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"German" is an adjective referring to anything from Germany. However, I recently stepped across this word "germane". "Germane" means to be "closely related".
Being interested, I looked up its history, and it apparently came from the same root as "German": Latin germanus.

Can someone trace the etymology of these two words and show why they mean two different things?

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Why do people dislike this question? –  Thursagen May 28 '11 at 0:48
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@ThirdIdiot: I think it is the title. As it stands, it asks a trivial question: why do word x and word y not mean the same? Why are Orion and Cassiopeia not the same shape? There exist many words that are near-homonyms. Even so, if those people read the question they should understand that what you mean is reasonable. I don't quite understand the number of down-votes either, especially without comments. Perhaps you could change it to something like, Is there any connection between "germane" and "German", or are they completely unrelated? –  Cerberus May 28 '11 at 1:31
    
How do you know they don't mean the same thing? Perhaps the Romans thought the proto-Germans were germane, and thus named them. –  Matthew Read May 28 '11 at 2:30
    
I was idly curious about this myself; I also wonder if the term cousin german is connected at all. –  Brian Hooper May 28 '11 at 3:00
    
@Cerberus, your suggestion did wonders! I just changed the title and people...accept this question better. –  Thursagen May 28 '11 at 3:04

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Alas, both words most probably do not come from the same root. So far as we know, their identical spelling is completely accidental. They were already spelled the same more than two thousand years ago by the Romans.

Our word German comes from Latin Germanus, first attested in Caesar, which was used to describe the Germanic tribes by the Romans. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.), it may be of Celtic origin, as a name used by the Celts to designate their neighbours; but there appears to be no consensus yet.

The word germane comes from Latin germanus (adjective "related, relative", noun "brother") This comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *gen-, which means something like "give birth". Our word germ, from Latin germen, "sprout", comes from the same root, as does genetic, through Greek genesis, "birth".

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According to Wikipedia, citing Schulze Germany: A New History and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, the word used by Julius Caesar was derived from what the Gauls called the people east of the Rhine, probably meaning "neighbor". –  chaos May 28 '11 at 0:23
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@chaos: The OED offers that as a possibility, but refuses to commit to it: A view widely held is that it was the name given by the Gauls to their neighbours; the Celtic derivations suggested are from OIr. gair neighbour (Zeuss) and from Irish gairm battle-cry (Wachter, Grimm). According to Müllenhoff, Germani was originally the name of a group of Celtic peoples in north-eastern Gaul, was transferred from these to their Teutonic conquerors, and afterwards extended to all the Teutonic peoples.] –  Cerberus May 28 '11 at 0:28

ger - tribe or fire of home: ogur/urgur/argiv-hellenic/ariyan, ger-jurt-orda, gar in sumer-kiengir and semitic languages and kári - assyrian and lelegs, garten in Europe usw./etc.,

or

great, gross, stark,

man - magnus, old-scandinavian-viking madr, magyar/hun/van-urgur-ger/, mann, man, gipsy manus, finnugric mansi, ind-szind-hindi maha(raja) - adult warrior

hispanian matar - kill nepal - magar: soldier

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Gog and Magog in Bible –  kend yesterday
    
teuton, deutsch - deus-theosz-deva is lighting and famous, heroic ancestor –  kend yesterday
    
Give a source here and I may upvote this. Do you have any evidence that this isn't just your own opinion? –  Matt Gutting yesterday
    
This is completely illegible. It's totally impossible to figure out what's what in this answer, and with no comments to anything, it's quite hard to see what relevance any of it has to the question. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet yesterday

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