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From Middle English sclave, a borrowing from Medieval Latin Sclavus, from Byzantine Greek Σκλάβος ‎(Sklábos), from earlier Σκλαβῆνος ‎(Sklabênos), plural Σκλαβῆνοι ‎(Sklabênoi), from Proto-Slavic *slověnji, *slověne ‎(those who speak meaningfully), singular *slověninъ. Compare Old Church Slavonic словѣни, словѣнє ‎(slověni, slověne, Thessalonian Slavs), Old East Slavic словѣне ‎(slověne, Slavs near Novgorod).

Commonly thought to derive from Proto-Slavic *slovo ‎(word), thus meaning "those who speak meaningfully" and contrasting with *němьcь ‎(foreigner, literally dumb/mute person). However, that word is an s-stem and thus the inflectional stem of that word is *sloves-, so it cannot be the direct origin as it would lead to an expected form *slovesěni (compare Russian слове́сность ‎(slovésnostʹ)). Thus the most likely origin is the verb *sluti ‎(to be known).[1] Both words ultimately derive from Proto-Indo-European *ḱlew- ‎(fame).



Slav ‎(plural Slavs)

People from these countries are usually considered Slavs.
  1. A member of any of the peoples from Eastern Europe who speak the Slavic languages.
  2. (Britain, birdwatching) The Slavonian grebe.


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  1. ^ John P. Maher (Chicago), "The Etymology of Common Slavic slověne 'Slavs'", (in:) Balkansko Ezikoznanie XIV, 2, p. 31–36, Sofia 1970