General Question

hobbitsubculture's avatar

Where does the name Switzerland come from?

Asked by hobbitsubculture (2156points) September 1st, 2010

So, does anyone know what a “Switzer” is? I was thinking how the name England came from the Angles: Angle-land. Was there a tribe of Switzers running around Europe, or is a Switzer something else entirely?

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8 Answers

muppetish's avatar

According to an etymology website:

SWISS – “1515, from M.Fr. Suisse, from M.H.G. Suizer, from Suiz “Switzerland” (cf. Switzer, archaic word for “a Swiss,” and Ger. Schweiz). Switzerland is named for Schwyz, one of its ancient cantons”

hobbitsubculture's avatar

That’s disappointing. “Switzer” sounds like it should be something exciting, but Schwyz sounds like a nice, peaceful area. According to wikipedia, the local economy is based in agriculture and tourism, so I guess it’s the Vermont of Switzerland. Thanks!

JubalHarshaw's avatar

@muppetish has it correct. The ancient Roman name for most of the territory that is now Switzerland is Helvetia. The Swiss still use that as an alternative name for their country. Some of their coinage bears that name.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@JubalHarshaw Correct. And it isn’t just the ancient Romans who call it Helvitia. Today, in the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland is referred to exclusively as Helvetia in their languages. I’m guessing other germanic language countries do as well, including the portion of the Swiss population that speaks German.

cazzie's avatar

Um… We don’t say Helvetia in Norwegian unless we’re specifically discussing Asterix og Obelix. We say, Sveits and so do the Swiss, only they spell it more German. (Schweiz, I think…) We call Greece, Hellas, if that’s what you’re thinking.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@cazzie Uh oh. You’re right. It’s been almost twenty years since I lived in Sweden and I wrote that at 3am. I was thinking Hellas and I may have seen Helvetia on old maps at the University of Lund. God I hate it when I blow it like that. Thanks.

hobbitsubculture's avatar

The font Helvetica was created by a Swiss designer. Originally, he was going to name it Helvetia, but then threw in a C because he liked the sound. Learned that from an awesome (really!) documentary about Helvetica.

cazzie's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus I’m here to make sure all things Scandinavian ring true. ;o).

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