SEARCH BLOG: HISTORY
The other day, I was looking at statistics for HallOfRecord regarding the countries that were represented by its readers. As I came to Netherlands, it occurred to me that was an odd name even though we are all used to it. So I went to the Online Etymology Dictionary to look up Netherlands... and then proceeded to check out the names of several other countries.
Obviously, some names are derivatives of the groups that established control over these lands sometime back in history. You know... Eng-land... land of the Angles. And some are more generic such as Norway... North Way or Austria... East [Aust] way.
Some are interesting because we might not guess the origins. Russia, for example, probably refers to the Rus who were Scandinavian merchants that settled the area that became Kiev and beyond in the 9th century.
So what about the Netherlands?
O.E. niþera, neoþera "down, downwards, below, beneath," from P.Gmc. *nitheraz (cf. O.S. nithar, O.N. niðr, O.Fris. nither, Du. neder, Ger. nieder), comp. of PIE *ni- "down, below" (cf. Skt. ni "down," nitaram "downward," Gk. neiothen "from below," O.C.S. nizu "low, down"). Has been replaced in most senses by lower. The Netherlands formerly included Flanders and thus were equivalent geographically and etymologically to the Low Countries.And "low" in this case obviously refers to its relationship to sea level.
We take our language for granted. But below the surface of the words we use is a world of insight and and explanation of who we are and why things are they way they are.
Have some fun exploring it.America? Every 5th grader should know that. Do you?