Denmark - Etymology

Etymology

The etymology of the word Denmark, and especially the relationship between Danes and Denmark and the unifying of Denmark as a single kingdom, is a subject which attracts debate. This is centered primarily around the prefix "Dan" and whether it refers to the Dani or a historical person Dan and the exact meaning of the -"mark" ending. The issue is further complicated by a number of references to various Dani people in Scandinavia or other places in Europe in Greek and Roman accounts (like Ptolemy, Jordanes, and Gregory of Tours), as well as mediaeval literature (like Adam of Bremen, Beowulf, Widsith and Poetic Edda).

Most handbooks derive the first part of the word, and the name of the people, from a word meaning "flat land", related to German Tenne "threshing floor", English den "cave", Sanskrit dhánuṣ- (धनुस्; "desert"). The -mark is believed to mean woodland or borderland (see marches), with probable references to the border forests in south Schleswig,

The first recorded use of the word Danmark within Denmark itself is found on the two Jelling stones, which are runestones believed to have been erected by Gorm the Old (c. 955) and Harald Bluetooth (c. 965). The larger stone of the two is popularly cited as Denmark's baptismal certificate (dåbsattest), though both use the word "Denmark", in the form of accusative ᛏᛅᚾᛘᛅᚢᚱᚴ "tanmaurk" on the large stone, and genitive "tanmarkar" (pronounced ) on the small stone. The inhabitants of Denmark are there called "tani", or "Danes", in the accusative.

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