Nordic vs. Germanic vs. Celtic: Differences & Links Explained (+ Maps)

Last Updated on Categorized as Facts

Most of the nations in modern-day Central, Western, and Northern Europe can be described as either Nordic, Germanic, or Celtic. But it’s definitely not easy keeping all of the different European ethnicities apart, especially not since many countries can feature elements of multiple ones!

So if you’re curious about the exact difference between Nordic, Germanic, and Celtic, and which countries, languages and people are involved when speaking about these terms — you’ve come to the right place.

What’s the Difference Between Nordic, Germanic, and Celtic?

  • Nordic = The people of and anything related to or from the Scandinavian region during the viking and early middle ages, (including the Norse settlements, Old Norse language and Norse mythology).
  • Germanic = Relating to the Germanic people or cultures that originated from Southern Scandinavia and Northern Germany after the bronze age
  • Celtic = Relating to the Celtic people or cultures that were present in most of central and western europe after the bronze age

Definition
Modern-day Nations
Spoken Language(s)

Nordic

A.k.a. North Germanic or Scandinavian
Definition
Peoples and countries that use Nordic languages
Modern-day Nations
Sweden 🇸🇪, Denmark 🇩🇰, Norway 🇳🇴, Iceland 🇮🇸, Faroe Islands 🇫🇴, Greenland 🇬🇱
Spoken Language(s)
Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Faroese

Germanic

Descendants of the Nordic Bronze Age culture
Definition
Peoples and countries that use Germanic languages
Modern-day Nations
Sweden 🇸🇪, Denmark 🇩🇰, Norway 🇳🇴, Iceland 🇮🇸, Faroe Islands 🇫🇴, Great Britain 🇬🇧, Germany 🇩🇪, Netherlands, Belgium , Austria 🇦🇹, Switzerland🇨🇭, Luxembourg 🇱🇺
Spoken Language(s)
Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, English, German, Dutch, Luxembourgish

Celtic

The Celts
Definition
Peoples and countries that do, or once did, use Celtic languages
Modern-day Nations
Ireland 🇮🇪, Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿, Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿
Spoken Language(s)
Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Breton, Welsh, Cornish, Manx

To sum it up in plain words, Nordic refers to anything relating to the Nordic region and its people, Germanic refers to anything relating to the Germanic languages & cultures, and Celtic refers to anything relating to the Celtic languages & nations.


The Nordic region — An Overview
Countries: Sweden 🇸🇪, Denmark 🇩🇰, Norway 🇳🇴, Iceland 🇮🇸, Faroe Islands 🇫🇴, Greenland 🇬🇱
Location: Northern Europe
Combined Population: 27.38 million
Combined Total Area:
1 322 710 sq mi
, across 5 timezones (US 50 states + D.C. = 3 796 742 sq mi across 6 timezones)

Nordic: The Northern European Region and Its People

The more modern term Nordic refers to citizens of or anything related to the Nordic countries in northern Europe (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Greenland). This term has mainly been used since the establishment of Förening Norden (The Nordic Associations) in 1919.

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The Nordic cross flag refers to the type of flags the Nordic countries have, containing a Nordic or Scandinavian Cross. The oldest of these is the Danish, dating back to 1219 according to legend.


Germanic: the Germanic Cultures & Languages

The Germanic tribes were groups of people originating from northern and central Europe during the Iron Age, sharing a common language group that is the root of all Germanic languages (which today includes over 515 million native speakers of languages like English, German, Dutch, and the Nordic languages to name a few).

To make things a bit more complicated, the Germanic people are all thought to have originated from a fairly small area in southern Scandinavia and northern Germany around the 4th century BCE, centered around the province of Scania, Sweden.

In other words, all Germanic languages and cultures mainly originated from the Nordic region, from where they would set out on the Great Migrations around all of Europe and parts of Asia that they would complete.

For more information about the Nordic and Germanic connection, go check out my article where I explain all the Scandinavian, Viking, and Germanic links.

The Germanic People — An Overview
Languages & Cultures: Swedish 🇸🇪, Danish 🇩🇰, Norwegian 🇳🇴, Icelandic 🇮🇸, Faroese 🇫🇴, English 🇬🇧, German 🇩🇪, Dutch 🇳🇱, Flemish 🇧🇪, Austrian 🇦🇹, Swiss 🇨🇭, Luxembourgish 🇱🇺
Location: Central, Western & Northern Europe
Population Germanic Speaking Countries: 202 million
Native Germanic Speakers: 515 million
Combined Total Area: 720 379 sq mi, across 5 timezones (US 50 states + D.C. = 3 796 742 sq mi across 6 timezones)

The Celtic people — An Overview
Languages & Cultures: Irish 🇮🇪, Scottish 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿, Welsh 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿
Location: Central & Western Europe
Combined Population Native Celtic Speakers: 19.6 million
The 6 Celtic Nations

Celtic: The Celtic Cultures & Languages

The Celts were a collection of people who originated from central Europe, and ended up migrating through and inhabiting large parts of Europe during the Iron Age.

Around 275 BC the Celtic culture reached its largest influence, covering large parts of Central, Western, and Eastern Europe. After this point, the Celts would gradually be pushed back by Roman Legions from the south and Germanic tribes from the north.

Some of the more famous Celtic tribes include the Gauls (modern-day France), Britons (Britain), Galatians (Northern Spain), Belgi (Belgium), and Elveti (Switzerland).

The Celtic people ultimately intermingled with the Germanic and Roman people who came to dominate most of the places in Europe were Celtic influence gradually disappeared.

The only remaining Celtic nations today are Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, and Cornwall.


Which European Countries are Nordic, Germanic, and/or Celtic?

NameNordic?Germanic?Celtic?
Albania
Andorra
Armenia
Austria✔️
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Belgium✔️Partly
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark✔️✔️
Estonia
Finland✔️
FrancePartlyPartly
Georgia (country)
Germany✔️
Greece
Hungary
Iceland✔️
Ireland✔️
Italy
Kazakhstan
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg✔️
MaltaPartly
Moldova
Monaco
Montenegro
Netherlands✔️
North Macedonia
Norway✔️✔️
PolandPartly
Portugal
Romania
Russia
San Marino
Serbia
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden✔️✔️
Switzerland✔️Partly
Turkey
Ukraine
United Kingdom✔️Partly
Vatican City

Quick Answers

Is Scandinavia Celtic and Are Scandinavians Celts?

Scandinavia did not encounter Celtic influence as the Celts spread across large parts of central and western Europe during the Iron Age, meaning the region and its people is not Celtic in any meaningful way. Scandinavia was rather dominated by Germanic cultures stemming from the Nordic Bronze Age Culture at the time.

That said, there is plenty of Celtic heritage along the coasts of Scandinavia, as Vikings were prone to come home with both band members and slaves from the British Isles during the Viking age.

What Is a Celtic Viking?

Celtic Vikings, or Norse–Gaels as they can also be called, usually refer to the Vikings who settled in Ireland and Scotland during the Viking age. The Norse–Gaels dominated the majority of the Irish Sea and Scottish Sea region from the 800s up until the 1100s when Norse influence on the British Isles started waning.

Several Scottish clans have Norse–Gaelic roots, such as Clan MacDonald, Clan MacDougall, Clan MacLeod, Clan Oliphant. Several Irish families do as well, such as O’Donovan, Uí Ímair (later Crovan), Mac Oitir (later Cotter), MacAuliffe, MacManus, Doyle, and Reynolds.


By the way, if you'd like to connect to your inner Viking and spruce up your walls at the same time, I've created a full set of stylish and minimal rune poster printables that include their names, meanings, and equivalent modern letters. You can write your own name in Younger Futhark, display the runes that mean something to you personally, or why not hang up all 16 runes in an epic Old Norse wall gallery!

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Full set of 16 + 1 Old Norse runes (a.k.a. Younger Futhark) printables. Learn the Viking ways with these beautiful prints that you can hang on your walls or use digitally.

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Sources:

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2013.0384

https://www.jstor.org/stable/40849016

https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935413.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199935413-e-7

https://fof.se/tidning/2013/4/artikel/den-brutala-bronsaldern

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By Karl Andersson

As a native Swede with a Finnish mother, Karl identifies as both Nordic and Scandinavian. He left Sweden at 19 to explore the world, and stayed abroad for almost 8 years—during which he backpacked, worked every job there was, earned a degree from UC Berkeley, and met the future mother of his children. He ultimately returned to his native Malmö with his love, where they now have 3 Swedish-American boys eager to explore the world.

2 comments

  1. My last name is Swihart. A shortened and anglocised version of the original name Schweinhardt. I am 10th generation American. The first Schweinhardts came to America in Pennsylvania in 1730 on a ship named the Pennsylvania. Im curious about the name Schweinhardt, and have done a lot of research and we all come from a common ancestor named Conrad Schweinhardt born in 1630 in Jungholzhausen, Germany where he was married and lived. Schweinhardt means Strong as a Boar.

  2. In reality people of east Austria are a mixture of Germanic, and Slavic.

    In the tenth century Bavarian tribes invaded the area that now corresponds to eastern Austria. They intermixed with existing Slavic people (Czechs, and Slovenes). This is why Y-haplogroup R1a-Z280 is higher than R1b-U106 in this part of Austria.

    On an autosomal DNA level east Austrians are the most east shifted of all Germanic speaking people. They cluster close to Hungarians, and Czechs.

    West Austrians cluster with Bavarians, and Swiss Germans. While east Austrians speak a Bavarian dialect they cluster closer to East Germans than they do to Bavarians.

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