How Did France Get Its Name?

The Eiffel Tower, the most famous landmark in France.
The Eiffel Tower, the most famous landmark in France.

France is the largest nation in Western Europe, and one of the oldest nations in the world. The word France is believed to have Latin origins, and derived from the Latin word “Francia” whose English translation means “Land of Franks.” The nation’s official currency, the franc, gets its name from the coins used in the Kingdom of the Franks. The coins used by the Franks bore the inscription “Rex Francorum,” an Old Frankish term whose French translation means “Roi des Francs” or “King of the Franks” in English.


“Franks” was the name given to the people of the Frank Kingdom that reigned over most of Western Europe between the 3rd and the 8th centuries. The term was also used about all Europeans by other kingdoms, such as the Mongols. The name is believed to stem from the ferocious reputation of Frank warriors, with “Francia” being the Latin word of the kingdom. “Francia” is derived from “Ferocia,” a Latin word that translates to “Fierce.” Another theory has it that the term is derived from a word in the Proto-Germanic language, “frankon” which translates to “javelin lance.” The name of the kingdom could also come from the name of one the most successful Germanic kings, Francio whose kingdom had spread to cover most of modern France and Germany, by the 1st century BCE.


In its early years, the Frank kingdom frequently clashed with the Roman Empire, with many of the meetings between the two kingdoms being recorded in Roman texts. The military prowess of the Franks was known throughout Europe, with the army employing effective battle strategies that saw them win many of their wars. In addition to the usual sword, lance, arrows, and horses, Franks also used siege engines during the war. The language used by the Franks is known as Old Frankish, a language that brought forth many words used in the modern French, German, and English languages. These people initially practiced their religion known as Frankish paganism, but would later convert to Roman Catholicism. Prominent Franks such as Silvanus was the first to convert to Catholicism in the 4th century, a move which proved beneficial for both the Franks and the Church as it facilitated the spread of Christianity throughout Western Europe while affirming the influence of the Franks in Europe. In the mid-9th century after the signing of the 843 Treaty of Verdun, the Francia Kingdom broke up into three different kingdoms; East Francia, West Francia, and Middle Francia. Also known as “Francia Occidentalis,” West Francia was the origin of modern-day France, while East Francia, which was also known as “Francia Orientalis” became the predecessor of modern-day Germany.


Another possible origin of the name “France” is linked to Ile-de-France, a province of France in the Middle Ages. The province had Paris as its administrative capital. Ile-de-France is known as the origin of the French language, or “langue Francaise.” The literal translation of “langue Francaise” is “the language of Ile-de-France.” Until the 19th century, the usage of the French language was restricted to Ile-de-France province, from where it spread to the entire country.


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