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The Greeks call their country Hellas and themselves Hellenes.

The names Greece and Greek are of Roman origin and were adopted from Latin Graecus into old High German as Crêch and then in all Germanic languages the name was fashioned after the Latin - Old English Grécas. (See OED extract below)

It has been the policy of the international community for many years to name new countries, (and rename old ones), to correspond with the way they are known to their own government and population. Thus Abyssinia became Ethiopia, the Gold Coast became Ghana, Rhodesia became (after partition) Zambia and Zimbabwe. (For a more complete list of name changes go to http://www.conservapedia.com/Renamed_countries.)

Since there may be some evidence that it was only colonists (presumably from Rome to Euboea) that assigned the name Greece, why do we continue to use that name and why not Hellas? After all we no longer refer to the USA as The thirteen colonies.

Forms: pl.OE Cré(a)cas, Gré(a)cas, ME Greckes, Orm. Grickess, ME Greks, Grekis, ME Grekys... (Show More) Etymology: In branch I: The Old English Crécas plural, corresponds to Old High German Chrêch , Chriech (Middle High German Kriech ), Gothic Krêks < *Krêko-z , an early Germanic adoption of Latin Graecus , plural Graecī (see below), the name applied by the Romans to the people called by themselves Ἕλληνες . The substitution of k for g is commonly accounted for by the supposition that the Germanic initial g , when the word was adopted, still retained its original pronunciation /ɣ/ , so that k would be the Germanic sound nearest to the Latin g . In all the Germanic languages the word was ultimately refashioned after Latin, with change of k into g ; hence Old English Grécas plural beside Crécas , Middle Dutch Grieke (Dutch Griek ), modern German Grieche , Old Norse Grikkir , plural. In branch II the noun is an absolute use of Greek adj. The Latin Graecī is < Greek Γραικοί, said by Aristotle ( Meteor. i. xiv) to have been the prehistoric name of the Hellenes in their original seats in Epirus. The word is apparently an adjectival derivative of Graius, which is used in Latin as a poetical synonym of Graecus. Recent scholars think the name may have been brought to Italy by colonists from Euboea, where there is some evidence of its having existed: see Busolt Gr. Gesch. I.2 198. (Show Less) I.

marked as duplicate by TimLymington, Drew, tchrist, Chenmunka, Misti Jan 30 '15 at 16:31

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    Aristotle was the first to use the name Graeci (Γραικοί) in Meteorology, saying that the area about Dodona and Achelous was inhabited by the Selli and a people formerly called Graeci, but at his time Hellenes. From this statement of Aristotle it is asserted that the name of Graeci was at one period widely spread in Epirus and the western coast of Greece in general, hence it became the one by which the Hellenes were known to the Italic peoples on the opposite side of the Ionian Sea. – user66974 Jan 29 '15 at 9:57
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    It's seems only Norway has opted for a Hellenic rather than a Greek name, so to speak. thepressproject.gr/photos/capture1413889749.jpg – Neil W Jan 29 '15 at 10:10
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    @oerkelens Not the exact same name, but as least Sweden and Sverige are related, just with and without suffix, basically. A nicer parallel close to home would be Germany/Deutschland. Also note that in Norwegian, the adjective derived from Hellas is still gresk, and a person from Greece can be called either greker or hellener; so the switch is only half-hearted, as it were. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 29 '15 at 10:32
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    I said Sweden, I should have mentioned Finland of course... Suomi vs Finland. – oerkelens Jan 29 '15 at 11:58
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    You think "Greece" is incorrect? At least it's based on historical fact. Y'all call Hungary by that name because 8th century writers couldn't keep their invading tribes straight. – Marthaª Jan 29 '15 at 15:29

The name Greece is probably due to the dominance of Latin during the Middle Ages. Latin was the language of the Church and of science. Nicolaus Copernicus wrote his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) in Latin, published in 1543.

  • But the principal language of the Byzantine Empire was Greek, wasn't it? And before that the Roman Empire had been partitioned as early as the 3rd century by Constantine, between a Latin-speaking west and Greek-speaking east. – WS2 Jan 29 '15 at 18:04
  • Yes, but Greek did not have the same importance as Latin in western Europe. – rogermue Jan 29 '15 at 18:38
  • Indeed it did not. But one thing I find interesting, from the fascinating little map linked to @Neil's comment above, is that the name Greece is dominant in the Balkans and throughout eastern Europe generally, lands once part of the Byzantine Empire and before that the Eastern Church with its capital at Constantinople. – WS2 Jan 29 '15 at 19:07

Why do English-speaking countries not refer to Greece as Hellas? The same reason the French do not call The United States "The United States", nor do they call England "England". Every country is allowed to call other countries by the traditional name in their own traditional language.

Of course, if a new country is formed or an existing one renamed, other countries will usually adopt that new name (e.g. Bangladesh is no longer called East Pakistan, and Burma is (I think) now called Myanmar.

Some country names are impossible to pronounce in some languages; for example, Spanish does not have phonemes to replicate "Deutscheland".

Others are not so tough to pronounce (in English) and I must admit switching to "Hellas" from "Greece" doesn't seem any harder than switching from, say, "Formosa" to "Taiwan". At least in English. I don't know about the other languages.

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    This answer is not merely wrong but absurd. Spanish doesn’t lack phonemes to replicate Dóichlant, nor do they refer to that country as *Alemánia [sic] either. – tchrist Jan 29 '15 at 15:09
  • My bad. My info about "Alemania" was very out-of date. But I can tell you that as recently as 1999, Honduran Spanish speakers could not pronounce my son's last name "Hitchcock" no matter how they tried. – Brian Hitchcock Jan 29 '15 at 15:32
  • I have no objection to England being called Angleterre by the French nor Inglaterra by the Spanish, since those words are direct translations of the word England in the respective languages. That is rather different to the position with Greece, Hungary etc. – WS2 Jan 29 '15 at 18:18

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