[roh-mey-nee-uhn, meyn-yuhn]

The Romanians (dated: Rumanians or Roumanians; Romanian: români or historically and today rather seldom and only regional, rumâni) are an ethnic group; they are the majority inhabitants of Romania. In one prominent interpretation of the census results in Moldova, Moldovans are counted as Romanians, which would mean that the latter form the majority in that country as well. Romanians are also an ethnic minority in several nearby countries.

The Romanian people are a nation in the meaning of ethnos (in Romanian: neam), defined more by the sense of sharing a common Romanian culture, descent, and having the Romanian language as mother tongue than by citizenship or by being subjects to any particular country. The Romanian citizenship Law legislated in March 1991 even establishes the rights of second and third generation descendants of Romanian citizens to obtain a Romanian citizenship, if they speak fluent Romanian and are able to demonstrate sufficient knowledge in Romanian history and culture. In the world today, 24 million people have Romanian as their mother tongue.


More than 85 percent of Romania's people are Romanians by ancestry. The Romanian ethnogenesis was formed due to the Romanization of the Roman Province of Dacia. The Romanians are descended from the Dacians, (Daco-Getic, Thracian) and Roman legionnaires sent to fight against them.

The Geto-Dacians, the Getae south and east of the Carpathians, and the Dacians in the Transylvanian plateau and Banat, forming a great cultural, ethnic and linguistic unity are mentioned for the first time by Herodotus in connection with the 514 B.C. expedition of Darius, the Persian king.

Burebista achieved the unification of the Geto-Dacian political and military formations. After his death (44 B.C.) the centralized Dacian State divided into several political formations, which were reunited under the leadership of Decebalus (87 - 106 A.D.) in a unitary state, having its political, military and religious centre in Transylvania, more precisely in the Orastie Mountains at Sarmisegetusa.

In the course of the two wars with the Roman legions, between 101 - 102 A.D. and. 105 - 106 A.D. respectively, the emperor Trajan succeeded after fierce battles to defeat the Dacians and the greatest part of Dacia became a Roman province. The massive colonization with Roman or Romanized elements, the use of the Latin language and the assimilation of Roman civilization as well as the intense development of urban centres led to the Romanization of the autochthonous population. The intermarriage of Dacians with Roman colonists, formed the Daco-Roman population, which is the ethnogenesis process of the Romanian people. Some recent genetic studies reveal that the ethnic contribution of the indigenous Thracian and Daco-Getic population have indeed made a significant contribution to the genes of the modern Romanian population and to the contribution to other Balkan (Albanians, Bulgarians, Greeks) and Italian groups.

However small genetic differences were found among Southeastern European populations and especially those of the DniesterCarpathian region. The observed homogeneity suggests either a very recent common ancestry of all southeastern European populations or strong gene flow between them. The genetic affinities among Dniester–Carpathian and southeastern European populations do not reflect their linguistic relationships. The results indicate that the ethnic and genetic differentiations occurred in these regions to a considerable extent independently of each other. A high share of the Anatolian and southern Balkan genes in the male pool of the southern Romanians and their close genetic affinity with the autochthonous Balkan populations testify to a significant gene flow from the southern and central Balkans and thus support the Neolithic migration concept of the origin of the Romanians. A considerable prevalence of the western Balkan component over the Anatolian one and a moderate share of the eastern European component in the pool of the eastern Romanians and the northern Moldavians may be attributable to the peopling of the eastern Transcarpathia from Transylvania and in this way is more consistent with the theory of the autochthonous (within the Carpathian Basin) development of the Romanians. No theory (the migration one or that of the autochthonous Paleolithic development) explains completely the observed variability of the Y-chromosome in the gene pool of the Romanians and the Moldavians, but it does not confront with the observed variability either.

Haplogroup J is mostly found in South-East Europe, especially in central and southern Italy, Greece and Romania. It is also common in France, and in the Middle East. It is related to the Ancient Romans, Greeks and Phoenicians (J2), as well as the Arabs and Jews (J1). Subclades J2a and J2a1b1 are found mostly in Greece, Anatolia and southern Italy, and are associated with the Ancient Greeks. Haplogroup I2 comprising 22.2% of the Romanian population, can be found in present-day European populations, with greatest density in the Balkans especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and also in Sardinia.


Ancient times

Inhabited by the ancient Dacians, today's territory of Romania was conquered by the Roman Empire in 106, when Trajan's army defeated the army of Decebalus (see Dacian Wars). The Roman administration withdrew two centuries later, under the pressure of the Goths and Carpi.

Middle ages

The tribal migrations that followed - such as the ones of Slavs, Bulgars (later Bulgarians), Hungarians, and Tatars - did not allow Romanians to develop any large centralized state, which was only achieved in the 13th century and especially in the 14th century, when the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia emerged to fight the Ottoman Empire.

The entire Balkan peninsula was annexed by the Ottoman Empire, but Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania remained autonomous under Ottoman suzerainty. The three principalities were united in 1600 under the authority of Wallachian Prince Michael the Brave.

Up until 1541, Transylvania was part of the Kingdom of Hungary, later (due to the conquest of Hungary by the Ottoman Empire) was a self-governed Principality governed by the Hungarian nobility. In 1699 it became a part of the Habsburg lands. By the 19th century, the Austrian Empire was awarded by the Ottomans with the region of Bukovina and, in 1812, the Russians occupied the eastern half of Moldavia, known as Bessarabia.

Modern age

In 1821 and 1848, two rebellions occurred, and both failed; but they had an important role in the spreading of the liberal ideology. In 1859, Moldavia and Wallachia elected the same ruler - Alexander John Cuza (who reigned as Domnitor) and were thus unified de facto.

Newly-founded Kingdom of Romania, led by the Hohenzollern prince Carol I fought the War of Independence against the Ottomans, which was recognized in 1878. At the beginning of World War I, although allied with Austria-Hungary, Romania refused to go to war on the side of the Central Powers, because Romania was obliged to go to war only if Austria-Hungary was attacked. In 1916, Romania joined World War I on the side of the Triple Entente. As a result, at the end of the war, Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina were awarded to Romania, resulting in Greater Romania.

During World War II, Romania lost territory in both east and west, as Northern Transylvania became part of Hungary through the Second Vienna Award, while Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina were taken by the Soviets and included in the Moldavian SSR and Ukrainian SSR respectively. The eastern territory losses were facilitated by the Molotov-Ribbentrop German-Soviet non-aggression pact.

The Soviet Union imposed a Communist government and King Michael was forced to abdicate and leave for exile. Ceauşescu became the head of the Romanian Communist Party in 1965 and his draconian rule of the 1980s was stopped by a Revolution in 1989.

The Romanian revolution brought to power the dissident and former communist Ion Iliescu. He remained in power until 1996, and then once more between 2000 and 2004. Emil Constantinescu was president from 1996 to 2000, and Traian Băsescu started his mandate in 2004.

Romania joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007.

History of the term

Antonio Bonfini disputes Aeneas Sylvius' theory that Romanians are named after the military leader named Flaccus, the Governor of Moesia. He links the origin of their name Vlach/Volloch to their skill in archery (Greek: ballo means ´to throw, to shoot´) but it is also possible that their name is a flawed version (due to the poor pronunciation of Dalmatians) of Valeria, a province named after Diocletian's daughter. As time goes by the Chieftain Flaccus is omitted as the source of the name: Vlach for Romanians, but for a long time the view is prevalent that Romanians are in reality Italians.

In part, the reason for this view has to do with Italian scholars' belief that Romanian language is a "half-Italian" or "flawed Italian" language. Another reason: Poles used a similar name for Italians and Romanians. The first reference to this factor can be found in the writings of Julius Pomponius Laetus (1425-1498). He was traveling in Eastern Europe, including Poland, around 1480. Laetus states: "Dacia is a province extending in both directions beyond the Hister (Danube) which, in our day, was called Volochia and their inhabitants, Volochs. Volochia is Italy, since the Dacians (Romanians) speak Italian."

Orichovius (Stanislaw Orzechowski, 1513 - 1566) notes as early as 1554 that in their own language, Romanians are called Romîn (after the Romans) and Walachs in Polish (after the Italians), (qui eorum lingua Romini a Romanis, nostra Walachi, ab Italis appellantur). This version of the name recurs in this short sentence by Francesco della Valle: Sti Romineste ? (şti româneşte ?). In the 17th century Rumîn appears as Rumun (Johann Tröster), Rumuny (Paul Kovács de Lisznyai), Rumuin (Laurentius Toppeltinus), and Rumen (Johannes Lucius and Martin Szentiványi), all of them refer to names by which Romanians refer to themselves.

The exonym Vlachs, is also shared by other Romance populations of the Balkan Peninsula. These populations also shared, and share, a common autonym, with dialectical variants rumân, armân, rumâr, etc. These populations, often regarded separately today, had generally been regarded as a single people with a cohesive self-identity, possessing a common language divided into the main dialects: Daco-Romanian, the dominant language of modern Romania and Moldova; Aromanian (also known as Macedo-Romanian), spoken today by about 300,000 people in the several countries south of the Danube; Megleno-Romanian, spoken today by about 10,000 people in Greece and the Republic of Macedonia; and Istro-Romanian spoken today by fewer than 1,000 people in a few villages on the peninsula of Istria in Croatia. However, a modern separation and interpretation, although would group the modern Romanians along with the Macedo-Romanians, Megleno-Romanians and Istro-Romanians, would nevertheless conclude and have as final result the perception of these populations as separate, distinguished ethnic groups.

Ascribing the concept to the territory which nowadays encompasses Romania, than it can be inferred that until the 19th century, the term Romanian denoted the speakers of the Daco-Romanian dialect of the Romanian language, thus being a much more distinct concept than that of Romania, the country of the Romanians. Prior to 1867, the (Daco-)Romanians were part of different statal entities: with the Moldavians and the Wallachians being split off and having shaped separate political identities, possessing states of their own, and with the rest of Romanians being part of other states. However, like the rest of the Vlachs, they all retained their Romanian cultural and ethnic identity.

Romanians outside Romania

Most Romanians live in Romania, where they constitute a majority; Romanians also constitute a minority in the countries that neighbour them. Romanians can also be found in many countries as immigrants, notably in the United States, Spain, Italy, Canada, France and Germany. With respect to geopolitical identity, many individuals of Romanian ethnicity in Moldova prefer to identify themselves as Moldovans.

The contemporary total population of ethnic Romanians cannot be stated with any degree of certainty. A disparity can be observed between official sources (such as census counts) where they exist, and estimates which come from non-official sources and interested groups. Several inhibiting factors (not unique to this particular case) contribute towards this uncertainty, which may include:

  • A degree of overlap may exist or be shared between Romanian and other ethnic identities in certain situations, and census or survey respondents may elect to identify with one particular ancestry but not another, or instead identify with multiple ancestries;
  • Counts and estimates may inconsistently distinguish between Romanian nationality and Romanian ethnicity (i.e. not all Romanian nationals identify with Romanian ethnicity, and vice versa);
  • The measurements and methodologies employed by governments to enumerate and describe the ethnicity and ancestry of their citizens vary from country to country. Thus the census definition of "Romanian" might variously mean Romanian-born, of Romanian parentage, or also include other ethnic identities as Romanian which otherwise are identified separately in other contexts;
  • The number of ethnic Romanians who live and work abroad is not precisely known, particularly so where their presence in the host country may be considered "illegal". In addition, where estimates for these populations have been made there is some risk of likely "double counting"— that is, Romanian persons abroad who have retained (or have not formally relinquished) their original citizenship may possibly figure in the counts or estimates of both the "home" and "host" countries.

For example, the decennial U.S. Census of 2000 calculated (based on a statistical sampling of household data) that there were 367,310 respondents indicating Romanian ancestry (roughly 0.1% of the total population). The actual total recorded number of foreign-born Romanians was only 136,000 Migration Information Source However, some non-specialist organizations have produced estimates which are considerably higher: a 2002 study by the Romanian-American Network Inc. mentions an estimated figure of 1,200,000 for the number of Romanian-Americans. This estimate notes however that "...other immigrants of Romanian national minority groups have been included such as: Armenians, Germans, Gypsies, Hungarians, Jews, and Ukrainians". It also includes an unspecified allowance for second- and third-generation Romanians, and an indeterminate number living in Canada. An error range for the estimate is not provided. For the United States 2000 Census figures, almost 20% of the total population did not classify or report an ancestry, and the census is also subject to undercounting, an incomplete (67%) response rate, and sampling error in general.


Contributions to humanity

Romanians have played an important role in the arts, sciences and engineering.

In the history of flight, Traian Vuia built the first self-propelling heavier-than-air aircraft, while Henri Coandă built the first aircraft powered by a jet engine. Victor Babeş discovered more than 50 germs and a cure for a disease named after him, babesiosis; biologist Nicolae Paulescu discovered insulin. Another biologist, Emil Palade, received the Nobel Prize for his contributions to cell biology. General of United States in the Civil War and diplomat George Pomutz, played an important role in the negotiations for the Alaska Purchase. Mathematician Ştefan Odobleja is considered to be the ideological father behind cybernetics.

In the arts and culture, important figures were George Enescu (music composer), Constantin Brâncuşi (sculptor), Eugène Ionesco (playwright), Mircea Eliade (historian of religion and novelist), Emil Cioran (essayist) and Angela Gheorghiu (soprano).

Count Dracula is a worldwide icon of Romania. However, the idea of Dracula as a vampire is not genuinely Romanian. It was created by the Irishman Bram Stoker from Balkan folklore and the historic Romanian figure of Vlad Ţepeş.

In sports, Romanians have excelled in a variety of fields, such as soccer (Gheorghe Hagi), gymnastics (Nadia Comăneci, Lavinia Miloşovici etc.), tennis (Ilie Năstase, Ion Ţiriac), canoe racing (Ivan Patzaichin) and handball (four times men's World Cup winners).


The origins of Romanian language, a Romance language, can be traced back to the Roman colonization of Dacia. The basic vocabulary is of Latin origin, although there are some substratum Dacian words. Of all the Romance languages, it could be said that Romanian is the most archaic one, having retained, for example, the inflected structure of Latin grammar.

During the Middle Ages, Romanian was isolated from the other Romance languages, and borrowed words from the nearby Slavic languages. During the modern era, most neologisms were borrowed from French and Italian, though increasingly the language is falling under the sway of English borrowings.

The Moldovan language, in its official form, is practically identical to Romanian, although there are some differences in colloquial speech. In the de-facto independent (but internationally unrecognized) region of Transnistria, the official script used to write Moldovan is Cyrillic.

A 2005 Ethnologue estimation puts the (world-wide) number of Romanian speakers at approximately 23.5 million. The 23.5 million , however, represent only speakers of Romanian, not all of whom are necessarily ethnic Romanians. Also, this number does not include ethnic-Romanians who no longer speak the Romanian language.


Many Romanian names have the surname suffix "-escu","-ascu" which corresponds to the Latin suffix "-iscus" to mean “belonging to the people”. For example, "Petrescu" used to be "Petre's son. Similar suffixes like "-asco" "-asgo" "-esque" etc. are present in other Latin languages.

Many Romanians in France changed this ending of their surnames to -esco, because the way it is pronounced "-cu" in French. Other suffixes are "-eanu" (or "-an","-anu"), which indicates the geographical origin and "-aru" (or "-oru"), which indicates the occupation.

The most common surnames are Popa ("the priest") with almost 200,000 names, Popescu ("son of the priest") with almost 150,000 names and Ionescu ("John's son).


See also: History of Christianity in Romania

The majority of Romanians are Eastern Orthodox Christians, belonging to the Romanian Orthodox Church. According to the 2002 census, 94.0% of ethnic Romanians in Romania identified themselves as Romanian Orthodox (in comparison to 86.8% of Romania's total population, including other ethnic groups). However, it must be noted that the actual rate of church attendance is significantly lower, and that many Romanians are only nominally believers. For example, according to a 2006 Eurobarometer poll, only 23% of Romanians attend church once a week or more. A 2006 poll conducted by the Open Society Foundation found that only 33% of Romanians attended church once a month or more.

Romanian Catholics are present in Transylvania, Bucharest, and parts of Moldavia, belonging to both the Romanian Greek-Catholic Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church. A small percentage of Romanians are Protestant, neo-Protestant (2.8%), or agnostic (0,15%).

There is no official date for the adoption of Christianity by the Romanians. Based on linguistic and archaeological findings, historians suggest that the Romanians' ancestors acquired their religion in the Roman era. The basic words related to Christianity, such as church ("biserică" < basilica), God ("Dumnezeu" < Domine Deus), Easter ("paşte" < paschae), Christmas ("crăciun" < creatio, -onis), christian ("creştin" < christianus), cross ("cruce" < crux, -cis), sin ("păcat" < peccatum), to baptize ("a boteza" < batizare), angel ("înger" < angelus), saint (regional: "sânt" < sanctus) etc., are inherited from Latin, like the other Romance language countries do.

After the Great Schism, there existed a Catholic Bishopric of Cumania (later, separate bishoprics in both Wallachia and Moldavia). However, this seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, as in both Wallachia and Moldavia the state religion (the one use for crowning, and other ceremonies) was orthodox. Until the 17th century, the official language of the liturgy was Old Church Slavonic. Then, it gradually changed to Romanian.


One of the very first occurrences of the three official colours of Romania and Moldova dates back to the Novella XI, issued on April 14, 535 by Emperor Justinian I. Among other things, it describes what was called "Justinian Dacia" (Banat and part of Oltenia) at the time, and contains a coat of arms for it.

"Ex parte dextra, in prima divisione, scutum rubrum, in cuius medis videtur turris, significans utramque Daciam, in secunda divisione, scutum coelesti, cum (signum) tribus Burris, quarum duae e lateribus albae sunt, media vero aurea."

Translation: "On the right, in the first section, a red shield, on which towers can be seen, signifying the other Dacia, in the second section, a blue-sky shield, with the ensigns of the Bur tribe, the sides are white, and golden in the middle."

In addition to these colours, each historical province of Romania has its own characteristic animal symbol:

The Coat of Arms of Romania combines these together.



In English, Romanians are usually called Romanians, Rumanians, or Roumanians except in some historical texts, where they are called Roumans or Vlachs.


The name "Romanian" is derived from Latin "Romanus". Under regular phonetical changes that are typical to the Romanian languages, the name was transformed in "rumân" (ru'mɨn). An older form of "român" was still in use in some regions. Socio-linguistic evolutions in the late 18th century led to a gradual preponderance of the "român" spelling form, which was then generalized during the National awakening of Romania of early 19th century.


The name of "Vlachs" is an exonym that was used by Slavs to refer to all Romanized natives of the Balkans. It holds its origin from ancient Germanic - being a cognate to "Welsh" and "Walloon" -, and perhaps even further back in time, from the Roman name Volcae, which was originally a Celtic tribe. From the Slavs, it was passed on to other peoples, such as the Hungarians (Oláh) and Greeks (Vlachoi). (see: Etymology of Vlach) Vlach was also used for all Orthodox Christians. Wallachia, a region in Romania, takes its name from the same source.

Nowadays, the term Vlach is more often used to refer to the Romanized populations of the Balkans who speak Daco-Romanian, Aromanian, Istro-Romanian and Megleno-Romanian. Istro-Romanian is the closest related language to the Daco-Romanian language which is the official language of the country.


To distinguish Romanians from the other Romanic peoples of the Balkans (Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians and Istro-Romanians), the term Daco-Romanian is sometimes used to refer to those who speak the standard Romanian language and live in the territory of ancient Dacia (today comprising mostly Romania and Moldova), although some Daco-Romanians can be found in the eastern part of Central Serbia (which was part of ancient Moesia).


In the Middle Ages, Romanian (vlach) shepherds migrated with their flocks in search of better pastures and reached Southern Poland, north-eastern Czech Republic, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Albania and Eastern Thrace (now in Bulgaria and Greece).


These are family names that have been derived from either Vlach or Romanian. Most of these names have been given when a Romanian settled in a non-Romanian region.

  • Oláh (37,147 Hungarians have this name)
  • Vlach
  • Vlahuta
  • Vlasa
  • Vlasi
  • Vlašic
  • Vlasceanu
  • Vlachopoulos
  • Voloh

Relationship to other ethnic groups

The closest ethnic groups to the Romanians are the other Romanic peoples of Southeastern Europe: the Istro-Romanians, the Aromanians (Macedo-Romanians) and the Megleno-Romanians. The Istro-Romanians are the closest ethnic group to the Romanians, and it is believed they left Maramureş, Transylvania about a thousand years ago and settled in Istria, Croatia. Numbering about 500 people still living in the original villages of Istria (while the majority left for other countries after World War II (mainly to Italy, United States, Canada, Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland, and Australia), they speak the Istro-Romanian language, the closest living relative of Romanian. Other related ethnic groups include the Italians, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and the other Romance languages speaking people.

The Aromanians and the Megleno-Romanians are Romanic peoples who live south of the Danube, mainly in Greece, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia, although some of them migrated to Romania in the 20th century. It is believed that they diverged from the Romanians in the 7th to 9th century, and currently speak the Aromanian language and Megleno-Romanian language, both of which are Eastern Romance languages, like Romanian, and are sometimes considered by traditional Romanian linguists to be dialects of Romanian.

It should be noted Gypsyies/Roma are not a related ethnic group (they started to emigrate from Indian subcontinent in the early 11th century, see History of the Romani people). Furthermore, a poll conducted in December 2007 showed that 76% of the Romanians consider that the foreigners are confusing the term Roma/Romani with Romanian and 52% consider that gypsies must be called again by their original name and not "Roma or other derivations of this term".

See also

Notes and references

External links

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