Confusion: Rome – Roma - Roman - Romania –Romanian - Romany

jonas - brazil   Thu Dec 15, 2005 10:07 pm GMT
Confusion: Rome – Roma - Roman - Romania –Romanian - Romany

Why this confusion?

Is Modern Romania, named Romania, like the ancient Roman Empire?! How’s that ? Romania is very far from Rome ! Why not Italy ? Or is modern Romania named after Roma “Romany” (gypsy) (Most people say that !)
Romany or Romanian ? Romanian citizen is “Roman” in Romanian ! LOL

Is Romany language a Romanian Roma dialect ?

I don’t think Romanians from Romania are very happy because of their name associations with Roma gypsy!

Any help ?
Guest   Thu Dec 15, 2005 11:14 pm GMT
I have been asked many times, "What language do they speak in Romania— Russian?" To the surprise of many however, the answer is no. Romania, the small country in the center of Eastern Europe, has its own, very beautiful language. Romania is unique in that it is the only Eastern Block country that speaks a Romance language. Alexandru Niculescu, in his book Outline History of the Romanian Language says, "Romanian is the only Romance language which has developed in the Eastern part of Latin Europe" (16). The history of Romanian can be traced through different periods of outside influence on the language. The first period I will look at is the Dacian period. The Dacians were the first known civilization to live in the area where Romania is now situated. The second period is the Romanization— following the Roman conquest of the Dacians. After the Romanization was a period of Slavic influence on the Proto Romanian of that time, followed by a Re-Latinization movement during the 19th Century. Romanian reflects the turbulent history of its native speakers. It illustrates the story of a nation of survivors.


It would be impossible to report on the history of Romanian without reporting also on the history of the people. Historians, when studying this language, usually go back in their studies as far as two thousand years. During that period, the area that is now known as Romania was occupied by a civilization known as the Dacians (pronounced dachyanz). Dennis Deletant, in the introduction to his text book, Colloquial Romanian, says, "The Dacians, who occupied much of this area [the lower Danube region], are believed to have spoken a Thracian tongue" (1). Constantin C. Giurescu wrote a book entitled, The Making of the Romanian People and Language. In this book he describes what the Dacians may have looked like, and what their main activities were. Not much is known of the Dacians, but speculations and theories have been made based on archeological finds, words remaining in modern Romanian from that time period, and two monuments that were erected following the Roman invasion— Tropeaum Traiani, and Trajan’s Column. Of the Dacians, Giurescu says, "They are the autochthonous ethnic element which lies at the foundation of the Romanian people" (49).

The Dacians’ main activity was agriculture. They also engaged in viticulture, or the cultivation of vinyards. They were skilled craftsmen in working metals to create tools and weapons. The Dacians were also known for their cattle and their bee-keeping (50-51).

Linguists have studied the Romanian language to find which words come from Dacian origin. They have discovered one hundred and sixty words with this origin.

These terms cover a very wide area beginning with the human body (buz| = lip; ceaf| = nape; grumaz = neck; guŐ| = goitre), the family (copil = child; prunc = baby; zestre = dowry) . . . agricultural, pastoral, viticultural, piscicultural activities (maz| re = peas; Űarin| =tilled land; baci = shepherd making cheese; mînz = colt; strung| = small gate through which sheep are passed to be milked; Űarc = enclosure . . .gard = fence), the physical environment (m

| gur| = lone hill or mountain; mal = bank) the flora (brad = fir-tree; copac = tree) . . . Certainly the number of these terms will increase following subsequent research; they will also show us other aspects of the linguistic inheritance; scholars already consider as belonging to this inheritance the suffixes -esc, -e Ő te, which are so frequent in Romanian and characteristic of it (Giurescu 60-61).

It is interesting to note the types of words that remain in the language from the Dacian era. It is natural for words to remain from a proto language that have to do with the body and familial relations because these are common topics of conversation in every civilization. This Dacian vocabulary tells us the story of an industrious people who worked the land.


Dacians though, are not the only ancestors of the Romanian people and its language. As their country’s name suggests, Romans played a major role in their history and development. In Rome, at the beginning of the second century A.D., the soldier Trajan was appointed emperor. "He was a great general, mastering all the secrets of military art and bearing all hardships and sufferings of the war together with his soldiers who worshipped him for it. Besides military virtues he also had those of a civilian ruler" (Giurescu 43). In the summer of 106 A.D. the Roman army, under Trajan, succeeded in conquering the Dacians after many years of battles. Trajan then "colonized it with settlers from all parts of the Empire who intermarried with the local population and romanized it" (Deletant 1).

Giurgescu says, "How can this extraordinary power of Dacian Romanization be explained? How was it possible that it should grow so deep roots in such a short time? The answer, in our opinion, could only be one: Romanization won in Dacia because it won over the native population. If the Romans had not won the Dacians over for their civilization and culture, the same thing would have happened in the Carpatho-Danubian area that happened in Pannonia and Britania: the Romanizing element would have gradually disappeared" (98). The Dacians seem to have been very accepting of their conquerors. Their Romanization happened rather rapidly, because the Romans only ruled over Dacia for 165 years.

One of the ways that the Romans "won the Dacians over" was through the veterans of their army. Many of the soldiers in the Roman army were of Dacian origin. By the end of their 25 year service they had learned Latin and the ways of the Romans. Many of those soldiers who were of Roman descent were married to Dacian women. At the end of a soldier’s military service he was granted Roman citizenship if he did not already have it. This citizenship was extended to every member of his family (Giurescu 98-101).

Another way that Latin was spread throughout this area was through missionaries who brought with them the Christian Religion and a whole Latin liturgy to go with it. When people attended church at that time, the services were done in Latin. "Most of the Romanian words designating the essential notions connected with the Christian faith are of Latin origin" (Giurescu 141).

Niculescu says, "Another major role in Romanizing Dacia was played by urbanization" (24). The urban centers had rural areas around them. The Roman administrators, merchants, travelers and colonists "turned into agents of Romanization" (24-25).

Slavic Influence

During the 7th century and throughout the 9th century the Slavs came to the Dacia area. Their language greatly influenced Romanian. "The Sclavini engaged upon ever closer relations of cohabitation with the Romanized native population both North and South of the Danube" (Niculescu 46). This is an important point, because not only did the Dacians adopt Slavonisms, but the Slavs learned Latin. It is apparent that the Slavs acquired the Latin language because of the absence of many emotional terms of Latin origin in the Romanian language. As the Slavs adopted the Romance language, they substituted "Slavonic words for a number of Latin emotional terms. . . On learning the Romanian Latinate, the Slavs preferred to use in this language words of their native language whose meaning and expressive connotations they knew" (Niculescu 49). Anyone who has learned to speak a second language can understand the Slavs’ preference for their own emotional terms. Often we hear coinages such as Spanglish to describe such a concept. Niculescu goes on to explain that "Romanian is the only Romance language that has failed to preserve amor, carus, amare, sponsa, etc., replacing them by dragoste, drag, a iubi, nevasta, logodna (= betrothal), a logodi (= to betrothe)" (49).

Another way in which the Slavs influenced the language of the Dacians of that time was pronunciation. Remembering that the Slavs had adopted the Latin spoken in that region, it is apparent that they would speak this second language with a quite heavy accent. The Romanian of today is pronounced somewhat differently than all of the other languages in its family. An example of pronunciation change that Niculescu gives is the yodization or palatalization of initial /e/ in the personal pronouns. Initial /e/ in most words is pronounced the same as in all Romance languages, but in the personal pronouns the sound has been palatalized, causing it to have an initial /y/ sound. So the word el (he) is pronounced /yel/ (49). Almost all of the linguists and historians who have studied this topic "uphold the idea that the Balkan and Slavic elements contributed to rounding off the individuality of Romanian as a Romance language" (Niculescu 48).


During the 1800's Romanian linguists made an effort to re-Latinize their language. We don’t need to look any farther than the literature of their day to see the dissatisfaction of that era with the Slavonisms in the language. Negruzzi, a famous author from that period compares Romanian to a cloth that has been corrupted with coarse and ugly threads. He said:

Oh! p|catul este net|g>|duit Ői rana nevindecabil| ! Cînd neamurile barbare au înundat România ca un r| pide Őiroi, g|sind pînza limbei urzit|, luau suveiea Ői, prin dreptul celui main tare, aruncau unde Ői unde cîte un fir de b|t|tur| de a lor, groas|Ői nodoroas|. Astfel se Űesu limba noastr|. Pentru a scoate acum acele l| tunoiase fire, trebui a destr|ma toat| pînza, Ői prin urmare a crea o limb| mai frumoas| poate, mai nobil| si mai înv|Űat|, c|riia nimic nu i-ar lipsi alta decît de a fi-- româneasc| (209).

[Oh! The sin is undeniable and the wound unhealable! When the barbarous nations flooded Romania like a ravishing stream, finding the cloth of the fated language, they took the needle and, through the right of the strongest, threw here and there a string of their thick, gnarled thread. Thus our language was woven. Now in order to remove those knotty fibers, the entire cloth must be destroyed, and follow up by creating a more beautiful language, maybe more noble and learned, from which nothing would be missing other than being— Romanian]

This shows us the great desire to make a "pure" Latin-based language. It also shows the resolution that they had to face, that if those proposed changes were made it would change the language into something other than their own Romanian.

Another writer from that period made a statement about his opinions on Slavonisms. He says, "Românul crede în Dumnezeu, în îngeri, în zîne Ői a fost botezat de preot la biseric| . . ." [The Romanian believes in God, in angels, in fairies, and was baptized by a priest at church . . .] The italicized words are all of Latin origin. The author is showing how many spiritual and religious words come from their Latin roots. He goes on to show how many words showing weakness and infirmities come from Slavic. Of course, as we have already seen, some of the words referring to love and relationships have their roots in Slavic, so not all Slavonisms were harsh words.

In the first half of the 19th century there began an "Enlightenment" in Romania. Books from the west by authors such as Racine, Moliere, and Lamartine were translated into Romanian. At this time a Romanian writer and theorist, Ion Heliade R|dulescu wrote his opinion on the purification of the Romanian literary language. He wanted to "s| ne unim în scris Ői s| ne facem o limb| literar|" [unite ourselves in writing and to make for ourselves a literary language]. He began to cultivate the Romanian literary language. "A cultiva o limb| va s| zic| a o cur|Űi de tot ceeace nu o face s| înainteze" (Niculescu 131). [To cultivate a language is to clean it of all that which doesn’t make it progress]. Heliade’s movement began by selecting Italian words and eliminating contributions to the language from German, Russian and Greek. In 1828 he wrote, "scrieŰi cum s| v| înŰeleag| contemporanii . . . scrim pentru cei care tr|iesc iar nu pentru cei morŰi" (132). [You write to be understood by your contemporaries . . . we write for those who live and not for the dead].

Modern Romanian

Romanian continues to change even now. As all languages do, it borrows many words from other languages, especially French. Since the Revolution in 1989, Romania has been opened up to a whole world that they only could have imagined before. They are now (as most European countries are) influenced greatly by American English. On any given Friday a Romanian could wish you a "week-end bun" meaning, "good weekend."

Romanian is, indeed, as Negruzzi said, a cloth woven with many different threads. But the Romanians of today have come to accept the more "coarse" threads and recognize their "cloth" as a unique, beautiful tapestry that illustrates their history. Romanians are survivors. Their history is filled with stories of being conquered by stronger civilizations, but the Romanians are still with us today. Their language shows this. From the core of Dacian words to the Latinization and the Slavic influence, the Romanian language tells the story of a nation of survivors.

Works Cited

Deletant, Dennis. Colloquial Romanian. New York: Routledge. 1995

Niculescu, Alexandru. Outline History of the Romanian Language. Bucharest: Editura ÔtiinŰific|Ői Enciclopedic|. 1981

Du Nay, André. The Early History of the Rumanian Language. Lake Bluff: Jupiter Press. 1977

Negruzzi. "Scrisoarea XVIII"

Giurescu, Constantin C. The Making of the Romanian People and Language. Bucharest: Meridiane Publishing House. 1972
Brennus   Fri Dec 16, 2005 8:54 am GMT

"Romania" is a relatively modern name for the country dating only from about 1858. Before then, it was called Wallachia, Wallakye, Valaquia etc. from "Wallach" or "Vlach" A name which both the Germanic and Slavic peoples used for the peoples of the Roman Empire. The Words "Wales", "Welsh" and "Waloon" (Belgian dialect of French) come from the same root. So does the Polish word for 'Italy' - "Wlachy."

The Romanians claim that even during the whole time their country was called "Wallachia" by foreigners , they still called themselves "Români" meaning "Romans," so it was only natural for them to rename their country Romania in 1858.

'Romany' has a different etymology. "Rom" or Rrom" means 'man' or 'human being' in the Gypsie language (Related to Urdu and Hindi). It has no connection to the city of Rome (Roma) which is probably of Etruscan origin.
Brennus   Fri Dec 16, 2005 8:57 am GMT
Gypsie (should be 'Gypsy')
Easterner   Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:43 am GMT
Concerning the article posted by "Guest" on the Dacians, it reflects just one of the theories, which claims that present-day Romanians are direct descendants of Dacians. However, there is at least one more theory about the origin of the Walachians who inhabit present-day Romania. Unfortunately, the dispute often has political overtones, especially among Romanian and Hungarian scholars, the issue being the establishment of which of the two peoples first lived in Transylvania (formerly an autonomous part of the Kingdom of Hungary, with a period of independence during the 16th-17th century, now part of Romania). This political undercurrent of the dispute reflects for me the silliness of any attempt to justify any political position based on arguments taken from earlier historical times.

As to a brief outline of the two theories, see:
Easterner   Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:48 am GMT
My point in the post above is that both theories may have a grain of truth in them, and both of them can be justified by historical evidence. However, it is wrong to use any of them to support mutually exclusive political positions. Let the dispute be resolved by impartial observation of available evidence.
Vlad Tepes   Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:27 pm GMT
The battle for TRANSILVANIA


The theory of “Romanians migrating to present day Romania from the south) is ABSURD! And only supported and invented by the Hungarians irredentists – Hungarians don’t have European ancestry. They have a Uralic Mongoloid ancestry!

“the issue being the establishment of which of the two peoples first lived in Transylvania “

It’s a POLITICAL battle NOT HISTORIC !!! It’s the battle for TRANSILVANIA .

Every (non Hungarian) scholar in the world agrees with DACO-ROMANIAN continuity!

A 12th century Hungarian chronicle, Gesta Hungarorum, affirms that when the Magyars arrived in Pannonia, surrounding areas were inhabited by Vlachs (Romanians). However, this chronicle was written 250 years after the described events and is not necessarily accurate.

A chronicle by Venerable Nestor (1056 - 1136 AD) mentions Walachians (Romanians) fighting against Magyars north of the Danube.

No medieval chronicle mentions any large-scale migrations of Romanic peoples from the Balkans to Romania; contrary to a south to north movement, a chronicle indicates rather a North to South movement: according to Cecaumenos' Strategicon of 1066, the Vlachs of Epirus and Thessalia came from North of the Danube and from along the Sava.

By the way! Estonia, Finland and Hungary are the only EU countries with a non-European ancestry.

One more time! It’s a POLITICAL battle NOT HISTORIC!!!
Once Romania joins the EU the battle will be over!
Easterner   Fri Dec 16, 2005 11:20 pm GMT

Re: Romania, Hungary & Transylvania,

About 25 years ago I was talking to a Romanian immigrant (if he really was an immigrant) near where I worked about Hungarian claims to Transylvania. His only response was, "You know your history and tell me, who was their first!" My father has always tended to side with the Hungarians in the dispute partly because he's Catholic but partly also because I think he feels that the Hungarians are a superior people to the Romanians. Personally, I'm kind of neutral. I can understand the arguments of both peoples. About 13 years ago, "The National Review" had an article which said that since there was no way to divide Transylvania satisfactorily between Hungary and Romania it was better to let Romania keep it as long as it respected the human rights of its Hungarian minority. I was surprised to find that most of the Romanian towns there have Hungarian names too like Klusz for Cluj and Temesvar for Timis'oară etc.
Brennus   Fri Dec 16, 2005 11:50 pm GMT
Previous post by Brennus
Easterner   Sun Dec 18, 2005 7:12 pm GMT
To Vlad Tepes,

I am aware that the Romanian-Hungarian conflict can be largely traced back to the fact that Romanians, despite being very numerous in Transylvania especially during and after the Turkish conquest, were not given equal status with the other ethnicities living there. This, together with the abolition of Transylvania's self-governing status (including a separate parliament) in the second half of the 19th century and its unification with Hungary led to the secession of Romanians in 1918. The tensions continued after Transylvania became part of Romania, and I agree the "irredentism" of official Hungary during the two world wars did little good. However, the issue of "who lived there first" is a matter for scientific investigation and should not be used for justifying political positions (by either parties involved, I must say).

Concerning the continuity issue, the Carpathian Basin (which includes Transylvania) was very sparsely inhabited when the Magyars (Hungarians) settled there, and it seems the inhabitants were mainly Slavs (Transylvania itself also has a large number of toponyms of Slavic origin, like Bistrita, Slatina, the river Tarnava, etc.). The Slovaks, for example, are the descendants of the Slavs who already lived there before the Magyar settlement. The main argument that is brought up against the Daco-Romanian continuity is that Romanian has no traces of Germanic influence, despite the fact that the Germanic tribes (Ostrogoths and Gepides) who ruled the former province of Dacia resided there for centuries after they drove out the Romans. On the other hand, Romanian exhibits a very marked South Slavic influence which can be explained by a prolonged co-habitation with Slavic peoples, wherever this actually happened. It is also to be taken into account that the Vlachs or Walachians (the name being also used for the ancestors of present-day Romanians) were migrating people, who were present all over the Balkans, which makes it rather difficult to establish where their ethnogenesis actually happened (it might have as well been in former Dacia, or somewhere between the Carpathian mountains, the Danube and the Balkan mountains).

As to the comment about Hungarians, the Finns and Estonians, I think the non-European origin (I suppose that is what you meant by "ancestry") should not suggest that these peoples do not belong to Europe. All of them have been part of European culture, and therefore they are as much European by now as the mostly Indo-European peoples (and Basques) living there.

To Brennus,

I can also understand the arguments of both sides, and do not side with the extreme positions voiced by some Hungarians on this subject, despite being Hungarian myself. The fact that a large territorry of the former Kingdom of Hungary (mostly including the multi-ethnic areas) was ceded to the neighbouring countries in 1920, as part of the post-WWI peace settlement, came as a shock at that time, and apparently there are people who have still not been able to get over this, which is the reason that sentiments still clash over this issue. Transylvania has an important significance for both Hungarians and Romanians. Just to give you an idea, the issue of Transylvania is the same as the historical dispute regarding Alsace/Elsaß between France and Germany (or somewhat like the dispute over Kosovo between Serbs and Albanians, but the conflict has never developed as far as the latter, remaining essentialy a political one).

Also, some Hungarians do feel superior to some neighbouring peoples, without any reason. I personally was happy to be born in the multi-ethnic province of Vojvodina, which has as many as six ethnic groups (Serbs, Croats, Hungarians, Slovaks, Ruthenians, Romanians), as a result of the repopulation of the area after the Turkish Conquest ended.

As for the city names in Transylvania, they reflect the multi-ethnic character of this region. The main ethnic groups are the Romanians, the Hungarians, the Székely (who speak a somewhat archaic dialect of Hungarian but consider themselves a separate ethnic group) and the Germans (mainly descendants of Saxon settlers, not very numerous today). The name of Transylvania is Ardeal in Romanian, Erdély in Hungarian and Siebenbürger in German. The same applies to city and town names, which have separate versions in each language. By the way, the Hungarian name for Cluj-Napoca (the full Romanian name of the town you referred to as Cluj) is Kolozsvár - this city is considered as essentially the cultural centre of Transylvania, both by Romanians and Hungarians in Transylvania.
Easterner   Sun Dec 18, 2005 7:51 pm GMT
>>The Slovaks, for example, are the descendants of the Slavs who already lived there before the Magyar settlement.<<

The "there" does not refer to Transylvania, of course, as the context might wrongly suggest, but to the northern part of the Carpathian Basin, the area of present-day Slovakia.
Easterner   Sun Dec 18, 2005 9:04 pm GMT
Brennus: >>'Romany' has a different etymology. "Rom" or Rrom" means 'man' or 'human being' in the Gypsy language (Related to Urdu and Hindi). It has no connection to the city of Rome (Roma) which is probably of Etruscan origin.<<

This being said, it is also true that some Gypsy dialects are in fact based on archaic Romanian dialects, in the same way as Yiddish is based on a German dialect. We have a Gypsy group in Hungary, the "Beash", who speak a dialect like that (they are very few in numbers, mind you). Romania is maybe the country in Europe with the largest number of Gypsies (an estimated number of 1-2 million, as I know), though their number is also increasing in Hungary (the estimate is about 5-600 000 people or slightly more). The most widespread Gypsy dialect spoken in South-East Europe, Lovari, also has many Romanian loanwords, alongside Slavic ones. Some "educationally challenged" people in Hungary actually fail to distinguish between Gypsies and Romanians.
Brennus   Mon Dec 19, 2005 7:55 am GMT

"Kolozsvár" that's what I meant to say for the Hungarian name for Cluj, an important city in northern Romania.
Romanian   Fri Dec 23, 2005 10:13 pm GMT

Transilvania – from the LATIN (Trans Silvanum) meaning: “The land beyond the forest “was the epicentre of the Dacian (ancient Romanian) civilization. The capital of Dacia (Ancient Romania) was in Sarmisegetuza (located in the centre of Transilvania).

Also in Transilvania the area of the Orastie Mountains, was the economical, the political and the spiritual centre of Dacia. ( Kogaion, Kogaionon), "The Sacred Mountain”. Transilvania as a spiritual centre and the capital of Dacia (ancient Romania) was never abandoned by the Dacians (ancient Romanians)

Every encyclopaedia in the world, history book, describes the Daco-Romanian continuity. Romanian language is the oldest Romance language, preserving many unaltered archaic and Classical Latin words, and is also the closest language to Classical Latin. And the Ancient Romanians the Dacians were always present, inhabiting the Carpatho –Danubiano- Pontic region.

Modern and ancient Historians from all over the world (except Hungary). Described and promoted the Daco-Romanian continuity. Nobody cares about some irredentist Hungarians with mongoloid features, preaching about a lost cause !

If anyone has any doubt . They can read about the Daco-Romanian continuity in their own language in their own history book.


The majority of the Transylvanian gipsies are from Hungary and most of them speak only “Secuieste” or Székely - Hungarian ! The Romanian Government instituted special schools in Hungarian language for this large Hungarian gipsy minority from Transilvania, who don’t even speak Romanian !

Romanian –Hungarian Conflict

Easterner wrote: “My father has always tended to side with the Hungarians in the dispute partly because he's Catholic but partly also because I think he feels that the Hungarians are a superior people to the Romanians”

The Magyar (Hungarian) Propaganda ! Brain washing techniques about a superior unique Mongoloid nation, speaking a non Indo-European language, conquering Europe, Transilvania, etc, are still in practice today.

I am not promoting any racist views. But regarding the Hungarian so called “superiority”. The Hungarian Székely minority from Transilvania, are an ancient conservative, group of people with very strong mongoloid features, they are very short and predominantly fat, round heads, and Asian eyes. They refuse to learn proper Romanian and never intermix with other nations. Their customs and manner of speech is quite odd, unusual, compared with any European people.

Nobody cares about some irredentist Hungarians. A nation with a NON European origin, speaking a NON Indo-European language, having NON European features and preaching about a lost cause!

If anyone has any doubt. They can read about the Daco-Romanian continuity in their own language in their own history book.
Brennus   Fri Dec 23, 2005 10:27 pm GMT

Re: Easterner wrote: “My father has always tended to side with the Hungarians in the dispute partly because he's Catholic but partly also because I think he feels that the Hungarians are a superior people to the Romanians”

Easterner didn't write this. I wrote it. My father is very American (with some Irish and no Hungarian blood) so Hungarian propaganda is not a factor here; it is more just his state of mind and loyatly to Catholicism, I think. Otherwise, I pretty much agree with everything you wrote. La revedere si' ai un calduros crăciun!