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?
- Which European Countries are Nordic, Germanic, and/or Celtic?
- Quick Answers
What’s the Difference Between Nordic, Germanic, and Celtic?
- Nordic = Relating to the Nordic people, languages, or cultures of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Åland, and Greenland (descendants of the Norse people and languages, i.e. the Vikings).
- Germanic = Relating to the Germanic people, languages, or cultures that originated from Southern Scandinavia and Northern Germany after the bronze age and today span across Northern and Central Europe in countries such as England, Germany, and the Netherlands.
- Celtic = Relating to the Celtic people, languages, or cultures that were present in most of Central and Western Europe after the bronze age, and in countries such as Ireland, Scotland, and Wales today.
*Greenland speaks an Eskimo–Aleut language but is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, which is a Nordic country.
To sum it up in plain words, Nordic refers to anything relating to the Nordic languages & cultures (also called North Germanic), Germanic refers to anything relating to the Germanic languages & cultures, and Celtic refers to anything relating to the Celtic languages & cultures.
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Nordic: The Northern European Region and Its People
The more modern term Nordic refers to citizens of or anything related to the Nordic (or North Germanic) countries in northern Europe (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Åland, and Greenland). This term has mainly been used since the establishment of Förening Norden (The Nordic Associations) in 1919.
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.
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?
|Bosnia and Herzegovina|
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.
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