My mother was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, and I spent some time there during my high school years. I asked my mother if she knew where the name Sweden came from, and she said she was not sure. So they started my quest to discover why Sweden is named Sverige or Sweden.
Sweden is known as Sverige in Swedish as most people believe it came from the name of the ancient northern Germanic tribe that has occupied the area of Sweden for over 1,000 years. This ancient tribe was known as Sver or Svear. Depending on your translation, Sverige can translate to mean Kingdom of the Sver people or “Our Kingdom,” which refers to when the Gotar and Svear people joined together as one group.
History Of The Word Sverige
Sverige is the name for Sweden in the Swedish language. The name is from the older name in old Swedish, “Swerike.”
The name “Swerike” can be broken down into two parts as follows:
- Swer or Sver – Most people believe this comes from a group of people who were known as the Swear. They were a northern Germanic tribe that had occupied the land of Sweden for thousands of years.
- Rike or Rige – The word Rike meant realm or kingdom. You can still see its use today in words like the ”Riksdag” which is the name for the present day Swedish parliament.
It is believed that the name Sverige came from these two names mean the Kingdom of the “Swer” or “Sver” people.
Some linguists feel that the word does not come from the Sver or Swer people but actually from the word meaning” Sve/Svea,” which means” our/us,” so that instead Sverige means” Our Kingdom.”
The Svear & Gotar People and Sweden
The Svear is a prehistoric clan of people who lived around Lake Malar in Sweden. Another historic clan also lived in the area, known as the Gotar, who some feel is the original Goths.
The Gotar’s lived in Ostergotlad, Vastergotland and Smaland in present-day Sweden. The groups spoke different dialects of the Sweden language.
Even today, there are some dialect differences in the Swedish language for these areas of Sweden.
Present-day Skane, or the very southern part of Sweden, was not in the group as this area of Sweden was taken from the Danish crown in the 17th Century. What is also not part of the two tribes’ territory was Norrland or the northern part of Sweden; Norrland was also later colonized by the Swedes.
So when you look at the traditional group of people who inhabited Sweden, it is centered around these two groups of people, the Svear and Gotar.
If the name of Sweden is based upon the word” Sve/Svea,” which means us or our, it also makes sense that as the Gotar and Swer people decided to join together, they called their new kingdom. “Our Kingdom.” Using “our kingdom” was a simple way to signify these two groups joining together as one group of people or one society.
These tribes may have seen the need to join together to ensure their survival and so that they could be much stronger as one group instead of two separate groups. It seems that culturally and linguistically, they were both very similar groups.
Svear & Gotar and Expansion Of Sweden
The Gotar and Swear are the original groups of people who inhabited parts of Sweden. Over the years, they expanded both northward and southward to be what Sweden is today.
Here are a few facts about these groups of people of Swer and Gotar who once inhabited Sweden and how Sweden started to expand: :
- Rome Mentioned Sweden – As early as 98 CE, the Roman Author Tacitus mentioned the Svear or what was also known as Suiones people in this part of Northern Europe.
- Northern Germanic Tribe – The Svear and Gotar groups of people were Northern Germanic Tribes.
- Powerful Tribe In Northern Europe – The Sverige people were a powerful northern German Tribe. Their King claimed to be a descendant of Freyr, a god from Norse mythology.
- Several Names For The Area – Like most of the world during this time, Sweden underwent name changes from the ancient name Svithiod to Swerike to Sverige. Sweden’s names include Swerike, Svearike, Swerighe, Swerghe, Swirghe, and Svealand. Some of these are alternative spellings of the same name of Sweden or Sverige.
- Stockholm Is An Old Capital – Stockholm has been the capital of Sweden since 1523, making it an ancient capital.
- Over 1,000 Year History – Sweden has over 1,000 years of continuous history as a sovereign state even though its territory has changed over this time. But it still means that Sweden as a country has a long history.
- Traditionally Very Homogeneous Society – Sweden was always a very homogeneous society. In recent years this has changed with their liberal immigration policies. Divided into several regions with historical significance, Sweden has been traditionally divided into 3 regions: north, central, and southern Sweden.
Despite these three groups of people, Sweden has not had any significant wars or disagreements within Sweden. That truly is a fantastic feat for everyone to live together on the same land for so long without any crucial issues. As a country and a sovereign state, Sweden is an ancient culture and people.
When we think of Asian cultures, we often think of places in China and not in Europe. But the truth is that for over 1000 years or more, the same group of people have habitat the land of Sweden.
And in that time, the Swedes have pretty much lived a peaceful and quiet life without any significant wars or dissensions within the country of Sweden wars except for the 1521 Swedish War of Liberation.
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