Czech language

formerly Bohemian language

West Slavic language spoken by some 12 million people in the historical regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and southwestern Silesia, all now in the Czech Republic, and in émigré communities, including perhaps a million speakers in North America. The earliest Old Czech texts date from the late 13th century. The distinctive orthographic system of Czech, which adds diacritics to letters of the Latin alphabet to denote consonants that did not exist in Latin and to mark vowel length, was introduced in the early 15th century and is associated with the religious reformer Jan Hus. The system was later adopted by other Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet, including Slovak, Slovene, and Croatian (see Serbo-Croatian language). When Czech was revived as a literary language in the early 19th century, Josef Dobrovský based his codification of the language largely on the norms of 16th-century Czech, as exemplified in the Kralice Bible (1579–93), an authoritative translation. This decision has resulted in a wide gulf between Standard Czech, the literary language, and Common Czech, the spoken language.

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formerly (1918–92, with Slovakia) Czechoslovakia

Country, central Europe. Area: 30,450 sq mi (78,866 sq km). Population (2006 est.): 10,260,000. Capital: Prague. Czechs make up about nine-tenths of the population; Slovaks and Moravians are the largest minorities. Language: Czech (official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic, also other Christians, Protestant). Currency: koruna. The landlocked country is dominated by the Bohemian Massif, a ring of mountains rising to 5,256 ft (1,602 m) at Mount Snezka to encircle the Bohemian Plateau. The Morava River valley, known as the Moravian Corridor, separates the Bohemian Massif from the Carpathian Mountains. Woodlands are a characteristic feature of the Czech landscape; most regions have a moderate oceanic climate. The economy, privatized since 1990, is now largely market-oriented. The Czech Republic is a multiparty republic with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. Until 1918 its history was largely that of Bohemia. In that year the independent republic of Czechoslovakia was born through the union of Bohemia and Moravia with Slovakia. Czechoslovakia came under the domination of the Soviet Union after World War II, and from 1948 to 1989 it was ruled by a communist government. Its growing political liberalization was suppressed by a Soviet invasion in 1968 (see Prague Spring). After 1990, separatist sentiments emerged among the Slovaks, and in 1992 the Czechs and Slovaks agreed to break up their federated state. At midnight on Dec. 31, 1992, Czechoslovakia was peacefully dissolved and replaced by two new countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with the region of Moravia remaining in the former. In 1999 the Czech Republic joined NATO, and in 2004 it became a member of the European Union.

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