What Are People From Switzerland Called?

What is someone from Switzerland called?

Someone from Switzerland is called Swiss.

In the strictest legal sense of someone’s nationality and citizenship, if they are born in Switzerland or to Swiss parents, then they are Swiss.

Swiss Flag

There are, though, multiple ways this might manifest. The simplest, of course, is if someone is born in Switzerland to Swiss parents.

They are, legally, in every sense of the word, Swiss.

But if someone was born outside Switzerland to Swiss parents, no doubt Switzerland would still be an important part of their identity.

girl holds Switzerland flag on gray backgrou

Equally, in the opposite way, someone born in Switzerland to non-Swiss parents may feel themselves to be Swiss in some sense.

Beyond this, though, there are multiple ethno-linguistic groups that comprise the Swiss population.

There are four national languages in Switzerland: German, French, Italian, and Romansh.

The largest is the German-speaking population, which represents around 62% of the country.

Smiling african woman speaks sign language with friends by video call while sitting in cozy

They speak varieties of what is called Alemannic German, one of many High German dialects. They are historically descended from the admixture of Gauls and Romans in Central Europe.

The French-speaking population then makes up a further 22% of the country’s population. They speak what are called Franco-Provencal dialects, which are mostly assimilated into the standardized French language, or Swiss French.

Again, they are amalgamated from Gallo-Roman peoples of antiquity, though also with the Burgundian people. Even if only by language, they are considered a distinct group.

Finally, you then have the Italian speaking people of Switzerland, who make up around 8% of the population, and the Romansh, who make up a further 0.5%.

Any and all of these people may simultaneously feel themselves to be Swiss in a very important sense, while also being associated linguistically with a subgroup of the country’s population.

Where does the name “Switzerland” come from?

Switzerland, of course, is an English name for the country, and is ultimately a portmanteau of two words: Switzer is, of course, the one we are interested in—we all know what “land” means.

Switzer is a now obsolete term that referred to a Swiss person, used from the 16th century up to the 19th Century.

This term ultimately derives from the Alemannic word Schwiizer, originally meaning an inhabitant of Schwyz, a small town in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Schwyz.

This is attested as far back as the 10th Century. It’s thought to be related to the word swedan, an Old Norse Word meaning to burn or singe.

Of course, Switzerland as a modern nation is a relatively recent phenomenon, in the sense that most countries only recently became “nation states” when compared with their long histories.

So, Switzerland is essentially just a name for the country for the people who live there.


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