja 'stock, cattle'. Nevertheless, motivation for
this ethnonym might be sought from the Finnic languages, since
the original Germanic or Baltic reconstruction suggested for
karja is difficult to connect chronologically with the
rise of Old Karelia. Linguistic considerations alone suggest
that the word could be as old as the early Baltic or Germanic
contacts. One possible theory might be to assume the primacy
of Karjala from which karjalainen would be
derived. The other theory suggests that karjalainen is
derived directly from the common noun karja, which
would be analogous to (Finnish) vatja : vatjalainen, vepsä
: vepsäläinen, etc. Even in this case the province name
Karjala could be derived from karja, but then it
must be understood as referring to 'the area of the Karelians'
(karjalainen). In this case the derivative suffix
-la would have a similar function as the second part of
compound words like (Estonian) Eestimaa and -maa
i.e. a formant the names of many provinces and countries. The
meaning of karja(lainen) might be in this case 'group,
herd, crowd (= people)' rather than 'people having a big
The Olonets Karelians (livvi),
Ludes (l'üüd'i) and some Veps have called themselves by
an ethnonym usually considered to be a Russian loan word (< (Russian)
The periferal location of Veps districts
and the lack of contacts are obviously the reason some Veps
people did not use an ethnonym at all in describing themselves.
The ethnonym (Vepsian) vepsl'äin'e, -laan'e, bepsläin'e,
lain'e, -laan'e 'Veps', vepsan' kel', bepsan kel' 'Vepsian'
may occur for the first time in the Jordanes Text (550 A. D.),
but very little can be said concerning its origin. Apparently
it is an old proper noun which had primarily or only an ethnic
Very many explanations for Finnic
ethnonyms have erroneously been based on the homonymy between
(Finnish) vatjalainen, vatja, (Votian) vad'd'alaine,
vad'd'alain(õ) 'Vote (people)', vad'd'aa t^seeli 'Votian
language' (first in the Novgorod Chronicle 1069) and (Finnish)
vaaja, (Votian) vad'ja, vad'd'a 'wedge' and its
analogy. This theory is abandoned in the present work. The
following conclusions are drawn regarding the origin of
From an etymological point of view (Finnish)
vatja, (Votian) vad'ja, vad'd'a) and (Finnish)
vaaja, (Votian) vad'ja, vad'd'a 'wedge' ~ Sami U
vyöy'jee 'patch (cloth)', etc. may belong together and
be Baltic (or Germanic) loan words (< *vakja), cf. (Lithuanian)
vágis (< *vagja-), (Latvian) vadzis 'wedge
However, it is not necessarily the
case that vad'ja originated as an ethnonym literally
meaning 'wedge'; hence it can be presumed that the province
name in Estonia Vaiga (< *vakja; cf. (Finnish)
Vatjanmaa) is primary with respect to its ethnic
meaning (Votian) vad'd'alaine, vad'd'alain(õ) 'Votian (people)'.
The latter is apparently derived from the former (*vakja).
On the other hand, if in fact the
name for Germany in the Baltic languages is of ancient origin
- (Lithuanian) Vókia, (Latvian) Vacija 'Germany',
(Lithuanian) vókietis, (Latvian) vacietis 'German
(person)', the province name Vaiga could have been
borrowed from this, although the origin of (Lithuanian)
Vókia, etc. is obscure (Fraenkel 1272, Karulis 1992 2,
463-464). According to this theory the proper noun was
borrowed by Estonian from the Baltic languages, and became the
name of an Estonian province situated in the northern part of
present-day Tartumaa. In the local dialect the original form
*vakja was changed to Vaiga as a result of
metathesis. In Votian ij (< *kj) changed to
d'd', and maintained the secondary homonymy with the old
common noun *vakja 'wedge' of Baltic origin. The
homonymy occurred already in the Estonian dialect of North
Thus, the original meaning of (Votian)
vad'd'alaine, vad'd'alain(õ) could be 'the people of
Vaiga, the inhabitants of Vaiga', which soon began also to
denote the inhabitants of a larger cultural area, including
the eastern shore of Lake Peipsi and the Votians. This is the
way it became known in Russian sources, too. In the Votian
language this ethnonym became another way, in addition to the
old and neutral expression maa t^seeli, of refering
reflexively to the Votian people and language.
(Russian) chud' (probably used by
Jordanes in 550 A. D. to refer to some other people) is a good
example of the difference between the Finnic languages and
dialects, and other ethnic groups. Livonians apart this
expression has been used of all Finnic tribes. The debate
concerning the history of chud' has, in the main, taken
place on the basis of two possible alternatives: whether or
not the Chudes were an unknown Finnic tribe, or whether a
Finnic group might be considered to be the original Chudes.
Another question has dealt with the problem of whether the
word (Russian) chud' has been borrowed by Sami (N ^cutte)
or vice versa. Sami N ^cuttecannot be a borrowing from
Russian chud', because ^c is always replaced by
(Sami) with c- in early Russian loan words.
Nevertheless, it might be suggested that Sami N ^cuttereflects
sound changes taking place after the dispersion of
Proto-Finnish and Proto-Sami: Proto-Finnish ?*^c'- >
Proto-Sami *c- > Sami N c-; Proto-Finnish ?*c'-
> Proto-Sami *c'- > Sami N ^c- (like *s'
> ^c) (Korhonen 1981, 128). As Russian ^c- (ch-)
has been replaced with c- in loan words occurring only
in the easternmost Sami languages, it can be assumed that (Old)
Russian *c- (~ *c'-) has respectively been
replaced by Sami ^c-. This idea may be supported by the
typographical form tjud' in early written sources as
well as by Komi t's'ud'.
(Finnish) Inkeri 'Ingria',
inkeriläinen 'Ingrian', (Izhorian) inGerikkoi 'Ingrian',
inGerläin 'Ingrian' (first in Henrici Chronicon
Livoniae 1221), the only Finnic ethnonym that has been
proposed as based on a personal name. Another theory suggests
that it was originally a place name, or more precisely the
name of a river. It has been assumed that the name Ingria
became important in the era when Sweden, the principality
Novgorod and the Germans fought for supremacy over the area.
In Finnish Estonia is called (Finnish)
Viro (virolainen 'Estonian', viro 'Estonian (language))
after its nearest province to Finland Virumaa (first
mentioned in Scandinavian runic writings of the 12th century,
several records in Henrici Chronicon Livoniae). The
oldest expressions used by the Estonians themselves are
transparent; (Estonian) maarahvas 'people of the land',
maamees 'man of the land' respectively maakeel 'language
of the land'.
The most serious attempt so far to
explain the etymology of (Finnish) Viro leans on its
similarity to the Baltic word meaning 'man': (Lithuanian)
vyras, (Latvian) virs; cf. (Yatvingian) wiros
(Karulis 1992 2, 537), not at all an unproblematical
comparison, since the Baltic (Lithuanian and Latvian) words
force one to presuppose an original form of *ii.
Generally speaking Baltic *ii was also maintained in
Finnic. The only exception is (Finnish) virsi 'hymn' (?
< Baltic, cf. (Old Prussian) wirds; (Lithuanian)
vardas '(first) name', (Latvian) vards 'word;
speech; promise; name'). On the other hand, if the form
wiros cited by Karulis represents an old variant of the
word meaning 'man', the theory of the Baltic origin of Viro
may be considered possible and the compound form Virumaa
(Viro + 'land') would represent an older and non-elliptic
form of the name.
Also, the southern neighbours of the
Estonians, the Latvians, call Estonia (Latvian) Igaunija (igaunis,
igauniete 'Estonian' (masc. and fem. forms); igaunisks
'Estonian (language)') after the nearest province to Latvia
(Estonian) Ugandi (first mentioned in Henrici
Chronicon Livoniae). The name was used earlier in a
compound form igaunu zeme, the latter part adding the
characteristic 'country, land' to the name. Similarly, the
Livonians have called the Estonians after the closest Estonian
district to them (saarli 'Estonian', saarmaa keel
'Estonian language' < Saaremaa 'Ösel').
The present work suggests that
(Estonian) Ugandi (> (Latvian) Igaunija) is
primarily a place name and may originate from the Old Russian
common noun *ug 'south, southern land, southern wind'
(~ (Russian) jug, juga 'dry; fog; hot', juzhnyj (uzhnyj)
'southern, south' ~ (Ukrainian) jug ~ (Old Church
Slavonic) jugû, (Bulgarian) jug 'south, southern
wind' etc.). Originally, the name may have been used as a
contrastive antonym, e.g.
from a particular geographical
standpoint: (the people of) the South (Estonia) >< (the people
of) the North (Estonia) or, even
b) (the people of the South
(Estonia) >< the people using this ethnonym and their habitat.
(Estonian) Eesti 'Estonia;
Estonian language', eestlane 'Estonian', the form with
which the Estonians and most other peoples refer to them, was
already recorded by Tacitus in Germania in 98 A. D. (aesti
: aestiorum gentes). There is, however, no clear evidence
concerning the history of this ethnonym. What Tacitus wrote
suggests it was first used to denote the people (not a Finnic
tribe) of the south-eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. Primarily
it was an ethnic ethnonym, although in Tacitus' text it is
apparently connected geographically with the south-eastern
coast of the Baltic Sea.
The existence of an aesti people
was indicated by other medieval writers and especially
Scandinavians. An original common noun source might be sought
in a (Proto) Germanic or (Proto) Baltic language.
The Livonians have had many ways of
refering to themselves: (Livonian) kalàmi'eD, raandalist,
kuràlist and liibi, liivõ-keel' 'Livonian language',
liivõ(z), liibõ(z), (seldom) liivnika 'Livonian',
and this use of the latter (first mentioned in the Chronicle
of Nestor') has also been used by the Latvians. The etymology
of this ethnonym is obscure. It is clear even though that even
the first literary records connect it to the old Livonian
territories of present-day Latvia
NB! For technical reasons, some words in
this text appear in (over)simplified transcription!