“Cimbri” et “Teutoni”

  • Harald Bichlmeier
  • Václav Blažek
Keywords: Germanic ethnonyms, discussion of existing etymologies, new etymological solutions, obscured compounds, semantic typology


    The well-known names Cimbri and Teutoni / Teutones are traditionally said to denominate two different Germanic tribes. Here a new idea is proposed, namely that they originally formed a syntagm consisting of both words, PGmc. *þeu̯đanōz kumƀrii̯ōn ‘chieftains of tribes’, which later got split up into two tribal names in ancient sources: Teutoni Cimbrique, or Τευτόνοι καὶ Κίμβροι. While PGmc. *kumƀr- must be reconstructed, there are different ways in which the name is rendered in the Latin and Greek sources, where we find a variation u/y – i in the root vowel. This may be due to the fact that there is a certain fluctuation between u and i in inherited words in Latin on the one hand and a fluctuation between all these vowels in loaned words and names in both languages.
    The original form of the name of the Cimbri, PGmc. *kumƀrii̯a, may continue an obscured compound of the roots PIE *gem- ‘press, squeeze, grab’ and *bher- ‘carry’. Pgmc. *þeu̯đanōz is the regular plural to *þeu̯đanaz ‘tribal chieftain’, later ‘king’. Its origin from PGmc. *þeu̯đō ‘tribe’ is generally accepted. Among various etymological attempts to analyze ‘West Indo-European’ *teu̯tā we prefer the idea of de Vries deriving the word from the Celto-Germanic isogloss to *teu̯to- ‘good, friendly’. The Hittite cognates imply the existence of the root *teu̯- ‘to be kind, friendly’.