Home Sheetmusic Folksongs Friese bladmuziek 1000 Friese Gedichten 1000 Friese Schilderijen Old Friesland maps 1664 Maps of Frisian Counties 1718 Maps of Frisian Counties Friese MP3

Frisian Tongue /Friese Taal
Quick links


Early Frisian Records

Roman Place Names in England

Frisian Migrations to England

Frisian Place Names in England

Frisian DNA same as English

Frisian Family Names

Germanic Languages

Frisian Linguistics

Frisian - English similarities

Friesland after 600AD

Germanic Etymology

Teutonic Mythology

Frisian Dictionaries

Frisian Literature

Modern Friesian Exports

last updated Aug 2018

"Fries Volkslied / National Anthem" door/ by 'de Kast'

Back to top

Early Frisians during Roman times

Northern Europe 2000 years ago:

On the northern border of the Roman empire, around the time of Christ, the Rhine formed a natural barier between the Germanic barbarians and the Roman legions. The tribes had moved there after the breakup of Celtic Europe around 300BC, who had sacked Rome in 369BC. Historians Tacitus, 58-117AD ('Germania', 'Agricola', 'Annals') and Pliny the Elder (23-79AD) mention a score of Germanic tribes that resisted Roman expansion beyond this boundary, 'spirited antagonists' who 'loved freedom more than life', 'destroying, capturing and cutting to pieces Roman Legions', or in cases, suffering 'dearly bought' Roman victories.

Germanic peoples 150AD

The Rhine becomes the boundary:

In 9AD Roman general Varus with 3 legions (~18K soldiers making up the 17th, 18th, and 19th legions) was soundly defeated in the Teutoburg Forest by the Germanic Cheruski, despite having received warnings beforehand.

Tacitus describes in 'the Annals of Imperial Rome' how the Frisians revolted against imposed Roman duties in 28AD and defeated the Romans in the battle of Baduhenna Wood, and appear to have been left in peace thereafter. Claudius in 43AD shifted Roman attention away from the Rhine to the conquest of Britannia.

The Rhine remained well protected by the invited presence of the Batavian cohorts, and who also played an important part in the subsequent Roman conquest of Brittania (ref. 'Agricola').

Not until an assortment of Germanic tribes (Tungri, Vandals) crossed the frozen Rhine in 406 did the mass migration start in full force, partly spurred on by the beastly Huns, a cruel swarthy horse tribe from the innards of distant Asia, as well as greed. Combined with a weakened Roman Empire, breaking its the last barrier meant its eventual demise.

Germanic Tribes across the Rhine in the Roman days:

These are some of the Germanic tribes above the Rhine which merited recognition in the days of the Romans. At an earlier stage Julius Caesar mentions these four which lived in the same area as Tacitus later mention of various Germanic tribes: the Condrusi, the Eburones, the Caeroesi and the Paemani.

According to Taylor (p46), many early mentions by the Romans of tribal names contain the suffix -ware or inhabitants: Ing-uari-i, Rip-uari-i, Chatt-uari-i, Chas-uari-i, Att-uari-i, Angri-vari-i, Ansi-bari-i, Boi-oari-i (Ba-vari-a), Cant-ware (people form Kent), Cant-wara-byrig (Cant-er-bury)., Bulg-ari-ans (Volga people).
Pliny mentions this in Chapter 15: Islands in the Gallic Ocean.

"In the Rhine itself, for almost an hundred Miles in Length, is the most noble Island of the Batavi, Cannenufates ; and others of the Frisii, Cauchi, Frisiaboni, Sturii, and Marsatii, which are spread between Helius and Flevus. For so are the Mouths called, into which Rhenus, as it gushes, scatters itself: from the North into Lakes; from the West into the River Mosa. But in the middle Mouth between these, he keepeth a small Channel, of his own name".

Tacitus lists the following tribes in 'Germania' and 'Agricola', (98AD):

Marsi, Gambrivii, Vandali, Caninefates, Batavi (of the Chatti), Tungri (across the Rhine), Mattiaca, Aravisci, Treves, Chatti (Hessians), Usipii (~Usipetes), Tencteri, Bructeri, Chamavi and Agrivarii (~here presumed Saxon tribes, later called the Franks, and sometimes referred to as 'Sygambrians' by Romans), Dulgibini, Chasuarii, Frisii (Greater and Lesser), Chauci (~later called Saxons), Cherusci, Fosi, Cimbri, Suevi (~Schwabians), Semnones, Langobardi (~Lombards), Reudigni, Angli (~Angles), Avioni, Waringi, Eudoses, Suardones, Nuithrones, Hermunduri, Naristi, Markomanni, Quadi, Marsigni, Burii, Lygians, comprising of (H)arii, Helvecones, Manimi, Elysii, and Naharvali; coastal Gothones (~Goths), Rugii and Lemovii, and across the water the Suiones (~Swedes), and Sitones

'Missing' tribes:

Note that Saxons, Jutes, Franks, Allemanni (Alamani), Teutons, and Burgundians are not found in Tacitus decription of Germania (98AD). Pliny (23 - 79AD) does mention (NH 4-99) as part of the Vandalii confederacy, the (small) tribe of the Burgodiones (Burgundians), the Varinnae, the Charini and the Gutones (Goths), which became the Jutes of Denmark. The Vandali, Suevi and Lygians are considered collective names, like the Allemanni, and the later Franks and Saxons and Longobards ('long beards'). In fact, Taylor even suggest that the latter's very names look to be derived from equipment of the invading hosts, "whether armed with javelin (franca), sword (seax), or partisan (Langbarta)". Be aware that historical naming is frequently done by 'outsiders' (peculiarities may strike an outsider, but not a native), rarely the people themselves (the 'Finns' call their land 'Suomi'; the Romans named the 'Germani' after one tribe by that name (the Tungri who first crossed the Rhine, ref. Tacitus. The Welsh call themselves 'Cymry', '(North) Wales' and 'Cornwales', and 'Waals (=Walonie or French Belgium) is the Germanic synonyms for 'foreign'). Of all the mentioned Germanic tribes in 'Germania', few remain in existence today: the Frisians (Frisii), the English (Angli), the Saxons (Saxony), the Schwabians (the Suevi) and the Swedes (Suiones). Several other tribal designations 'of old' remain visible in modern geography, like Bay-ern and Boh-emia (the Celtic 'Boii'), the 'Betuwe' in NL and 'Batavia' (=Djakarta) (Batavians), the 'Twente' region in NL (the Tubanti), Catalonia and Jutland (the Goths/Jutes), Cumbria (the Celtic Cymry)., 'Tongeren', 'Tongerloo' (the Tungri), 'Lombardy' (the Langobardi), 'Bourgondy' (the Burgundians), 'France', 'Frank-furt', 'Franken-land', 'Franc-onia' (the small tribe of the Franks who colonized a portion of Central France), Allemagne (French for Germany), Saxony (Saxons) and Andal-usia (the Vandals).

Likewise Asser strongly asserts that the term 'Deutch' was initiated by Franks in the 8th century, first to indicate the Germanic tongues (as different from the Latin of Romantic ones), and later for the Germanic races, as derived from the Frankish term 'Theotisci' which later became Diutisk, then Deutch (and Dutch in English)

Tribal distribution 2000 year ago

Scandinavian origins of Germanic tribes:

Interestingly, many Germanic tribes trace their origins to Scandinavia, be it via legend, names or language (Angli, Jutes, Langobards, Franks, Vandals, and Goths, are all known to have hailed from the distant North (there is an area in Northern Sweden called 'Vendel', like 'Salland' in Holland (named after the Salian Franks on their decent from the North to modern France), like Frankenland (the Hessian Franks in central Germany). Renowned linguist Jacob Grimm holds 'the Frisians in every sense the transition of the continental peoples to the Scandinavians' (customs, language, veneration of groves, idol worship) (Teutonic Mythology, Vol 1).

The Goths, of whom nothing is known before 250AD, also hail from Scandinavia: they did leave the Ulfilas translation of the Bible of around 350AD, one of the oldest. The name of the Danish peninsula 'Jutland', whence the Jutes, is said to derive from 'Gotland' according to Alfred the Great's translation of Orosius' Roman history (~850 AD). Goths were presumed by Procopius (~500 – 554 AD) to be an assembly of related and likeminded peoples, later divided up and named after various leaders. Interestingly, the Gothic word for Father, "Atta' closely resembles the Frisian 'Heit' for father, as in "æt", the old Danish word for family or lineage. All other Germanic languages use derivatives of the word Pater/Vater.

These traveling Goths split into the East and West Goths, known to history as Ostrogoths and Visigoths, who later roamed to Southern Europe and Iberia (a form of Gothic was even spoken in the Crimea up to the 18th century). After the Romans had been defeated by the Visigoths in 379AD, Rome itself was sacked in 410AD by Alaric, king of the Visigoths, and Genseric king of the Vandals sacked Rome in 455AD after gaining control of Roman North Africa and sacking Carthage in 439AD.

An unlikely coastal depopulation view:

A view compiled in the last decade or so, proposes that the original Frisians are not the same as those of post-Roman times. Inclement weather, rising sea levels, Roman servitude, coastal raiding, and Saxon migratory destruction are possible contributing factors. This would, in addition to well known mercenary (cohort) services (as a form of Roman tribute) by many Germanic tribes, however, seem to go in the face of archeological finds of, for instance, the Franks just 100 miles south in central Netherlands along the Rhine.

The Salian Franks, who in the same general period up to 500AD thrived and increased greatly in numbers, status and wealth, were living in the same climatic (cold and wet) conditions, close to the sea (subject to raiders), significantly closer to the oppressive Romans (ref. 'Romeinen, Friezen, Franken in het Hart van Nederland', by van Es and van Hessen), and were part of the general migrations of the day. Similarly, the coastal tribe of the Chauci (later called 'Saxons') are listed by Tacitus as being not only 'in control of a large territory but filling it', to such an extent that they overflowed into Britannia not long thereafter.

What about Frisia Maiores which extended well beyond the higher elevations just south of the coast line, which in any case was further south then as it is now (note today's once-coastal names for inland towns ending on -Geest (=higher sand ridge, as in Grootegast, Westergeest, Uitgeest) and -Schoot (=bay, as in OudeSchoot, Aalschoot). Yet ancient Frisians disappeared entirely from the map between the period of Roman peace and prosperity (the Pax Romana (!) 50 -250AD), only to reappear in name and custom after 400AD with their Frisian language and nomenclature intact, as 'Saxons no less? (see the references to numerous Frisian names in Britain below, many more than names referring to Saxon of Anglian descent in Britain). No people except the Hebrews have ever returned from such a diaspora, and they were the chosen ones.

In any case, it appears that the 'archeological disappearance' concerns mostly the area of West Friesland (present North Holland) and not all parts of (present) Friesland and Groningen. DNA research may settle the issue, as it appears to corroborate mass migration to Britain around 500AD, correlating with an expected depopulation of the continent. Earlier departure by the Frisians due to closer proximity to Britain (even as Roman cohorts in the first century in Kent, well before the Anglo and Saxon migrations) could explain the many geographically Frisian place names in Britain that we do not seem to find for the other tribes. In any case, Frisian and English (Anglo-Saxon) DNA is closely intertwined (=indistinghuishable), obviously stemming from a common genealogical root (see earlier).

Map showing location of Frisii Maiores and Frisii Minores, by Menso Alting (1697)

Roman Placenames on the continent:

Many place names (nearly all) on the Rhine river as later in Britannia derive from Roman names of old.

Roman names along the Rhine (squares showing forts), from "Romeinen, Friezen, Franken' by van Es

Some town names with Roman origins along the Rhine boundary:

Bonn (Bonna)

Koln (Colonia Claudia Agripinensis)

Aachen (Aquisgranium)

Xanten (Castra Vetera)

Nijmegen (Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum)

Kesteren (Castra)

Maurik (Mauricium)

Utrecht (Trajectum ad Rhenum = 'ford')

Leiden (Lugdunum Batavorum)

Alphen (Albaniana)

Roman Place Names in Britain

Roman town names in Britannia, from John Burke's excellent 'Roman England'

Some names with Roman origins in Britannia (note: Castra = Roman Fort = Chester/Cester/Caster/Xeter):

Bath (Aquae Sulis)

Brancaster (Branodumun)

Carlisle (Luguvallium)

Colchester (Camelodumun)

Lincoln (Lindum)

Doncaster (Danum)

Dorchester (Dornovaria)

Dover (Dubris)

Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum)

Gloucester (Glevum)

Leicester (Ratae Coritanorum)

London (Londinium)

Manchester (Mamucium)

Silchester (Calleva Atrebatum)

Veralium (St Albans)

Winchester (Venta Belgarum)

Wroxeter (Viroconium Cornoviorum)

York (Eboratum)

Collapse of the Roman Empire:

The Roman internal decline was followed by the rampage of the Huns under Atilla, an extremely violent and rapacious Asiatic tribe from the east who were only defeated in 451AD by Roman general Flavius Aetius at the Cataluanian Plains (in modern France), and finally by the Visigoths in 469AD, after which the Huns disappear from history (while leaving their name to Hun-gary and later peoples).

451AD - Huns against the Romans and later the Visigoths

During the collapse of the Roman empire between 400 and 500AD (it had ceased to exist in 476AD), many of these Germanic tribes became restless and started migrating, drawn in part by the obvious power vacuum (pursued by the Salian Franks!), although no immediate cause is known. Possibly population pressure, although hard to imagine in a modern context.

Migration of Frisian people and language

Germanic migrations to Britannia:

In the fifth century Angles and Jutes from today's Denmark, Frisians from the North Sea coast, and Saxons from Northern Germany pushed their way via the Northern European coast into Britain, ending some 470 years of Roman rule. Roman historian Procopius (500 - 554 AD) in his 'Gothic Wars', describes Frisians among the three nations Angiloi, Phrissones, and Britones, that inhabited Britain in his time. 'Saxons' were supposed by him to be the collective term for the Teutonic (Germanic) tribes harrassing the coast in the latter days of the Roman empire. Continental Frisian speakers occupied an area called Frisia Magna, or Greater Frisia, along the coast between the Schelde (north of Gaul, around modern Belgium) and past the Weser near Denmark, location of present day 'North Frisian Isles' and Schleswig-Holstein (taken from Denmark by Germany in 1864). The Roman historians like Tacitus referred to these peoples as the coastal Ingaevones, as separate from the inland Istvaeones, (likely the later, land-based Franks) and Irminones, or Herminones (the Elbe or East Germanic tribes).

Place names on the continent as evidence of Saxon/Frisian migrations:

Migrating Saxons have left evidence by place names along the Northsea coast named after them, like Sexbierum (Friesland) and Sassenheim (South Holland), and Essex, Sussex and Wessex in England (=Angleland, itself derived from the Angles). Still today West Flanders shows Saxon and Frisian place names (Fressain (Fresinghem), Freton), Ref. Taylor below, 'Words and Places', P86 that also occur in England, found after the crossing of the same people.

Saxon Patronymic Villages in France (Taylor, 'Words and Places', p96)

Related Saxon place names in France and in England

Frisian place names in Britannia as evidence of migrations:

The Angles, Jutes, Saxons and Frisians clearly spoke a mutually intelligible Germanic language (which became 'Olde English') that diverged AFTER arriving in various parts of England, not before (ref. Edmunds below, p16), as evidenced by distinct place names' suffixes (-by, -thorpe , -brough, -wick (Angle), -hem (-um), -ton, -berg, -ing (Frisian), -ham, -ton, -bury, -ing (Saxon)), as shown by Taylor and qouted by Barber here.

Ewen's History of Surnames of the British Isles makes a case that Saxon names with the genitive -ing were eventually replaced by the arrival of the later Scandinavians, although still evident in place names like Bas-ing-stoke. Taylor shows how many German (Saxon/Frisian) placenames ending on -ing are similar on both sides of the Channel.
The Frisian speakers among the invaders left a number of (geographic) Frisian place names in various counties of England:

Yorkshire: Frising Hall (Fresinghale), Fryston(e), Fraisthorpe, Frisby (Friseby)

Leicester: Frisby on the Wreake, Frisby, Frisby Lodge, Freezeland

Nottingham: Friezland

Worcestershire: Frisland

Cumberland: Frizington

Warwickshire: Frizhill, Freasley (Freseley)

Pembrokeshire: Freystrop

Staffordshire: Friezeland

Gloucester: Freezing-Hill

Sussex: Fri(e)ston

Suffolk: Fressingfield (Lodge), Friston, Freston, Framlingham, Friswell (Hall)

Lincolnshire: Friston, Frieston, and Friesthorpe

Buckinghamshire: Friesden

Wiltshire: Fresdon

Hampshire: Freeze End

Devon: Friscomb, Friseham

Manchester (Chester/WestMoreland): Friezland

Scotland: Firth of Forth is called 'Frisian Sea' by Nennius (*769AD), the northern shore the 'Frisian Shore'.

Map showing counties of England at the time of the Domesday book in 1086

note several current northern counties like Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Cumberland are included in Cheshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in 1086)

English place name References

CL Ewen, History of Surnames of the British Isles (1931)

Jessie M. Lyons - Frisian Place-names in England p.644 (1918)

Domesday Book (by order of William the Conqueror, 1086) (old script)

Domesday Book and Beyond - 3 essays in the Early History of England

Flavell Edmunds - Traces of History in the Names of Places, p.16: no distinction betw. Saxons, Jutes, Frisians and Angles (1869)

A. Goodall - Placenames of South West Yorkshire (sort on "Frisian') (1913)

Taylor - 'Words and Places' (sort on 'Frisian') (1873)

Henry Barber: British placenames and their meanings ('Frisian Pers and Fam. names) (1894)

Evidence of Frisian migration via DNA

J. Bosworth in his Dictionary of the Anglo Saxon Language, 1838 shows that in Herodotus times (450BC) the Teutonic tribes came out of Asia at around 680BC, following the earlier Celts. Under Caesar's reign in 50BC, we find them established so far westward that the Celts were 'obliged' to move away to the west from the eastern banks of the Rhine, later being forced to the outskirts of the continent (Brittany) and the British isles (Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, Scotland), where they may have lived a very long time, as Bosworth indicates that the Phoenicians brought tin from Britain in 1200BC even before the Trojan wars (ref. Eastern Origins of Celtic Nations, by Dr. Pritchard, 1831).

Besides historical record, we have DNA today to assist in tracing people movements. In particular y-DNA, which follows the oldest male father-to-father ancestor, and shows that Europe's most prevailing y-DNA, the R1b Haplogroup, originates from south central Europe in recent times (and further beyond). It is well to note that the creators of the Haplogroup numbering have attempted to 'fix' the origins of man in Africa, preferably 'millions of years ago' (Haplogroups there start with A, B and C and make a good commercial sales pitch for what can't be proven that far back), without any support from science or language studies (all European languages are closely related to Sanskrit, found only in Asia. And what to make of the Massai's untouched rendition of the story of Gilgamesh, which clearly orignated in Mesopotamia, or the wanderings of Bantu tribes, always from north to south Africa in the last 500 years.). If the father-to-son y-DNA is in series, then the mother's mt-DNA shows the genetic composition in parallel (a good example from 'Who killed the men of England' below is the Columbian example where 95% of a region's men had a Spanish forefather, but at the same time of the that region's population were American-Indian in 95% genetic make-up, not Spanish). Moreover, mt-DNA shows that we all originate from a single foremother, initially thought to have lived 5 million years ago, then 500,000 years ago, and more recently less than 50,000 years ago.

Prevailing statistical occurence of y-DNA in Europe

Combined with linguistics and modern DNA research, a completer picture can be established of early Germanic peoples, their kinship, customs and language(s). From below references, the modern English DNA (Midlands area, less affected by subsequent migration to England) clearly shows a close kinship, if not indistinguishable, from modern Frisian DNA. Interestingly modern Frisian DNA itself accounts for a large percentage of Scandinavian make-up, attributable to later Viking incursions into the Northern coast of Europe as well as England. Nearly all Englishmen, like Frisians and Scandinavians have grey-blue eyes, as even referred to in popular literature of the day (19th century). In contrast, DNA suggests that the Vikings of Iceland took many a Celtic woman from the British Isles for a wife in new settlements. By contrast, the Celts had been displaced from mainland Europe (300 - 50BC), suffering greatly at the hands of Julius Caesar who took no prisoners, and occupied Britain when the Germanic invasions took place. Here they were pushed to the far ends of the Isles (Cornwall(is), Manx, Wales and Ireland). There is, however, no link of English DNA to Welsh DNA (Celtic) as the Harvard article 'Who killed the Men of England' proves, and the English language only ever reportedly borrowed eleven words from the Welsh, separated as the two peoples were by natural boundaries, disposition and cultural differences ('Avon' = river, Whiskey = 'uisge', Druid = 'derwydd'). Ewen in 'History of Surnames of the British Isles' mentions Ellis who states (p62) that the Anglo-Saxon Domesday book of 1086 lists 283,242 of all classes, of which 111 were Welsh. That did not stop the Vikings from creating some coastal settlements in Wales, as the name 'Swansea' still indicates today (Norse for Sveinney = 'island'). Nearly all Englishmen, like Frisians and Scandinavians have grey-blue eyes, as referred to in literature of the day.

Likewise, Scotland today is a mix of Gaelic settlement in the highlands and Scandinavian ones on the lowlands, along the coast: many 'English' names in Scotland have their obvious origins in Scandinavian paternal naming habits: Anderson, Ferguson, Johnson, Magnuson, Morrison, Paterson, Robertson, Thompson, Wilson, etc. Dublin in Ireland was also settled by Vikings in 841, though with a Gaelic name meaning 'black pool', and the Irish have been known as word smiths of the English language for many centuries. Similar to this Scandinavian use of patronyms, Joseph Bosworth in his Dictionary of the Anglo-Saxon Language of 1838, holds that adding the later suffix -son to various Frisian names rendered the familiair English names from the Frisian proper names Watse, Ritse, Hodse, Gibbe became Watse-son, Ritse-son, Hodse-son, Gibbe-son, as in 'son of', contracting to Watson, Ritson, Hodson, Gibbson (Gibbon).

Migration pattern derived from DNA (Frisian DNA same as English DNA)

Y Chromosome Evidence for Anglo-Saxon Mass Migration (Frisian DNA same as English DNA)

Migration patterns derived from Archeology

Dictionary of the Anglo-Saxon Language, Joseph Bosworth, 1838

Ethymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names, by William Arthur, 1857

English Surnames and Their ploace in the Teutonic Family, by Robert Ferguson, 1858

A Dictionary of the Family names of the United Kingdom, by Mark Antony Lower, 1860

Brisith Family Names, Their Origina and Meaning, H.Barber, 1894.

A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames by Charles Wareing Bardsley, 1901

Surnames of the British Isles, by Henry Harrison, 1912

Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 1 A – L, John Burke 1847 (Burke’s Peerage 1)

Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 2 M - Z, John Burke 1847 (Burke’s Peerage 2)

The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, by Sir Bernard Burke, 1884

Friesland after 600AD:

Frisians, a coastal people

After Danish excursions around 600AD (covering an area in Northern England, called Danelaw and European coastal regions, see dotted lines), Viking invasions brought more Scandinavian elements to England and northern coastal Europe between 800 and 1100AD, as shown on this map (see solid lines). After a century of battles between the Frisians and Franks for control of the mouth of the Rhine river, Friesland was pacified and had by 793 submitted to the Franks under emperor Charlemagne, and was under their protection, as well as having to provide soldiers as tribute: the last claimant to the throne, Redbad III, reportedly died fighting with Charlemagne's forces against the Basques around 800AD.


Map showing Viking invasions of Europe and England between 800-1000AD ('Anglo-Saxon Chronicles', Anne Savage, publ. 1982)

Christianus Schotanus in his Beschrijvinge en Chronijk van de Heerlijkheid van Friesland (History of Frieland, 1655) speaks of three different Viking assaults on the Frisian coast at this time:

"1. in 809AD, the Danes attacked Frieland, together with other Northmen, with a fleet of 200 ships, until the death of their king Godric made them depart.

2. in 825AD, king Harald king of Denmark, and of Regnerus king of Norway, was chased out. Having been baptized, together with his brother Erik, the emperor Ludovicus (Charlemagne's son) made him ruler of part of Friesland, to keep out the Northmen. When Harald died, Erik succeeded him. Then Regnerus, king of the Nordic nations, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, having been granted abode by the emperor Ludovicus, made use of some disagreement between the emperor and his sons, and took it upon himself to punish the Frisian and surroundings lands. This state of affairs remained for many subsequent years.

3. in 835AD, the Northmen came with an almighty fleet of ships onto the the rivers Rhine, Maes, and Schelde, and destroyed everything, burned the cities of Antwerp and Wilda, en afterwards did a foul job on Friesland, until the arrival of the emperor Ludovicus. But the emperor made Erik ruler and admiral of the Sea, to keep out the Northmen. The next year the Northmen attempted to attack once mode, but Erik kept them at bay. Thereafter, the heaviest Northmen attacks took place in Holland, Zeeland and Flanders, that is to say to the West of the river Flie, as Friesland by then was under ransom, having bought off the violence"

While the Vikings raided the European coast until around 840AD, subsequent resistance lead to many defeats of the Vikings by the Saxons and Franks, and the Vikings were more inclined to create settlements that could be sustained and defended. It did not stop political exiles from continuing to plunder the Frisian coast and beyond at the end of the 10th millennium, as was commemorated there a thousand years later.

Interestingly, nothing is left of the East Frisian language of Rustringen, of the coastal area between Germany and Denmark, except one piece of around 1150AD and it deals with the law concerning 'when abducted by the Northmen'. The legal Code of the Rustringian Frisians in question is marked in the Asega-Bok.

Perhaps ironically, but while the Vikings raided the coasts of Europe, many coastal tribes were represented at the Vatican in Rome as scholars and soldiers. There was a Frisian school as well as a Saxon School at the Vatican. These Frisian and Saxon soldiers were sent to fight the Saracens at Porto in the 8th century. The last Frisian king, Redbad the third, is reported to have died fighting the Basques, while in the service of Charlemagne.

In 'History of Surnames of the British Isles' (1931, p.48), Ewen quotes Asser (Asserius) who describes Franks (Franci) and Frisians (Frisiones) as the principal merchants of Western Europe in the ninth century, conducting considerable trade with England (and the Baltic) in manufactured articles and technical workmanship. The context here is the influence of the Norsemen, who themselves brought Frisians to England, on names in England

We know from the AS Chronicles in 897 that King Alfred used the varied backgrounds of his people, amongst them Frisians, Scots, Franks, Welsh and Norsemen, to improve the design of and man his ships. Note that in Asser’s 'Life of King Alfred' (p169)(Asserius: ‘De Rebis Gestis Aelfredi’) both OE designations are used for Frisii and Frisiones and for Saxons are Seaxe (i-stem) and Seaxon (on-stem).

Viking Expansion 800 - 1100 (Wikipedia)

In the Middle Ages, Frisian was spoken all along the North Sea's southern coast, and was an important language of trade in the Hanseatic League. Since Old English was the common language of coastal areas, Frisian is likely to have developed, as with the development of Middle English after the Norman invasion of 1066, into a somewhat separate tongue from this period onwards. It is marked by an abundance of diphthongs (a sound formed by a combination of two vowels lacking in other Germanic languages).

In 1498 Duke Albert of Saxony took over Friesland and changed the language of government from Frisian to Dutch. Today, Frisian is still spoken by many in the North of the Netherlands and again taught in the schools, and also still resembles English more than other languages (see many examples following

Frisian still spoken today

Typical Frisian family names

Typical modern Frisian family names end on -a and are identifyable with suffixes -ing(a), -(s)ma, -na, -ra, -da, -ia, and -stra, all having the genetive conjugational meaning 'of' or 'from': for example Sterringa, Kingma, Draaisma, Algera, Alberda, Menalda, Winia, Dijkstra etc.

Frequently, educated Frisians of the middle ages, after a Renaissance practice, assumed Romanised or Grecian names (before people carried last names), such as professional names like Nauta (skipper, sailor), Faber (carpenter, blacksmith), Pistorius (baker), Mercator (merchant), Agricola (farmer), Couperus (cooper)

Many such names were geographical names which carried a certain social status until even the present century, like the Latinised Winsemius (from the village of 'Winsum'), Heydanus (from the 'heide' = heath), Schotanus (from the village 'Schoot'), Fontanus (from the 'font' = water well), Montanus (from the 'Mount(ain)' = van den Berg), Bogardus (from the 'bo(omg)aard' = orchard), Roldanus (from the village 'Rolde'), Greidanus (from the 'greide' = pasture), Silvius (from the 'Silva' = woods), or patronyms like Adriani, Sybrandi, Gerbrandi ('of the father' by that name), or even Greek patronyms (-ides, -(a)eus), like Hilarides, Antonides, Simonides, or Petraeus ('of someone' with that first name).

There are also many diminutive and 'pet' names originating on the North European coast ending on -ke, that are of a Frisian origin, like -ken, -ke (German -chen, Flemish -kin): Tom becomes Tomkin (or resulting in Tomke, little Tom), -ock and -cock: bull becomes bullock, hill becomes hillock, ref. 'British Family Names' - H.Barber (1891). Ewen goes further in 'History of Surnames of the British Isles' by by suggesting a link between the -ke suffix to the early Sanskrit -ka ending. So while the Teutonic -ke suffix is not to be confused with the Slavic -ka ending (Kafka, Panenka, Lipka, Blinka, Wenka, Zatka), the author holds that they may well stem from a common ancestor. Witness also numerous names like Bethke, Beulke, Blaschke, Gerke, Hapke, Manzke, Renke, Badtke, Schoepke, Penske, Wandke, Willeke, but also names with endings like Harkin, Atkins, and Aiken, as above.


CL Ewen, History of Surnames of the British Isles (1931)

'British Family Names - Their Origin and Meaning' w. Lists of Scand., Frisian, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman names - H.Barber (1891)

Dictionary of English Surnames, PH Reaney, RM Wilson, 1958

A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames by Charles Wareing Bardsley, 1901

Walling Dijkstra Friesch Woordenboek, Vol 4, Friesche namen / Frisian names (1898)

Back to top

Origins of Germanic languages

Sanskrit examples (written but no longer spoken)

This table shows the historic relationship of the various European language groups

Back to top

Frisian Linguistics

Frysk = Fries = Frisian = Friesian = Frise = Frieze = Frison = Friesisch = Frizian

The language of the (old) Angles, Saxons, even Goths, and Frisians are considered to have been the same prior to migration to England, thereafter referred to as 'Old English'. The originals developed into newer and finally modern versions as shown in the diagram. Ingwaeonic (Ingaevonic) similarities between English and Frisian include what is referred to as 'Ingwaeonisms', distinct differences from German (Herminonic), Frankish (Istvaeonic) or Scandinavian, as the tables with (pro)nouns, verbs etc lower down clearly confirm.

Spread of the Anglo/Frisian (Ingaevonic), German (Herminonic), and Frankish (Istvaeonic) language groups in the early days

Germanic language groups around 0AD

Some notable differences of Ingvaeonic tongues English/Frisianwith the Istvaeonic/Herminonic Dutch/German :

- loss of the German nasal sounds, as in five (Eng) fiif (Frl), vijf (Dutch), vs funf (Germ);

or goose (Eng), gos (Frl), vs. gans (Dutch) and ganz (Germ)

or Tuesday (Eng), Tiisdei (Frl), vs. Dinsdag (Dutch) and Dinstag (Germ)

- loss the German -t as in the verb to be: is (Eng, Frl, Dutch), vs ist (Germ);

- loss of consonants (-g) in the middle of a word: rain / rein (Engl/Fris), regen (Dutch/Germ), brain / brein (Engl/Fris), vs bregen (Old Saxon), nail / neil (Engl/Fris), vs nagel (Dutch/Germ)

- loss of the dative and accusative differences: me (Eng, Frl), mij (Dutch) but mir/mich (Germ)

- loss of the -g ending, changed for a -y or -i sound: way (Eng), wei (Frl) vs. weg (Dutch/Germ)

or day (Eng), dei (Frl) vs dag/tag (Dutch/Germ) etc

see below for an abundance of examples where (modern) Frisian most closely resembles modern English, followed by Dutch and German, and in instances, Scandinavian. See here a similar example of 16 century Gothic as compared to (modern) Germanic languages (the Gothic language no longer exist as a living language).

Krim Gothic examples around 1550, before going extinct

Frisian / English similarities

'Butter, bread and green cheese is good English and good Fries'

Comparison of Frisian / English and nearby Germanic languages

'Teutonic Mythology' by Jacob Grimm (1785 - 1863)

The first study of Germanic Linguistics (Search for 'Frisian')

Teutonic Mythology, by Jacob Grimm (1882) Volume 1

(worship, temples, priest, gods (weekdays), heroes)

Search Vol 1: 'Frisian'

Teutonic Mythology, by Jacob Grimm (1883) Volume 2

(elves, giants, creation, elements, trees/animals, sky, day and night, summer/winter, time/world, souls/death

Search Vol 2: 'Frisian'

Teutonic Mythology, by Jacob Grimm, (1883) Volume 3

(poetry, specters, devils, magic, superstition, sickness, herbs/stones, spells/charms)

Search Vol 3: 'Frisian'

Teutonic Mythology, by Jacob Grimm, (1888) Volume 4

(author's supplement, Anglo-Saxon genealogies, superstitions, spells

Search Vol 4: 'Frisian'

see also:

'A Comparative Grammar of the Teutonic Languages', by James Helfenstein (1870) - Many refs to 'Old Frisian'

Back to top

Etymology / Phonology


West, East and North Frisian Tongues (ref. Popkema)

Toen Fries nog op het Engels leek

Wikipedia - Description of Frisian Languages

Aspects of Old Frisian Philology, 1840-1890-1990 (Bremmer, v/d Meer, Vries)

Altfriesisches Worterbuch, von Richthofen

An Introduction to Old Frisian, by Rolf Bremmer (2009)

A New Step in Old Frisian Lexicography by Popkema: The Altfriesisches Handworterbuch (von Richthofen)

Short summary of Frisian literature in English

Frisian language and Literature by WT Hewitt, a historical study (1879, Univ of Cal)

Phonology & grammar of modern West Frisian, by P Sipma (1913)

Waling Dijkstra - Friesche Spreekwoorden / Frisian Sayings (1913)

Trends in Linguistics - Frisian, by TL Markey (partial copy, 1981)

Frisian Linguistics / Taalkundige Bijdragen tot den Frieschen Tongval,, E. Wassenbergh (1806)

'A Comparative Grammar of the Teutonic Languages', by James Helfenstein (1870) - Many refs to 'Old Frisian'

'Old English' language history

Etymologic origin of (Old) English words

Frisian Literature

Frisian Bible - Fryske Bibel - Wumkes Vertaling

'Us Heit' / 'Our Father' in Frisian

Us Heit yn 'e himel, (Our Father in heaven)

lit jo namme hillige wurde, (let your name hallowed be)

lit jo keninkryk komme, (let your kingdom come)

lit jo wil dien wurde (let your will be done)

op ierde likegoed as yn 'e himel. (on earth like as in heaven)

Jou ús hjoed ús deistich brea (give us today our daily bread)

en ferjou ús ús skulden (and forgive us our debts)

sa't wy ús skuldners ek ferjûn hawwe; (as we have forgiven our debtors)

en lit ús net yn fersiking komme, (and let us not into temptation come)

mar ferlos ús fan 'e kweade; (but deliver us from evil)

want jowes is it keninkryk (for yours is the kingdom)

en de krêft (and the power)

en de hearlikheid (and the glory)

oant yn ivichheid (forever)

Amen. (Amen)

Back to top

Wurdboeken/ Dictionaries

Frisian - Dutch Dictionary

West Frisian Dictionary

Translate online: Frisian to/from English

Online woordenboeken / Dictionaries

Etymologic origin of (Old) English words

'Old English' dictionary from/to modern English

'Old English' polyglot

'Old English' language history

woordenboeken / Dictionaries Friese Taal / Frisian / Frison / Friesisch

Online woordenboeken / Dictionaries

Back to top

Friese literatuur / Frisian writings

1000 Friese Gedichten / 1000 Frisian rhymes

Frisian Wikipedia

Sljucht en Rjucht - Walling Dijkstra

de Vrije Fries - Fries Genootschap

Friese Volksalmanak - G.T.N. Suringar

Iduna - Harmen Sytses

Old Frisian / Altfriesisches Worterbuch door Tileman Wiarta (1786)

Old Frisian / Altfriesisches Worterbuch door Dr Karl Baron von Richthofen (1840)

Old Frisian / Oud Friesch woordenboek, Foeke Buitenrust Hettema (1888, proefschrift)

Back to top

Frisian Law / Jurisprudentia Frisica

'Beschrijvinge van de Heerlijkheydt Frieslandt', Christianus Schotanus, Frisan/Dutch/Latin (1603 - 1671)

Frisian Law / Friesche Regtkennis (Iurisprudentia Frisica) - (15th century transl. of Frisian handwriting) by Jhr Mr Montanus Hettema (1834)

Back to top

Online References (Google Books)

Wikipedia - Frisia of Old

The Frisian Tribe: from Caesar to Charlemagne - good summary

the Germania of Tacitus (here abbr.), by Harold Mattingly (sort on 'Frisii' for ref pages)

the Germania of Tacitus, Ethological Dissertations and Notes, by Lathem (sort on 'Frisians')

Tacitus' Agricola and Germania, Townshend, ed. 1894 (sort on 'Frisians')

Germania and Agricola of Tacitus, English notes by Althon, 1852 (sort on "Frisii')

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1784)

The Provinces of the Roman Empire from Caesar to Diocletian, Volume 9, Theodor Mommsen (Stanford, 1887)

Search 'Frisians' (noun: volk / people)

Search 'Frisian' (adj.: volk / people)

Search 'Frisii' (noun: stam / people)

Back to top

Other Frisian Exports

Friesian Horse

Friesian-Holstein dairy cattle

Back to top

Real Time Web Analytics