c. 1300, "region of continental Europe inhabited by Germanic peoples," in a broad sense, from Latin Germania, a Roman designation (see German (n.)). In Middle English the place also was called Almaine (early 14c.), later Almany (16c.-17c.); see Alemanni. Middle English writers, following Latin, sometimes wrote of two Germanies, distinguishing the Alps and the region below the Danube from the region above it.
Entries linking to Germany
"a native of Germany," 1520s, from Latin Germanus (adjective and noun, plural Germani), first attested in writings of Julius Caesar, who used Germani to designate a group of tribes in northeastern Gaul, of unknown origin and considered to be neither Latin nor Germanic. Perhaps originally the name of an individual tribe, but Gaulish (Celtic) origins have been proposed, from words perhaps originally meaning "noisy" (compare Old Irish garim "to shout") or "neighbor" (compare Old Irish gair "neighbor"). Middle English had Germayns (plural, late 14c.), but only in the sense "ancient Teuton, member of the Germanic tribes." The earlier English word was Almain (early 14c., via French; see Alemanni) or Dutch. Shakespeare and Marlowe have Almain for "German; a German."
Þe empere passede from þe Grees to þe Frenschemen and to þe Germans, þat beeþ Almayns. [Ranulph Higden’s "Polychronicon," mid-14c., John Trevisa's translation, 1380s]
Their name for themselves, die Deutschen (see Dutch), dates from 12c. Roman writers also used Teutoni as a German tribal name, and writers in Latin after about 875 commonly refer to the German language as teutonicus (see Teutonic). Meaning "the German language" in English is from 1748. High German (1823 in English) and Low German as a division of dialects is geographical: High German (from 16c. established as the literary language) was the German spoken in the upland regions in southern Germany, Low German (often including Dutch, Frisian, Flemish), also called Plattdeutsch was spoken in the regions near the North Sea. In the U.S. German also was used of descendants of settlers from Germany.
But on another theory perhaps meaning rather "foreign men" (compare Allobroges, name of a Celtic tribe in what is now Savoy, in Latin literally "the aliens," in reference to their having driven out the original inhabitants), in which case the al- is cognate with the first element in Latin alius "the other" and English else.
The defeat of the Alemanni by a Frank-led army at Strasburg in 496 C.E. led to the conversion of Clovis and the rise of Frankish political power. The Alemanni were absorbed into the Frankish Kingdom in 796. Not historically important, but through proximity and frequent conflict with the Franks their name became the source of French Allemand, the usual word for "German, a German," and Allemagne "Germany." In modern use, Alemannish, Alemannic refers to the dialects of modern southwestern Germany; Alamannic refers to the ancient tribes and their language.