What do Romanians call themselves?

Answered by John Hunt

Romanians, as a people, have historically referred to themselves as “Rumâni” or “Români.” This endonym, derived from the Latin term “Romanus,” reflects the historical connection between the Romanian people and the Roman Empire. The use of this name by Romanians dates back to the Middle Ages and continues to be the primary self-identification today.

However, throughout history, Romanians have also been referred to by various exonyms, names given to them by foreigners. One of the most common exonyms for Romanians is “Wallachians” or “Vlachs.” These terms originated from the Germanic word “walha,” which referred to speakers of Romance languages and eventually came to be associated with the Romanians.

The use of the term “Wallachians” or its variations, such as “vlah,” “valah,” “valach,” “voloh,” “blac,” “olăh,” “vlas,” “ilac,” “ulah,” and so on, can be traced back to the Middle Ages when the Romanian territories were divided into several principalities. One of these principalities, Wallachia, was often used as a blanket term for all Romanians, leading to the common exonym “Wallachians.”

It is worth noting that the use of exonyms can sometimes carry negative connotations or stereotypes. In the case of the term “Vlachs,” it has been associated with notions of pastoralism, nomadism, or even inferiority in certain historical contexts. As a result, some Romanians may have rejected or resented the use of exonyms and preferred to use their endonym, “Rumâni” or “Români,” as a way to assert their own identity and cultural heritage.

In contemporary times, Romanians primarily refer to themselves as “Români” or “Rumâni” both within their country and in international contexts. This endonym reflects their historical roots and cultural connections to the Roman Empire. While the exonym “Wallachians” or “Vlachs” may still be encountered in certain historical or academic contexts, it is not commonly used by Romanians themselves.

To summarize, Romanians call themselves “Români” or “Rumâni,” which is their endonym. This name reflects their historical connection to the Roman Empire. While they have been referred to by various exonyms, such as “Wallachians” or “Vlachs,” throughout history, the endonym remains the primary self-identification for Romanians.