Angles

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The Angles is a modern English word for a Germanic-speaking people who took their name from the ancestral cultural region of Angeln, a district located in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. The Angles were one of the main groups that settled in Britain in the post-Roman period, founding several of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, and their name is the root of the name "England".

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Etymology

The ethnic name "Angle" has had various forms and spellings, the earliest attested being the Latinized name Anglii, a Germanic tribe mentioned in the Germania of Tacitus.

The original noun from which this adjective was produced has not been determined with confidence. The stem is theorized to have had the form *Ang?l/r-. The more prominent etymological theories concerning the name's origin have included:

  • Derivation from the Latin word angulus, translating as "angle".
  • The Old English word for the Jutlandic district of Angeln (where the Angles are believed to have emigrated from) is Angel. This is the preferred etymological theory amongst historians, and may connect to Angle (the peninsula is noted for its "angular" shape).
  • It may mean "the people who dwell by the Narrow Water," (i.e. the Schlei), from the Proto-Indo-European language root ang- meaning "narrow".
  • Derivation from the Germanic god Ingwaz or the Ingvaeones federation of which the Angles were part (the initial vowel could as well be "a" or "e").

Pope Gregory the Great is the first known to have simplified Anglii to Angli, which he did in an epistle, the latter form developing into the preferred form of the word in Britain and throughout the continent (the generic form becoming Anglus in answer). The country remained Anglia in Latin. Meanwhile, there are several likenesses of form and meaning attested in Old English literature: King Alfred's (Alfred the Great) translation of Orosius' history of the world uses Angelcynn (-kin) to describe England and the English people; Bede used Angelfolc (-folk); there are also such forms as Engel, Englan (the people), Englaland, and Englisc, all showing signs of vocalic mutation and later developing into the dominant forms.

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