Why is Italy called 'Włochy' in Polish?

Looking through this list of foreign names for Italy, almost all the languages whose script I can decipher have a name for Italy that is clearly related to “Italia”. The exceptions being the artificial language Lojban, possibly Hungarian (always a law unto itself), and Polish, in which language Italy is called ‘Włochy’. I see that ‘włochy’ apparently also means ‘hair’, but I don’t know whether that is just a coincidence.

Now, unless my pronunciation is way off, I can’t see how ‘Włochy’ comes from the same root as the other Italy-words. So where does it come from? A tribe of hairy Italians who marauded through Warsaw?

I grew up in a Polish-speaking house, and never knew this (nobody ever talked about Italy, I guess).
Looking on the internet, I find that t’s also the name of a district of Warsaw, apparently their “Little Italy”:

Apparently the Gothic name for “Roman” was “Vlach”, whence Wlochy:


Maybe they were hairy, to Gothic eyes.

There’s a region of Romania called Wallachia from the same root.

This will tie directly into Romanian – remember that the Romanians’ claim is to be the cultural descendants of Trajan’s colonists in Dacia. First, the southern principality of historic Romania is Wallachia – if you picture Romania as an open laptop with a soccer ball sitting on it, the soccer ball is Transylvania, the display screen is Moldavia, and the keyboard is Wallachia. Second, there are enclaves throughout the Balkans of people speaking Romanian-like dialects (Aromanian) and they are termed Vlachs.

Ah, vlach, I see (although I’m having a hard time picturing the laptop/soccer ball thing).

I also see now that the Lojban word does in fact include the sequence ‘itali’. The Hungarian name, meanwhile, really doesn’t seem to relate to ‘ital’ or ‘vlach’. But it doesn’t surprise me too much that a somewhat isolated language like Hungarian does its own thing.

Suddenly, all the “if you picture Michigan as a hand” explanations I’ve ever heard sound pathetic.

Could this in any way be connected to the name Caesar, which which originally may have meant “hairy” before Julius brought it to greater fame? I don’t know the etymology here, so perhaps this is unlikely or the timing is way off…

Wikipedia on Wallachia. The maps may make my rather odd analogy make more sense.

I assure you, I meant that as a compliment to your analogy-writin’ skillz.

The Hungarian name is also derived from Vlach. Olaszország = Olasz + ország (country/land). Olasz is a cognate of vlach.

Although the derivation is clear when you see it, I’ve always liked the Polish word for “Rome,” which is Rzym. Sounds like “ZHIM” when you say it.

So you’ve mentioned Hungarian now twice without saying what the word is and so I had to go look it up - Olaszország.

I know that ország means “land of” or something like that – Hungarian for “Hungary” is Magyarország.

That leaves Olasz - it’s quite plausible to me that this is related to Vlach or Wlach.

And, indeed, Wikipedia says it derives from Germanic walha, which to me is pretty clearly related to Wealas, the Anglo-Saxon word for “stranger,” whence “Welsh.”

And, of course, clicking the link reveals all:

*Wales, Welsh

All derive from this root.

Hungarian, by the way, is not technically a language isolate, but it has no well-known close relatives. The Uralic or Finno-Ugric language phylum has two main subgroups: Finnic, which includes Finnish, Estonian, and a herd of small languages spoken in European Russia (Mordvin, Mari, Liv, etc.); and Ugric, which includes only Hungarian and two small languages (Khanty and Mansi) spoken just east of the Urals in what is technically Western Siberia.

Any relationship they may have to the rest of the languages of Europe (ancestral rather than borrowings) would go waaaay back before Proto-Indo-European, and is only slightly less hypothetical than the Loch Ness Monster.

Well, then, if it’s such a sure thing, why didn’t you say so!!! :stuck_out_tongue:

<heads off to go watch the Nessie Cam again>

Apparently France is referred to as “Frakkland” in Icelandic and “Frakland” in Faroese.

What can I say–the French, they’re lovers not fighters. Or at least the Vikings thought so.

:rolleyes: It’s called Egyptian, [del]dummy[/del] Honored Sir.

: ducks and runs like hell :

I’ve always known “hair” to be “Włosy” (as in with an S) … which only sounds similar to “Włochy”. It’s kind of simillar to “cat” and “hat”.

Anyway, if in some ye-olde-polish hair was ever pronounced as Włosy… then it would be extra funny calling an italian “a hairy wog*” … and I’ve never heard that exclaimed in Poland.

  • In Australia this is not so offensive to my greek and italian friends, I don’t know how offensive it is in the US - so if I’m infringing ANY rules, please replace it to the appropriate PC word.

That’s not much different from the other Germanic languages where it’s Frankrike/Frankreich etc… They all just mean kingdom/land of the French. (Franks)