Germanic Europe

Germanic Europe

Germanic Europe is the part of Europe in which Germanic languages are predominant. Countries or areas in which such language is officially recognized and/or de facto spoken as a minority language are sometimes included; this entire area corresponds more or less to North-Western Europe and western parts of Central Europe.

In its widest sense, this region consists of Iceland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Faroe Islands, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Swedish-speaking municipalities of Finland, French Flanders and Alsace-Moselle in France, Flanders and the smaller German-speaking Community in Belgium, the German-speaking part of Luxembourg, Germany, the formerly German parts of Poland as well as in East Prussia and the Baltic States Estonia and Latvia, Liechtenstein, the German-speaking part of Switzerland, Austria, and the province of Bolzano-Bozen in Italy.

Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, whilst also belonging to Celtic Europe, are considered (here) to be partially Germanic because of the dominance of the English language in these areas. And in the case of Scotland, also its history of Viking raids and settlement, its own Germanic/Anglic language (Scots) and the fact that south-eastern Scotland was once part of Northumbria, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Similarly, Finland is included because of the existence of a minority of Swedish-speakers in the country. However, the vast majority of inhabitants of these countries share a language other than a Germanic language.

The predominant religion in the majority of the region is Protestantism; the United Kingdom, the Nordic countries, the Northern Netherlands, northern Germany, and most of German-speaking Switzerland are Protestant. At the same time, some parts of the region are predominantly Catholic: Republic of Ireland, Flanders, Austria, and southern Germany (particularly Bavaria).

Political divisions

Germanic Europe is politically divided into the following countries, dependent territories or autonomous area:


The historical Germanic peoples originated in Northern Europe during the Iron Age and migrated into the territory of the failing Roman Empire during Late Antiquity. They were Latinized in some parts (Burgundy, Lombardy, Western Francia, Visigothic Kingdom), but in other parts their intrusive Germanic dialects persisted, in medieval England and much of the Holy Roman Empire (including the Netherlands and the Alpine region), so that Germanic Europe extends beyond Northern Europe into Central Europe and Western Europe.

From the High Middle Ages, the history of Germanic Europe can be divided into three major regions:
# the British Isles (Anglic languages)
# Scandinavia (North Germanic languages).
# the Continental Holy Roman Empire (the dialect continuum of High German, Low German, and Low Franconian; and Frisian)


Medieval Britain evolved into the multi-ethnic British Empire beginning in the Tudor period. Great Britain has been a unified political entity since the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. Since that time, the English language has come to dominate not only in the historically Germanic-speaking nation of England but also in the Celtic countries of Scotland (though the Lothian and Borders region was traditionally Northumbrian in language), Wales, Cornwall (already mostly English speaking by 1707) and Ireland. It can be claimed that the British Empire and the UK when seen as one unit or nation is Germano-Celtic due to the unification.Fact|date=August 2008


Scandinavia was united in the Kalmar Union until 1520, following which after a series of conflicts the modern states of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland emerged, the population of the latter comprising some 5.5% of Swedish-speaking Finns. The contemporary division into these countries has been implemented since the dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden in 1905 and the independence of Iceland from Denmark in 1944.

Continental Europe

The history of the continental part of Germanic Europe is clearly the most complicated of the three, and the region has settled into its contemporary political divisions only in 1945, following World War II.The Germanic speaking portions of the Holy Roman Empire by the 17th century were partitioned into the Dutch Republic (evolving into the Netherlands), the Old Swiss Confederacy (evolving into Switzerland), Habsburg Austria (evolving into Austria) and a core territory that gave rise to the German Empire in 1871, and finally to modern Germany. The Alsace became part of France while Flanders was divided between France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The small territories of Luxembourg and Liechtenstein have been sovereign countries since the Congress of Vienna in 1815.


About 200 million Europeans (27%) speak a Germanic language natively.

*West Germanic (180 million)
**German-speaking Europe (95 million)
***Germans (78 million)
***Austrians (7 million)
***Alemannic Swiss (4.6 million)
***Luxembourgers (0.5 million)
***English-speaking Europe (64 million)
****English (45 million)
****Scots (6 million)
****Irish (5.5 million)
****Welsh (4.5 million)
****Cornish (0.5 million)
***Frisians (0.5 million)
**Low Franconian / Dutch (22 million)
*North Germanic (22 million)
**Swedes (9.5 million)
**Danes (6 million)
**Norwegians (4.7 million)
**Icelandic (0.3 million)
**Faroese (0.07 million)


Germanic languages are a group of related languages constituting a branch of the Indo-European (IE) language family. The common ancestor of all languages comprising this branch is Proto-Germanic, spoken in approximately the latter mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age Northern Europe.

The largest Germanic languages in Europe in terms of speakers are the German and English languages, with approximately 95 and 65 million native speakers respectively. Both belong to the West Germanic group, together with Dutch (22 million speakers) and Frisian (0.5 million).

The North Germanic languages include Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, and Faroese with a combined total of about 20 million speakers.

West Germanic


German is an official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Denmark and it's one of the 23 official languages of the European Union.


English is a West Germanic language originating in England, and the first language for most people in Australia, Canada, the Commonwealth Caribbean, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States (also commonly known as the Anglosphere).

One of the consequences of the French influence due to the Norman Conquest in the Middle Ages is that the vocabulary of the English language contains a massive number of non-Germanic words, i.e., Latin-derived words that entered the lexicon after the French invasion.

One can say that English vocabulary is to a certain extent divided between those words which are Germanic (mostly Old English) and those which are "Latinate" (Latin-derived, either directly from Norman French or other Romance languages). For instance, pairs of words such as "ask" and "question" (the first verb being of Germanic origin whereas the second is Latin-derived) show the division between Germanic and Latinate lexemes which compose the Modern English vocabulary. The structure of the English language has remained Germanic though.


Dutch is spoken in the Netherlands (96%), Flanders - the northern part of Belgium (58%) and French Flanders.


The Frisian languages are a closely related group of Germanic languages, spoken by about half a million members of Frisian ethnic groups, who live on the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany. They are the continental Germanic languages most closely related to English.

North Germanic

Approximately 20 million people in the Nordic countries have a North Germanic language as their mother tongue,Holmberg, Anders and Christer Platzack (2005). "The Scandinavian languages". In "The Comparative Syntax Handbook," eds Guglielmo Cinque and Richard S. Kayne. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. [ Excerpt at Durham University] .] including a significant Swedish minority in Finland.


ee also

* Germania
* Germanic languages
* Germanic peoples
* Ethnic groups of Europe
* Latin Europe
* Slavic Europe
* Celtic Europe


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