CULTURE OF THE FRISIANS
The Frisian language
One of the most important cultural expressions of a people is their language.
The Frisians mothertongue is 'Frisian'.
Frisian is a 'Germanic' language. The Germanic languages can be divided in
North, East and West Germanic. Frisian belongs to the 'West Germanic' language
group. Other languages belonging to this group are High/Low German, Dutch and
English. Of these four languages Frisian is the closest in relation to English.
Frisian, High and Low German, Dutch and English can also be classified as
Inguaeonish languages. They have a common origin. In the 8th century A.D.
Frisian starts to set itself apart from the other Inguaonish languages. This is
the birth of the Frisian language. In the 8th century the Frisian language is
spoken in the coastal areas from Holland up to Denmark.
As any language, Frisian started to develop dialects. Three dialects can be
distinguished: East, North and West Frisian.
The current spread of the Frisian Language: West-Frisian, East-Frisian (Saterland),
In the 13th century East Frisian was spoken by the people who lived in an area
between Lauwers and Weser and on the East Frisian Isles. Today it is spoken only
by a thousand people in a small area called Saterland (near Oldenburg). North
North Frisian was spoken in an area on the North Sea coast on the Danish/German
border. Today it's spoken by about ten thousand people on the islands Amrum,
Sylt, Fohr, the Hallingen and on the mainland of Sleeswijk.
Today there are about 10.000 people in Germany who consider themselves to be
Frisians first and German second.
Currently West Frisian is spoken by about 450.000 people in what is known as the
province Fryslân in the Netherlands.
The Frisian language has a long history of suppression by the Dutch government,
and only in 1980 did it become a regular course on primary schools in Friesland
(Dutch is still the first language). There is a lively literary and musical
Unlike English, which is a Germanic/Latin mixture, Frisian has kept much of its
originality. Though there have been strong influences from High and Lower German
Meaning of the name "Friezen"
The name "Friezen" (Frisians) can be traced back to the end of the first century
A.D. The Roman writers Plinius and Tacitus write about the so-called Frisii.
The Germanic word Freisias (Frisians) comes from the Indo-European Preisios.
Preisios is a derivation of the root-word prei-, which means: to love.
Freya is the Germanic goddess of fertility and love. Thus the meaning of the
name Friezen can be explained as sons of Freya. *
*(The last conclusion is is made by the makers of this Page)
Frisian surnames (family names)
Most non-Frisians (in the Netherlands) associate surnames ending on -a as
typically Frisian. This is true; surnames ending on -a are plentiful in
Friesland. Some of these names (e.g. Albada, Idsarda, Tjaarda, and Wybranda) are
composed of old first names. Others of Frisian place-names (e.g. Baarda,
But surnames ending on -a are not the only ones that are typically Frisian.
Other endings are: -i:
The -i is a Latin ending that follows after a Germanic male-name. E.g. Adriani,
Gerbrandy, Rudolphi, Sybrandy.
This is a Greek ending that follows after a first-name. E.g. Hilarides,
Germanic endings of a surname are:
e.g. Foppes, Gosses, Haukes, Poppes, Sikkes, Wumkes.
e.g. Sipken, Popken
A lot of Frisian place-names end on -um (e.g. Deinum, Dokkum). By putting -ma
after these place-names, one gets surnames like Deinuma, Dokkuma. The same thing
can be done with first-names: e.g. Adema, Boukema, and Bartlema
The same story as above. E.g. Jelsma from the place Jelsum and Jensma from the
first-name Jens. -(e)na:
An ending that can be found abundantly in East-Friesland(Germany).
Surnames ending on -inga are the oldest. The ending -ing means "belonging to" or
"related to" the person named in the name before. The -ing ending appears in
most of the other Germanic languages (e.g. Witting (son of Witte) is
Old-English; or Carolingi (Charlemagne and descendants) is Frankish; or
Skil¡Ofingar is Old-Norse).
Frisian names are Abbinga, Dekkinga, Eisinga, Osinga, Piebinga, and Tamminga.
This type of surname is plentiful in Friesland.
This ending is the worn down form of -inga. E.g. Burmania, Tania, Sinia.
Most of the endings named above followed a first-name. But there are also
Frisian surnames that are derived from names of places. Places like in towns and
cities (e.g. Deinum, Van Dokkum, Van Slooten (Van is a preposition)), or in Van
Dam (Dam=dam) or Van der Wal (Wal=embankment).
The -stra ending is also plentiful. This -stra means to originate from
somewhere. E.g. Balkstra, Beetstra, Boonstra.
It is a striking fact that names ending on -stra can only be found in the
current province Friesland and a western part the province Groningen (both in
The profession of Frisians has also been a reason to chose a surname: Bakker
(baker), Brouwer (brewer), De Boer (farmer), and Visser (fisherman).
De Vries is the most appearing surname in Friesland. This is probably due to the
fact that, when in the years 1811/12 the Frisians were forced to take surnames
by the French occupation force, nationalist sentiments drove them to take a name
which was manifestation of their being different. De Vries means the Frisian.
After De Vries, De Jong occurs the most, then Dykstra, then De Boer, and then
Visser. But if we count all the surnames ending with an -a form (-a, -inga, -ma,
-sma, -stra) we have 35% of the population of the province of Friesland, which
is by far the most.
So, all you Netsurfers around the world, maybe after reading this article on
Frisian surnames, you'll have discovered that you to have Frisian blood in your
veins. Congratulations and welcome to the club of this "trochloftich folk".
The runes are an ancient alphabet used by the Germanic peoples. They were in use
by the peoples of Northern Europe since the beginning of the Christian era (1
A.D.). Inscriptions were initially carved in wood, hence their angular shape.
Inscriptions of the 'old' runic script (100 A.D. till 700 A.D.) are very rare,
and are found on only 200 items. The first runes were carved in Southern
Juteland in Denmark (also the place of origination of the proto-Frisians).The
Germanic tribes called the runic alphabet after the soundvalue of the first six
letters, Futhark. The Futhark comprises a 24 letter alphabet arranged in a
unique order. This is the Germanic futhark:
f u th a r k g w h n i j ï p z s t b e m l ng o d
The runes were used for two purposes: to send messages of a plain nature, and
for religious, ritual and magical purposes.
In areas populated by Angles, Saxons and Frisians, new letters were developed,
to a total of 26 runes. This alphabet is known as the Anglo-Frisian Futhorc.
This is Frisian futhork:
In Friesland only 21 runic inscriptions (Frisian) have been found on items of
wood, bone, antler, ivory and gold. These inscriptions date from 450 A.D. to 750