Names of the Croats and Croatia

The name of Croatia (Croatian: Hrvatska) derives from Medieval Latin Croātia, itself a derivation of the native ethnonym of Croats, earlier *Xъrvate and modern-day Croatian: Hrvati.

Earliest recordEdit

The Branimir Inscription, c. 888

Although in 2005 it was archaeologically confirmed that the ethnonym Croatorum is mentioned in a church inscription found in Bijaći near Trogir dated to the end of the 8th or early 9th century,[1] it is generally accepted that the first attestation of the ethnonym is in the Latin charter of Duke Trpimir from 852, the original of which has been lost. A copy has been preserved in a 1568 transcript; Lujo Margetić proposed in 2002 that the document is in fact of legislative character, dating to 840.[2] In it is mentioned:

Dux Chroatorum iuvatus munere divino […] Regnum Chroatorum

The presumably oldest stone inscription is the Latin Branimir Inscription (found in Šopot near Benkovac), where Duke Branimir (879–892) is mentioned:


The monument with the earliest writing in the Croatian language containing the ethnonym xъrvatъ (IPA: [xŭrvaːtŭ]) is the Baška tablet from 1100, which reads: zvъnъmirъ kralъ xrъvatъskъ ("Zvonimir, king of Croats").[3]


The Tanais Tablet B containing the word Χοροάθος (Khoroáthos).

The exact origin and meaning of the ethnonym Hr̀vāt (Proto-Slavic *Xъrvátъ,[4][5] or *Xurwātu[6]) is still subject to scientific disagreement.[7] It is believed that the word might not be of native Slavic lexical stock, but a borrowing from an Iranian language.[8][9][10][11][12] Common theories from the 20th and 21st centuries derive it from an Iranian origin, the root word being a third-century Scytho-Sarmatian form attested in the Tanais Tablets as Χοροάθος (Khoroáthos, alternate forms comprise Khoróatos and Khoroúathos).[8][3][13]

The first etymological thesis about the name of the Croats stems from Constantine Porphyrogennetos (tenth century), who connected the different names of the Croats, Βελοχρωβάτοι and Χρωβάτοι (Belokhrobatoi and Khrobatoi), with the Greek word χώρα (khṓra, "land"): "Croats in Slavic language means those who have many lands". In the 13th century, Thomas the Archdeacon considered that it was connected with the name of inhabitants of the Krk isle, which he gave as Curetes, Curibantes. In the 17th century, Juraj Ratkaj found a reflexion of the verb hrvati (se) "to wrestle" in the name.[14]

In the 19th century, many different derivations were proposed for the Croatian ethnonym:

The 20th century gave rise to many new theories regarding the origin of the name of the Croats:

  • A. I. Sobolevski derived it from the Iranian words hu- "good", ravah- "space, freedom" and suffix -at-;
  • Grigoriĭ Andreevich Ilʹinskiĭ derived it from *kher- "cut", as seen in the Greek word kárkharos "sharp", kharah "tough, sharp", and xorbrъ "brave";
  • Hermann Hirt saw a connection with the name of a Germanic tribe Harudes (Χαροῦδες);
  • Leopold Geitler, Josef Perwolf, Aleksander Brückner, Tadeusz Lehr-Spławiński and Heinz Schuster-Šewc linked the root hrv- to Slovak charviti sa "to oppose, defend" or via skъrv-/xъrv- to the Lithuanian šárvas "armor" and šarvúotas "armed, cuirassier", with suffix -at emphasizing the characteristic, giving the meaning of a "well armed man, soldier";
  • Karel Oštir considered valid a connection with an unspecified Thraco-Illyrian word xъrvata- "hill";
  • Max Vasmer first considered it as a loanword from Old-Iranian, *(fšu-)haurvatā- "shepherd, cattle guardian" (formed of Avestan pasu- "cattle" and verb haurvaiti "guard"), later also from Old-Iranian hu-urvatha- "friend" (also accepted by N. Zupanič).[14]
  • Niko Zupanič additionally proposed Lezgian origin from Xhurava (community) and plural suffix -th, meaning "municipalities, communities".[19]
  • M. Budimir saw in the name a reflexion of Indo-European *skwos "gray, grayish", which in Lithuanian gives širvas;
  • S. K. Sakač linked it with the Avestan name Harahvaitī, which once signified the southwestern part of modern Afghanistan, the province Arachosia.[4] "Arachosia" is the Latinized form of Ancient Greek Ἀραχωσία (Arachosíā), in Old Persian inscriptions, the region is referred to as Harahuvatiš (       ).[20] In Indo-Iranian it actually means "one that pours into ponds", which derives from the name of the Sarasvati River of Rigveda.[21] However, although the somewhat suggestive similarity, the connection to the name of Arachosia is etymologically incorrect;[21][13]
  • G. Vernadsky considered a connection to the Chorasmí from Khwarezm,[22] while F. Dvornik a link to the Krevatades or Krevatas located in the Caucasus mentioned in the De Ceremoniis (tenth century).[22]
  • V. Miller saw in the Croatian name the Iranian hvar- "sun" and va- "bed", while P. Tedesco had a similar interpretation from Iranian huravant "sunny";
  • Otto Kronsteiner suggested it might be derived from Tatar-Bashkir *chr "free" and *vata "to fight, to wage war";[4]
  • Stanisław Rospond derived it from Proto-Slavic *chorb- + suffix -rъ in the meaning of "brave";
  • Oleg Trubachyov derived it from *xar-va(n)t (feminine, rich in women, ruled by women), which derived from the etymology of Sarmatians name,[11][23] the Indo-Aryan *sar-ma(n)t "feminine", in both Indo-Iranian adjective suffix -ma(n)t/wa(n)t, and Indo-Aryan and the Indo-Iranian *sar- "woman", which in Iranian gives *har-.[23]

Among them were most taken into account the Germanic derivation from the Carpathian Mountains which is now considered as obsolete; the Slavic derivation about "well armed man" indicating that they stood out from the other Slavs in terms of weapons and armour, but it is not convincing because no other Slavic tribe is named after the objects of material culture and etymologically was a Lithuanian borrowing from Middle High German sarwes; and the prevailing Iranian derivations, Vasmer's *(fšu-)haurvatā- ("cattle guardian") and Trubachyov's *xar-va(n)t (feminine, rich in women, ruled by women).[8][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31]

While linguists and historians agreed or with Vasmer's or Trubachyov's derivation, according to Tadeusz Lehr-Spławiński and Radoslav Katičić the Iranian theses doesn't entirely fit with the Croatian ethnonym, as according to them, the original plural form was Hrъvate not Hъrvate,[32] and the vowel "a" in the Iranian harvat- is short, while in the Slavic Hrъvate it is long among others.[26][33] Katičić concluded that of all the etymological considerations the Iranian is the least unlikely.[7][8][33][34] Ranko Matasović also considered it of Iranian origin,[11] but besides confirming original forms as *Xъrvátъ (sl.) and *Xъrvate (pl.), dismissed Trubachyov's derivation because was semantically and historically completely unfounded, and concluded that the only derivation which met the criteria of adaptation of Iranian language forms to Proto-Slavic, as well as historical and semantical plausibility, it is the Vasmer's assumption but with some changes, as the Proto-Slavic *Xъrvat- < *Xurwāt- comes from Proto-Ossetian / Alanian *xurvæt- or *xurvāt-, in the meaning of "one who guards" ("guardian, protector"), which was borrowed before the 7th century, and possibly was preserved as a noun in Old Polish charwat (guard).[35]

The Medieval Latin C(h)roatae and Greek form Khrōbátoi are adaptations of Western South Slavic plural pronunciation *Xərwate from late 8th and early 9th century, and came to Greek via Frankish source.[36] To the Proto-Slavic singular form are closest Old Russian xorvaty (*xъrvaty) and German-Lusatian Curuuadi from 11th and 12th century sources, while the old plural form *Xъrvate is correctly reflected in Old Russian Xrovate, Xrvate, Church Slavonic xarьvate and Old Croatian Hrvate.[37] The form Charvát in Old Czech came from Croatian-Chakavian or Old Polish (Charwaty) language.[38] The Croatian ethnonym Hr̀vāt (sl.) and Hrváti (pl.) in the Kajkavian dialect also appear in the form Horvat and Horvati, while in the Chakavian dialect in the form Harvat and Harvati.[39]


Croatian place names can be found in northern Slavic regions such as Moravia (Czech Republic) and Slovakia, Poland, along the river Saale in Germany, in Austria and Slovenia, and in the south in Greece, Albania among others.[40]

In Germany along Saale river there were Chruuati near Halle) in 901 AD, Chruuati in 981 AD,[41] Chruazis in 1012 AD,[41] Churbate in 1055 AD,[41] Grawat in 1086 AD,[41] Curewate (now Korbetha), Großkorbetha (Curuvadi and Curuuuati 881-899 AD) and Kleinkorbetha,[41] and Korbetha west of Leipzig;[42][43][4] In Moravia are Charwath,[44] or Charvaty near Olomouc, in Slovakia are Chorvaty and Chrovátice near Varadka.[42] The Charwatynia near Kashubians in district Wejherowo, and Сhаrwаtу or Klwaty near Radom in Poland among others.[26][44][38]

Thus in the Duchy of Carinthia one can find pagus Crouuati (954), Crauuati (961), Chrouuat (979) and Croudi (993) along upper Mura;[42][45] in Middle Ages the following place names have been recorded: Krobathen, Krottendorf, Krautkogel;[42] Kraut (before Chrowat and Croat) near Spittal.[42] In the Duchy of Styria there are toponyms such as Chraberstorf and Krawerspach near Murau, Chrawat near Laas in Judendorf, Chrowat, Kchrawathof and Krawabten near Leoben.[42][46] Along middle Mura Krawerseck, Krowot near Weiz, Krobothen near Stainz and Krobathen near Straganz.[42][47] In Slovenia there are also Hrovate, Hrovača, and Hrvatini.[42]

In the Southeastern Balkans, oeconyms Rvatska Stubica, Rvaši, Rvat(i) in Montenegro; several villages Hrvati and Gornji/Donji Hrvati in Bosnia and Herzegovina including Horvaćani (Hrvaćani Hristjanski) and Hrvatovići;[45] Rvatsko Selo, Hrvatska, and hamlet Hrvatske Mohve in Serbia;[48] North Macedonia has a place named Arvati (Арвати) situated near lower Prespa;[42] in Greece there is a Charváti or Kharbáti (Χαρβάτι) in Attica and Harvation or Kharbátion in Argolis, as well as Charváta (Χαρβάτα) on Crete;[42][43][38] and Hirvati in Albania,[42] among others in other countries.[48]


The ethnonym also inspired many anthroponyms which can be found in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. They are recorded at least since the 11th century in Croatia in the form of a personal name Hrvatin. Since the 14th century they can be found in area of the Croatian capital city of Zagreb, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and especially in the area of East Herzegovina, as well Dečani chrysobulls of Serbia, while since the 15th century in Montenegro, Kosovo, and North Macedonia.[48] The surnames in Poland - Karwat, Carwad, Charwat, Carwath, Horwat, Horwath, Horwatowie - are recorded since the 14th century in Kraków, Przemyśl and else, generally among Polish native nobility, peasants, and local residents, but not among the foreigners. They used it as a nickname, but probably due to the influence of immigration from the Kingdom of Hungary.[49] Since the 16th century surname Harvat is recorded in Romania.[49]

It is mentioned in the form of surnames Horvat, Horvatin, Hrvatin, Hrvatinić, Hrvatić, Hrvatović, Hrvet, Hervatić, H(e)rvatinčić, H(e)rvojević, Horvatinić, Horvačević, Horvatinović, Hrvović, Hrvoj, Rvat, and Rvatović.[45][48] Today the surname Horvat is most numerous surname in Croatia,[48] second most numerous in Slovenia (where's also in the form Hrovat, Hrovatin, Hrvatin), while Horváth is the most numerous surname in Slovakia and one of the most numerous in Hungary. In Czech Republic there's surname Charvat.

In the form of male personal names exist Hrvoje, Hrvoj, Hrvoja, Horvoja, Hrvojhna, Hrvatin, Hrvajin, Hrvo, Hrvojin, Hrvojica, Hrvonja, Hrvat, Hrvad, Hrvadin, Hrviša, Hrvoslav, Rvoje, as well as female Hrvatica, Hrvojka, Hrvatina, and Hrvoja. Today personal name Hrvoje is one of the most common in Croatia.[48]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "Kulturna kronika: Dvanaest hrvatskih stoljeća". Vijenac (in Croatian). Zagreb: Matica hrvatska (291). 28 April 2005. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  2. ^ Antić, Sandra-Viktorija (November 22, 2002). "Fascinantno pitanje europske povijesti" [Fascinating question of European history]. Vjesnik (in Croatian).
  3. ^ a b Gluhak 1989, p. 131.
  4. ^ a b c d Gluhak 1989, p. 130.
  5. ^ Gluhak 1993.
  6. ^ Matasović 2019, pp. 82, 85, 87, 94.
  7. ^ a b Budak 2018, pp. 98.
  8. ^ a b c d Rončević, Dunja Brozović (1993). "Na marginama novijih studija o etimologiji imena Hrvat" [On some recent studies about the etymology of the name Hrvat]. Folia Onomastica Croatica (in Croatian) (2): 7–23. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  9. ^ Gluhak 1989, p. 130–134.
  10. ^ Gluhak 1993, p. 270.
  11. ^ a b c Matasović 2008, p. 44.
  12. ^ Matasović 2019, pp. 81.
  13. ^ a b Matasović 2019, pp. 89.
  14. ^ a b Gluhak 1989, p. 129f..
  15. ^ Gluhak 1989, p. 129.
  16. ^ Howorth, H. H. (1882). "The Spread of the Slaves - Part IV: The Bulgarians". The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 11: 224. JSTOR 2841751. It was a frequent custom With the Hunnic hordes to take their names from some noted leader, and it is therefore exceedingly probable that on their great outbreak the followers of Kubrat should have called themselves Kubrati, that is, Croats.I have argued in a previous paper of this series that the Croats or Khrobati of Croatia were so called from a leader named Kubrat or Khrubat. I would add here an addition to what I have there said, viz., that the native name of the Croats, given variously as Hr-wati, Horwati, cannot surely be a derivative of Khrebet, a mountain chain, as often urged, but is clearly the same as the well known man’s name Horvath, familiar to the readers of Hungarian history and no doubt the equivalent of the Khrubat or Kubrat of the Byzantine writers, which name is given by them not only to the stem father of the Bulgarian kings, but to one of the five brothers Who led the Croat migration
  17. ^ Bury, J. B. (1889). A History of the later Roman empire from Arcadius to Irene (395-800). II. p. 275.
  18. ^ Alexandru Madgearu; Martin Gordon (2008). The Wars of the Balkan Peninsula: Their Medieval Origins. Scarecrow Press. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-8108-5846-6. Henri Gregoire has tried to identify this Chrovatos with Kuvrat, the ruler of the Protobulgarians who rebelled against the Avars, recorded by other sources in the first third of the seventh century. As a matter of fact, now it is certain that Kuvrat lived in the North-Pontic steppes, not in Pannonia. He was the father of Asparuch, the ruler of the Protobulgarian group that immigrated to Moesia. Chrovatos was an invented eponym hero, like other such mythical ancestors of the European peoples.
  19. ^ Sakač, Stjepan K. (1937), "O kavkasko-iranskom podrijetlu Hrvata" [About Caucasus-Iranian origin of Croats], Renewed Life (in Croatian), Zagreb: Filozofski institut Družbe Isusove, 18 (1)
  20. ^ "The same region appears in the Avestan Vidēvdāt (1.12) under the indigenous dialect form Haraxvaitī- (whose -axva- is typical non-Avestan)."Schmitt, Rüdiger (1987), "Arachosia", Encyclopædia Iranica, 2, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 246–247
  21. ^ a b Katičić 1999, p. 12.
  22. ^ a b Marčinko 2000, p. 184.
  23. ^ a b Gluhak 1989, p. 131f..
  24. ^ Gluhak 1989, p. 129–138.
  25. ^ Vasmer, Max. "хорват". Этимологический словарь Макса Фасмера. мн. -ы, др.-русск. хървати – название вост.-слав. племени близ Перемышля (Пов. врем. лет; см. Ягич, AfslPh 11, 307; Барсов, Очерки 70), греч. местн. нн. Χαρβάτι – в Аттике, Арголиде (Фасмер, Slaven in Griechen. 319), сербохорв. хр̀ва̑т, ср.-греч. Χρωβατία "Хорватия" (Конст. Багр., Dе adm. imp. 30), словен. раgus Crouuati, в Каринтии (Х в.; см. Кронес у Облака, AfslPh 12, 583; Нидерле, Slov. Star. I, 2, 388 и сл.), др.-чеш. Charvaty – название области в Чехии (Хроника Далимила), серболуж. племенное название Chruvati у Корбеты (Миккола, Ursl. Gr. I, 8), кашуб. местн. н. Charwatynia, также нариц. charwatynia "старая, заброшенная постройка" (Сляский, РF 17, 187), др.-польск. местн. н. Сhаrwаtу, совр. Klwaty в [бывш.] Радомск. у. (Розвадовский, RS I, 252). Древнее слав. племенное название *хъrvаtъ, по-видимому, заимств. из др.-ир. *(fšu-)haurvatā- "страж скота", авест. pasu-haurva- : haurvaiti "стережет", греч. собств. Χορόαθος – надпись в Танаисе (Латышев, Inscr. 2, No 430, 445; Погодин, РФВ 46, 3; Соболевский, РФВ 64, 172; Мейе–Вайан 508), ср. Фасмер, DLZ., 1921, 508 и сл.; Iranier 56; Фольц, Ostd. Volksboden 126 и сл. Ср. также Конст. Багр., Dе adm. imp. 31, 6–8: Χρώβατοι ... οἱ πολλην χώραν κατέχοντες. Менее убедительно сближение с лит. šarvúotas "одетый в латы", šárvas "латы" (Гайтлер, LF 3, 88; Потебня, РФВ I, 91; Брюкнер 176; KZ 51, 237) или этимология от ир. hu- "хороший" и ravah- "простор, свобода" (Соболевский, ИОРЯС 26, 9). Неприемлемо сближение с Καρπάτης ὄρος "Карпаты" (Птолем.), вопреки Первольфу (AfslPh 7, 625), Брауну (Разыскания 173 и сл.), Погодину (ИОРЯС 4,1509 и сл.), Маркварту (Streifzüge XXXVIII), Шрадеру – Нерингу (2, 417); см. Брюкнер, AfslPh 22, 245 и сл.; Соболевский, РФВ 64, 172; Миккола, AfslPh 42, 87. Неубедительна этимология из герм. *hruvаt-"рогатый": др.-исл. hrútr "баран" (Мух, РВВ 20,13).
  26. ^ a b c Lehr-Spławiński, Tadeusz (1951). "Zagadnienie Chorwatów nadwiślańskich" [The problem of Vistula Croats]. Pamiętnik Słowiański (in Polish). 2: 17–32.
  27. ^ Łowmiański, Henryk (2004) [1964]. Nosić, Milan (ed.). Hrvatska pradomovina (Chorwacja Nadwiślańska in Początki Polski) [Croatian ancient homeland] (in Croatian). Translated by Kryżan-Stanojević, Barbara. Maveda. pp. 24–43. OCLC 831099194.
  28. ^ Browning, Timothy Douglas (1989). The Diachrony of Proto-Indo-European Syllabic Liquids in Slavic. University of Wisconsin--Madison. p. 293.
  29. ^ Popowska-Taborska, Hanna (1993). "Ślady etnonimów słowiańskich z elementem obcym w nazewnictwie polskim". Acta Universitatis Lodziensis. Folia Linguistica (in Polish). 27: 225–230. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  30. ^ Majorov, Aleksandr Vjačeslavovič (2012), Velika Hrvatska: etnogeneza i rana povijest Slavena prikarpatskoga područja [Great Croatia: ethnogenesis and early history of Slavs in the Carpathian area] (in Croatian), Zagreb, Samobor: Brethren of the Croatian Dragon, Meridijani, pp. 86–100, 129, ISBN 978-953-6928-26-2
  31. ^ Matasović 2019, pp. 86–97.
  32. ^ Gluhak 1990, p. 229.
  33. ^ a b Katičić 1999, p. 11.
  34. ^ Marčinko 2000, p. 193.
  35. ^ Matasović 2019, pp. 90–95.
  36. ^ Matasović 2019, pp. 85–86.
  37. ^ Matasović 2019, pp. 84–85.
  38. ^ a b c Matasović 2019, pp. 84.
  39. ^ Velagić, Zoran (1997), "Razvoj hrvatskog etnonima na sjevernohrvatskim prostorima ranog novovjekovlja" [Development of the Croatian ethnonym in the Northern-Croatian territories of the early modern period], Migration and Ethnic Themes (in Croatian), Bjelovar, 3 (1–2): 54
  40. ^ Goldstein 2003.
  41. ^ a b c d e Marčinko 2000, p. 183.
  42. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Gračanin 2006, p. 85.
  43. ^ a b Vasmer 1941.
  44. ^ a b Marčinko 2000, p. 182.
  45. ^ a b c Leopold, Auburger (2019). "Putovima hrvatskoga etnonima Hrvat. Mario Grčević. Ime "Hrvat" u etnogenezi južnih Slavena. Zagreb ‒ Dubrovnik: Hrvatski studiji Sveučilišta u Zagrebu ‒ Ogranak Matice hrvatske u Dubrovniku, 2019., 292 str". Filologija (in Croatian). 73. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  46. ^ Marčinko 2000, p. 181.
  47. ^ Marčinko 2000, p. 181-182.
  48. ^ a b c d e f Vidović, Domagoj (2016). "Etnonim Hrvat u antroponimiji i toponimiji". Hrvatski Jezik (in Croatian). 3 (3). Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  49. ^ a b Łowmiański, Henryk (2004) [1964]. Nosić, Milan (ed.). Hrvatska pradomovina (Chorwacja Nadwiślańska in Początki Polski) [Croatian ancient homeland] (in Croatian). Translated by Kryżan-Stanojević, Barbara. Maveda. pp. 105–107. OCLC 831099194.


Further readingEdit

  • Grčević, Mario (2019), Ime "Hrvat" u etnogenezi južnih Slavena [The name "Croat" in the ethnogenesis of the southern Slavs], Zagreb, Dubrovnik: Hrvatski studiji Sveučilišta u Zagrebu – Ogranak Matice hrvatske u Dubrovniku, ISBN 978-953-7823-86-3