Cognates include Lithuanian vókietis. There are different theories about the origin of this word. Some suggest that it comes from a place name, Latvian Vāca, Lithuanian Vókia, which would originally have referred to some region in Sweden, from which the word was borrowed, probably before the 12th century, since it underwent palatalization (*vākyā > vāca). A 6th-century source mentions a Southeastern Swedish tribe called Vagoth, perhaps from *vāki(ā) + -goth. There are, however, no Swedish language sources that support the existence of a region of Sweden named Vakya or something similar. For this reason, others have suggested that the word vāca was originally a collective or ethnic term, later reinterpreted as a place name (and from which vāci, and later vācietis, could be derived). Its source would be Proto-Indo-European *wekʷ- (“to speak”), whence Old Prussian wackis ([vakis], “shout, war cry”), Sanskrit वक्ति (vákti, “to speak, to say”), Ancient Greek ἔπος (épos, “word, talk, song”) (< *wépos), Latin vox (“voice, sound, talk”). This stem might have been used to form a word (perhaps *vākyā-) to designate foreigners, meaning originally something like “those who speak loud, shout (unintelligibly)” — cf. Ancient Greek βάρβαρος (bárbaros, “Barbarian, foreigner (who says bar-bar)”), or Russian немец (némets, “German”), from Old East Slavic нҍмьць (němĭcĭ, “foreigner, one who does not speak clearly”), from нҍмь (němĭ, “mute”).
vāci m (2nd declension)
- (rare, only plural) Germans (people from Germany; members of the German people; the German people as a whole)
- slēdz mieru ar vāciem, Lāčplēsi — make peace with the Germans, Lāčplēsis (= bear-slayer)
- (genitive plural) German; pertainig to Germany and its people
- vācu valoda — the German language
- vācu tauta — the German people
- vācu kultūra, māksla, literatūra — German culture, art, literature
The term vāci usually occurs in the genitive plural, used adjectivally. To refer to Germans, vāci is rare or literary, and vācieši is preferred. In the singular, only vācietis exists (a presumed singular form *vācis or *vācs is not in use).