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Schweiz, Suisse, Svizzera, Svizra. Switzerland has four names in its four national languages, and that’s not counting the domestic versions of the country’s official name, Confoederatio Helvetica (pictured above). But how do other European nations refer to the land of the Swiss? I decided to take a look at the names used for Switzerland in different European languages – book research really can take you off in odd directions! – and compiled a list:

Albanian Zvicer Basque Suitza Bulgarian Швейцария (Švejcàrija) Catalan Suïssa Croatian Švicarska Czech Švýcarsko Danish Schweiz Dutch Zwitserland Esperanto Svislando Estonian Šveits Finnish Sveitsi Greek Eλβετία Hungarian Svájc Icelandic Sviss Irish An EilvéisLatvian ŠveiceLithuanian ŠveicarijaMaltese ŻvizzeraNorwegian SveitsPolish SzwajcariaPortuguese SuíçaRomanian ElvețiaRussian Швейцария (Švejcàrija)Slovenian ŠvicaSerbian Швајцарска (Švajcarska)Spanish SuizaSwedish Schweiz Turkish İsviçreWelsh Swistir

What’s interesting about that list is that only three European languages – Greek, Irish (Gaelic) and Romanian – use a version of the ancient name, Helvetia. All the others are more or less recognisable as variations on the domestic German, French, Italian or Romansh, ie all roughly derived from Schwyz, the canton that helped start the country and gave it its modern name. Please tell me if any are wrong; I had to use quite a few different sources to assemble the names, so mistakes may have crept in!

If we look at Switzerland’s biggest neighbour, we see a completely different picture. Germany has six different types of name, depending on the root. For example, in its own language it is Deutschland , in French Allemagne, in Italian Germania, in Polish Niemcy, in Finnish Saksa and in Lithuanian Vokietija. What a muddle! It might be at the heart of Europe, but Germany is certainly not the same thing to different European nations. Perhaps that explains much of 20th-century history in Europe?

This uniformity of names might just be one reason why Switzerland has such a prominent place in people’s minds; there’s no misunderstanding where is being talked about. And when it comes to adjectives, the English one is gaining prominence over the domestic languages in Switzerland.

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Maybe English is trendy for marketing, maybe it’s easier to have one adjective rather than four, or maybe English is slowly becoming the fifth (unofficial) language and the main one spoken across the linguistic divides.

Whatever the reason, Switzerland has Swiss things popping up everywhere: Swiss international airline, Swisscom telecoms company, Swiss Re insurance, Swiss Market Index (SMI), Swiss Life insurance, Swissmem association, Swissport airport services, and so it goes on. It seems that, no matter what they call their own country, Switzerland’s inhabitants are happy to be known simply as Swiss.