While looking for something else entirely (the phrase “suit yourself,” which (as it turns out) is first recorded in Kipling Caroline Carrol’s “Mary Payson’s Trials,” The Ladies’ Repository, September 1860, ch. ii, p. 526 [per the 2020 revised entry]) my eye caught on the OED entry Suiogothic, which is not (as I had supposed) an adjective for some obscure relative of the Ostrogoths and Visigoths but an archaic word for ‘Swedish’:

[ad. mod.L. Suio-, Sueogothicus, serving as adj. to Suiones (Sueones) Gothique, which was used to denote the Sviar, Svear Swedes, and Götar (Göthar), older Gautar, the inhabitants of Götland (the southern portion of Sweden).]

Swedish; the (Old and Middle) Swedish language.

1759 B. STILLINGFL. tr. Linnæus’ Orat. Trav. in Misc. Tracts (1762) 16 Its name, still used among the Suegothic vulgar. 1797 Encycl. Brit. (ed. 3) VIII. 23/1 Of this Woden many wonderful things are related in the Sueo-gothic chronicles. 1814 JAMIESON Hermes Scythicus I. 12 Alemannic ostar, Suio-Gothic öster, Islandic austr, oriens. Ibid. II. 4 To the Islandic, the Suio-Gothic, including the ancient language of Sweden, is very nearly allied.

I’m writing about it not only because it’s an interesting, if dusty, word but because if you google it you find that the poor thing turns up only in jumbled word sequences that I believe are spam-catching sites, and I wanted to give it a good home.

(Note, by the way, the primitive, chant-like rhythm of the first Jamieson quote; I can imagine Carl Orff setting it in a hypothetical Carmina Etymologica: A-le-man-nic OS-tar! SUI-o-goth-ic ÖS-ter! IS-LAND-ic AUS-tr! O-RI-ENS!! Or, now that I think of it, it would make a nice cheerleading chant for the football team of Miskatonic U.)

Update (Mar. 2024). The OED revised the entry in 2020, antedating it by half a century:

Of or relating to Sweden, esp. medieval Sweden; Swedish.

1705 Confirm’d by..the Sueogothic Chronicle.
T. Guidott, Apol. for Bath 64

1759 Its name, still used among the Sueogothic vulgar.
B. Stillingfleet, translation of C. Linnaeus, Oration conc. Travelling in Miscellaneous Tracts Natural History 12

1797 Of this Woden many wonderful things are related in the Sueo-gothic chronicles.
Encyclopædia Britannica vol. VIII. 23/1

2004 The Svio-Gothic peoples possessed the art of writing from very early in their history.
M. Clunies Ross & A. J. Collins, Correspondence E. Lye 133

The etymology:

< post-classical Latin Suiogothicus (1731 or earlier), Sueogothicus (1652 or earlier), Suegothicus (1653 or earlier) < suio-, sueo- (in classical Latin Suiones, post-classical Latin Sueones (plural noun) Swedes; < the Germanic base of Old Icelandic Svíar (plural) Swedes, originally denoting the inhabitants of Svealand in south central Sweden: see Swede n.) + post-classical Latin Gothi (plural noun) inhabitants of Götaland (in southern Sweden) (12th cent. or earlier; ultimately < the Germanic base of Goth n.; compare Old Swedish Götar (Swedish Göter), and also Old Icelandic Gautar, both plural in sense ‘inhabitants of Götaland’) + classical Latin ‑icus ‑ic suffix, after post-classical Latin Sueones Gothique the Swedes and the Goths (12th cent. or earlier).


  1. Ingeborg S. Nordén says

    You certainly attracted my eye with this post; if I might parody a running written-text gag from the late 80s:
    Now that I have your attention…”

  2. Graham Asher says

    Good grief, what do they teach them in the schools these days? To those of us who did medieval Swedish at university (York, 1975-1979 in my case) this is all old hat 😉
    The central part of Sweden is still referred to as Svealand – same thing, ain’t it?

  3. Yes, the Suio- part comes from Svealand, but no, it’s not the same thing. One is a reasonably common geographical term (meaning I knew it already), the other is a deeply obscure adjective, except of course to those who did medieval Swedish at York.

  4. John Emerson says

    I read just recently that the claim that the Swedes were Goths was made mostly during the period of Sweden’s imperialist dreams (ca. 1550? — 1709), especially by Karl XII, who came closer to conquering Russia than Napoleon did.
    The tract between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea has a very interesting history from about 200 AD onward. Sweden and that area have always had a special relationship to Constantinople, which was more direct than its relationship to Rome.

  5. The name Austria derives from Oest, “east”, as I understand, but it seems to derive from Austral “south” — both make sense, since Austria is SE of the places where names often come from (Paris, London, Berlin, etc.)
    Pronounced in English, “oest” looks like “west”, too.
    A version of the name “Austria” is first attested from 996, so they had a millenium ceremony a few years back.

  6. “I read just recently that the claim that the Swedes were Goths was made mostly during the period of Sweden’s imperialist dreams”
    No, 19th century romantic nationalists made a bigger deal of it. I’ll grant that the governments who made the most of it wre probably those from the 2nd half of the 17th century.
    (ca. 1550? — 1709),
    well, i suppose there were *dreams* before the 1620s. And well into the 18th century, unfortunately.
    especially by Karl XII, who came closer to conquering Russia than Napoleon did.”
    No, he didn’t.
    “Sweden and that area have always had a special relationship to Constantinople, which was more direct than its relationship to Rome.”
    Most certainly not!

  7. John, “oeste” is Spanish for “west”. But then Italian has “caldo” for “hot”, which has always been too close to Germanic words for “cold” for me. What would Zamenhof do?

  8. Zamenhof could have used the polish word (zimno?), but instead he picked “malvarma” for “cold”.
    Pity he didn’t use “malokcidenta” for “east” and “malorienta” for “west”.

  9. From my blog three weeks or so ago:
    “For a long time, the Swedes were convinced their forefathers had been the Goths and were extremely proud of the fact. Though the Scandinavian origins of the Goths have been cast into doubt by recent archaeology, lingusitic echoes must have led past historians to make the association between Swedes and Goths, for instance, tribes called the Götar lived in central Sweden and the island of Gotland lies just off the coast. In the Middle Ages, Swedish writers fused the claim of the Italian Ostrogothic historian Jordanes (sixth century AD) that the Goths had originated in the “island of Scanzia” (i.e. Scandinavia) with the belief of the Spanish Visigothic encyclopaedist, Bishop Isidore of Seville (560-632), that the Goths were descendants of the Biblical giant Magog. As Joerg-Peter Findeisen puts it in his book Schweden (my translation):

    Some time around the year 1330 an anonymous Swedish cleric translated the five books of Moses and in his Swedish-language introduction expressed the certitude that his people was descended from Noah’s grandson Magog. This was the first mention of what for many Swedes became an unshakeable belief and a valid dogma: the son of the Biblical Japhet was the “ancestor of the Goths and Svear”. The Mediaeval writer informed his contemporaries that the then empty Europe had been colonised from Sweden.


    When in the years following 1431 Pope Martin V wanted to discuss Church reform at the Council of Basel, the bishop from the little town of Växjö, Nicholas Ragvaldi, astonished his entire audience with a highly idiosyncratic interpretation of Swedish rights. The future Bishop of Uppsala informed the representatives of Europe’s greatest nations that the Church of Sweden deserved a front row seat amongst the assembled churches. After all, he represented one of the oldest peoples on earth. Only the Israelites could bear comparison with the Goths. Since, however, only the kingdom of Sweden still existed, it was therefore the world’s oldest state. As the history books said, the Goths had burst out of Sweden, fought alongside the Trojans, beaten the Persians, conquered Rome and terrified the pharaohs of Egypt.

    But the “Gothic myth” really reached its apogee in the work of Johannes Magnus, a Swedish Catholic bishop who had gone into voluntary exile in Rome after his country had turned to Protestantism in the 1530s. Magnus intended his history of the kings of Sweden (published posthumously in 1554) as the equivalent of The Goths: a Warning from History. Magnus was eager to convert Sweden back to Catholicism and persuade other European monarchs that unless Sweden was returned to the Roman fold, it would prove a grave risk to the continent. He argued that the Nordic peoples “belong the the mighty race of the Goths and there is a constant danger that they, like their forefathers, might once more become a terrible threat to the Pope, the Empire and the other nations of Europe.” Magnus’ ideas were eagerly taken up by the Protestant kings of Sweden, who ignored his religious arguments and concentrated on his appeal for a patriotic awakening and used his theory as a justification for Swedish territorial expansion. It’s no surprise that the cult of the Goths was most popular between the reigns of Gustavus Adolphus (came to the throne 1611) and Charles XII (died 1718), the only era in its history when Sweden was a great power, overrunning Germany, Poland, Denmark and the eastern Baltic. With the failure of Charles XII at the Battle of Poltava and the subsequent decline of Swedish military might, the myth began to lose its hold. By 1734 , Sweden was no longer being referred to in official documents as the “homeland of the Goths”.”

  10. David — Yes, I do exaggerate at times.
    The Gothic-Varangian route to Constantinople, perhaps last fllowed by Karl XII, is one of my many hobby-horses.
    As far as Karl XII goes (the Mad Prince who gets more appreciation from military history buffs than from actual Swedes), the way I’ve read the story there were several turning points where things didn’t go the Swedes’ way, especially the failure of the Cossacks to come through, and that otherwise they would have done much better. I don’t hear that about Napoleon. But I am far from an expert.
    My information about the Sweden-Constantinople pipeline is strongest in the 900 years leading up to 1709, when Karl XII ended up Istanbul. After that date I only have the Swedo-Armenian diplomat and scholar D’Ohsson, though that’s quite an astonishing story.
    But when the Fourth Crusades reached Constantinople, they found the Swedes already there in the palace guard, having come down from the North rather than via the Mediterranean. And in 1066, Harold Hardrada came all the way from Constantinople to claim the English throne. Before Russia became powerful Sweden also extended influence down into Eastern Europe.
    Granted, I’m mixing up the various Norse, but my point was that for a very long time Sweden and Scandinavia had a reach to the East and South that most the rest of Western Europe didn’t have. They weren’t just the cold, poor, far northern end of the European Catholic world.

  11. So were the Goths Swedes? Or at least Gotlanders? Or is it a myth? Or do we still not know?

  12. From what I’ve found (Heather and Wolfram) the Goths were a Germanic people from the south shore of the Baltic. Their language was Eastern Germanic — neither Scandinavian nor Western Germanic (German, Dutch, English). We have no non-Gothic record of Eastern Germanic.
    However, the actual Goths of history were a mixed group whose leaders were of Gothic origin. They very soon were a different people than the original Goths in the north, if any remained there. They were a borderer people of Rome, sometimes inside the borders and sometimes outside.
    Goths survived until as late as 1500 in the Crimea.
    Jordanes was a Goth at/after the end of the Roman Empire. His History of the Goths is on line. It’s amazing. The Goths themselves seem to have believed that their origin was in Scandinavia.
    History of the Goths

  13. “malokcidenta” for “east” and “malorienta” for “west”
    are valid (though less used) words in the nowadays Esperanto 😉

  14. Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch, die Oesterriche Sprache (the language of Austria) says

    > Pronounced in English, “oest” looks like “west”, too.
    And pronounced in German, the language of Austria, it sounds like what an American English speaker might write as “ayst”. That is, “east” pronounced with a funny accent.

  15. Bruce Parker says

    I just got into blogging and I absolutely love it, so thanks, I keep track of this blog as well as 5 others so far.

  16. Bruce, I’m truly touched by your devotion, so much so that although I deleted the six identical comments you left on other entries, I kept this one, only deleting the URL of the spam site you inadvertently linked to. Please keep on keeping track, and best of luck in all your endeavors!

  17. ” “malokcidenta” for “east” and “malorienta” for “west”
    are valid (though less used) words in the nowadays Esperanto ;)”
    Really? A language that can define things by what they’re not? Amazing.
    But how would you know that “malorienta” is west and not, say, south or NNE (which both are also ‘un-west’)? Do you automatically understand it to be the opposite? And how do Esperantist treat words that have no immediate diametrical opposite – like for instance colours (verdo – malverdo)?

  18. SN: It’s not necessary that malverda mean anything. Esperanto also has plain negative ne-, so “nongreen” (the set of colors of dead leaves, considered as a single color?) can be neverda.
    Hat: the gibberish pages where you found the word of the day are not spam traps, they’re search-spoofers: members of large families of pages that link to each other, and eventually to a page selling V**gra or whatever, in the hope of enhancing its PageRank.

  19. Braŭljo says

    SN: To elaborate on what Anton said, mal- specifically means the opposite of something, the noun “malo” literally means opposite. The prefix is only used when the word has a direct opposite so it can’t be placed on any word, and the obvious opposite of west is east.

  20. “So were the Goths Swedes? Or at least Gotlanders? Or is it a myth? Or do we still not know?”

    For what it may be worth: for many years one of the titles of the Danish monarchs was King ~ Queen of the Goths, until the present monarch, Queen Margrethe II abolished it soon after ascending the throne (in 1972).

    Regarding the Esperanto morpheme mal-, one of Zamenhof’s goals was to make the language as easy as possible to learn, to which end he tried to keep the number of morphemes as small as possible.

    For example, instead of having a morpheme meaning ‘slow’ and one meaning ‘fast’, he picked just the latter (rapid-), so that the Esperanto adjective for ‘slow’ is malrapida.

  21. David Marjanović says

    Oh, it gets better – one of the many titles of the Swedish king was “King of Gothia” until recently.

  22. John Cowan says

    obvious opposite of west is east

    This reminds me of Mr. K*A*P*L*A*N’s five-opposites exercise in the beginner’s grade of the American Night Preparatory School for Adults: spic/span, tall/shrimp, North Carolina/South Carolina — at which point his everlasting adversary Olga Tarnova sarcastically inquires: “Is Minsk the opposite Pinsk?” — up/down, nightmare/daymare.

  23. See the Update for the OED’s 2020 revised entry.

  24. This antedate is cheating a little. I think Guidott was merely Englishing a Latin book title.

  25. Well, here’s the original footnote (from the 1708 edition — Google Books hasn’t digitized the first):

    * Confirm’d by Georgius Sadolinus, Jonas Koldingensis, Claudius Lysander, a M S T in the Royal Academy at Copenhagen, and the Sueogothic Chronicle.

    I don’t know what “M S T” means or what the “Sueogothic Chronicle” was.

  26. Hm. I see older references (in Latin) to “Sueo-Gothicum Chronicon” by Messenius, which I suppose is what Guidott is talking about. Is that the Chronicon Episcoporum per Sueciam?

    Since “Sueogothic” is not italicized, unlike “Chronicle”, that makes a better case for it being nativized.

  27. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Claudius Lysander was probably this Claus Lyschander/Klaus Lyskander, but the funny thing is that Det kongelige danske videnskabernes Selskab wasn’t founded until 1742. So what Guidott in 1705 meant by the Royal Academy at Copenhagen escapes me. Much less M S T. L was the Royal Historiographer to Frederick II, but the da.wikt page (which is cribbed verbatim from the 1st edition of the Danish Biographical Encyclopedia [vol. X, 1896]) does not mention an Academy.

    Sadolin is a well-known Danish surname, and Kolding is, well, Kolding. It has a mediaeval castle.

  28. Doesn’t solve the mystery, but here’s another early example, from Travels through Denmark and some parts of Germany: by way of journal in the retinue of the English Envoy, in 1702 … :

    But all these Divinity Readers, and all Masters of Colleges, before they are admitted into such Stations, are to be examined by the Professors of the Royal Academy of Copenhagen. Art. 9.

  29. MST is an abbreviation for manuscript.

  30. Thanks!

  31. David Marjanović says

    Since “Sueogothic” is not italicized, unlike “Chronicle”, that makes a better case for it being nativized.

    No, the whole footnote is italicized, except that all proper names and the adjectives derived from them are counter-italicized.

    Compare the other picture, with Copenhagen.

    That was common at the time.

  32. Quite right. Duh of me.

  33. Maybe it’s just Swedish Chronicle

  34. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    So M S T is not the title of Klaus Lyskander, but a further confirmation of Guidott’s claim (a manuscript held at the Royal Academy at Copenhagen) The date thing is still a mystery, there was no Royal Academy of Copenhagen before 1742 (that I have been able to find). But it’s also mentioned in that 1702 travel journal.

  35. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    In that travel journal on page 58 (’s page “n65”) there is a description of the Royal stables and their enclosed tournament field (now Ridebanen), called there “the Royal Academy,” attached to the newly built first Christiansborg, (The current seat of Parliament is in the 3rd or 4th Christiansborg, after various fires, but the stables are still the ones from the early 18th, though the horses had to be moved because the MBAs in the ministries didn’t like the smell). Why the Royal Stables should hold a manuscript of interest to Guidott I don’t know, but it’s the closest I can get to something that an English author in the seventeen-naughts would call the Royal Academy in Copenhagen.

  36. Perhaps the institution is the one whose foundation by Christian I after 1475 is described on page 329 of Travels through Denmark, in the paragraph beginning “The Academy of Copenhagen is none the least of the ornaments of that city”, and which in time expanded into the University of Copenhagen. The buildings were originally around Sankt Petri Kirke?

  37. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    I neglected to search further in that 1702 travel journal, sorry. On pages 329ff, it describes the buildings housing the University of Copenhagen as the Royal Academy, built 1475, and used from 1536 for the training of Protestant clergy. It’s a bit inconsistent in its usage, but the Professors of the Royal Academy would seem to be those of the Faculty of Theology, if that was even a thing separate from the University sensu lato in 1702. That fits better with keeping manuscripts and approving masters of colleges and Divinity Readers (one at each cathedral plus one in Odense; but Odense was a bishop seat since 988 and the current cathedral is from the 13th century, so why it’s mentioned separately as a Town is a mystery)

    And yes, St Peter’s church (now home to the German-language lutheran-evangelical Gemeinde of Copenhagen) is like 200m from the University’s main building, and until recently there were lots of university facilities down Sankt Petersgade. It’s the center of the Latin Quarter.

  38. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    (Hmm, it suddenly strikes me that perhaps Odensee had two of the buggers, it being somewhat on the larger side as Danish bishoprics go). /me crawls back up from the rabbit hole.

    It is scurrilously reported that the 1479 date of the first charter of the U. of Copenhagen is a white lie, since the relevant king failed to get the Pope’s permission to teach Theology and it sort of died on the wine until 1536 when the king had stopped listening to the Pope and gave it a new Protestant charter. But 1479 is still in the seal. I was enrolled when they held the 500th anniversary; it remains to be seen if institutional memory happens to fail them and they do another one in 2036.

  39. I’m proposing MST as Master of Sueogothic Terminology.

  40. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    It’s Sankt Peders Stræde if you feel called to consult a map. The church is on the corner with Nørregade.

  41. Trond Engen says

    Lars M.: Divinty Readers.

    Katedralskoler, i.e. schools (originally) run by the Cathedral Chapter? I would be surprised if Odense had more than one. Latinskoler were establised in many towns from the 16th century, but I think those were towns without a cathedral school.

  42. Trond Engen says

    Københavns akademi may have been founded in 1479, but there was another one up and running in:Lund. The school was dissolved and its buildings demolished after the Reformation. I guess that improved the market situation for the king’s new institution in that maverick port across the Sound

    (I once gave “Lund” as the answer to a quiz question of which Scandinavian university is the oldest. I didn’t get the point, and it has bothered me ever since. Now I can find peace.)

  43. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    But note that the Academy at Lund was established by decision of the general chapter of the Dominican order, not by the king. Maybe that’s why the Copenhagen one was called the Royal Academy when it was set up.

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