Czech Republic Magazine

Czech Republic vs. Czechia: A linguistic riddle

It has already been three years since the Czech Republic adopted “Czechia” as its official and shortened geographical name in the English language. But has it caught on with the general public?

First, let’s look at why the word “Czechia” came into existence. Although the first known usage of Czechia dates back to the mid-19th century, it wasn’t mentioned in any official capacity until after the split of Czechoslovakia, when the Czech surveying and mapping authorities mentioned it as a possible alternative to the “Czech Republic”.

But the term was largely forgotten until a few years ago, when leading politicians, such as Czech President Milos Zeman, suggested the country should rebrand itself and choose Czechia as its official name (he even started using it in English language interviews, like one with the Guardian a few years ago). Proponents of the name-change argued that the “Czech Republic” was too long and that it needed a more marketable name (like Slovakia or Poland, which are never referred to as the Slovak or Polish Republics) to attract foreign investments and international interest.

Czechia was eventually considered as the best translation of the Czech version Česko, and became the official name of the country, registered as such by the United Nations, in 2016.

But there have also been many counter arguments for using Czechia in English. Firstly, many people claim it sounds ugly, unnatural or “too eastern”. Others were worried foreigners might confuse it with the Russian Republic of Chechnya (in a far from isolated incident, CNN suggested in 2013 that the Chechen bombers of the Boston Marathon came from the Czech Republic). Another reason why the name has failed to catch on is because Czechia derives from the name of the tribe that settled in Bohemia (the country’s western half) in Medieval times, and used as an alternative name for the region (sparking the anger of residents from Moravia, the country’s eastern half, who felt left out under the rebranding).

After asking a few Czechs, it was easy to see what they make of the change. Lukas, a 33-year-old chef, told me that “it will always be the Czech Republic to me. I don’t know why it was changed”. Petra, a 29-year-old office worker echoed Lukas’ sentiments and pointed out: “I don’t know anyone who calls it Czechia in English, and when I meet people from other countries, I still say that I am from the Czech Republic”.

To make sure, I did a little experiment of my own to see if anyone refers to it as Czechia. I showed colleagues, friends and acquaintances a picture of the Czech flag and simply asked “What country does this flag belong to?” All of them replied “the Czech Republic”.

If the Czech government really wants this name to become the go-to term for their country, they’ll probably have to summon their patience, as it could take generations for it to become the mainstream name amongst the general public (if it ever does happen at all). They should also lead by example, as many Czech officials still use “the Czech Republic” (or its Czech equivalent, Česká republika). But what seemed to be the consensus when chatting to Czech and native English speakers, was that nobody ever had a problem with using the “Czech Republic”. And that they even enjoyed the uniqueness of the name.

So, what’s your preference? Czechia or the Czech Republic?

By Daniel Stokoe

Daniel Stokoe is an English teacher from the U.K.. After living in Prague, Madrid and Odessa, he’s currently established in Warsaw and joined the team of Kafkadesk contributors in April 2019.

34 comments on “Czech Republic vs. Czechia: A linguistic riddle

  1. Jerome Parma

    I personally will say Czech Republic. That’s my preference. It’s no difference than so many other names in the world. Is it a Mercedes or is it a Benz? Chevrolet or Chevy? Call it what you like.

  2. Annabel Vnoucek

    Czech Republic!

  3. Dalibor Rehounek

    It’s always Czech Republic for me and the flag should have been changed too, just saying 😜

    • Vaclav Sulista

      It is the Czech Republic from 1993 onwards, the Czech Republic is nothing else than the current political formation in Czechia!

    • Czech Republic is a political name, Czechia is a geographic name. The action potential of the use of this political name is limited only to 26 years, ignoring the historical consequence of the country. Geographic name is a universally applicable name, which bridges all social-political changes in the country during many centuries of the existence of the state. “It’s always the Czech Republic” is simply absurd nonsense.

  4. Vaclav Sulista

    Clear preference CZECHIA, the timeless geographic name! https://www.czechia-heart-of-europe.com/geographical-name

  5. Martina Sanollová

    Czechia is registered short geographical name and should be used at any occasion except from political contant!

  6. zdekuk

    Czechia lasts for 1000 yrs. The Czech Republic only since 1993.

  7. Definitely CZECHIA! 🇨🇿😍
    It’s a « battle » between the traditional name with a decent history (Czechia) and the bureaucratic unwieldy construct that people find appealing for some weird reason (the Czech Republic). Do they use ‘the French Republic’ instead of ‘France’ either? Just curious…

  8. Jan Bečaj

    Czechia. Nobody cares whether it is Republic or Confederation. Just some simple Czechs do everything against the short logical name for no purpose. Nobody remembers the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Why probably? Hmm?

  9. Jan Bečaj

    Czechia. Nobody cares whether it is Republic or Confederation. Just some simple Czechs do everything against the short logical name for no purpose. Nobody remembers the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. My goodness how is this possible?

  10. Vladimir Filip

    It’s not a question of amateur vote. In 1993, following the legal procedure of place names codification, 55 experts (linguists, historians, geographers and others) codified Czechia as the English translation of Česko. The experts unequivocally recommended the use of “Czechia” in English and its variants in other languages (Tschechien, Tchéquie, Chequia etc.). This is not an opinion but the outcome of the process of standardization. Not myths, but historical facts and common sense. In order for Czechia not to be confused with Chechnya, it is necessary to promote fact that short name of Czech Republic is Czechia and not Chechnya. Everybody knows short name of Czechoslovak Republic: Czechoslovakia. Short name of Czech Republic is Czechia. It is clever and logical!

  11. Eva Horová

    The headline is confused and confusing:1) Czechia and the Czech Republic are no « rivals », you cannot put them in controversy and say « vs. » For highly formal occasions and documents – Czech Republic. For everyday life – Czechia (pronounced -ki-, with the sound K). 2) The two names are no « linguistic riddle ». A well-informed professional linguist has no problem with using the correct, standard name Česko and its English equivalent Czechia. 3) The few persons that you chose at random and asked about their opinion on the name, answer on the basis of their feelings, habits, prejudice. Not a bit of rational thinking. They just say what you want to hear.

  12. Martin Paur

    Czechia is not equivalent to the Czech Republic. Any country is nameless without a geographical name. There is no rational or aesthetic reason for not using the name Czechia. I guess the problem lies in the weak identification with our state combined with a lack of English language knowledge, so many of us still prefer the poor « Czenglish » translation of the name « Ceska republika » by using « word for word » an adjective, instead of the natural English way, which should be The Republic of Czechia.

  13. Petr Pavlinek

    Czechia! I have used it for more than ten years in both written and spoken English without ANY problems. I use Czechia whenever I use short names for other countries.

  14. Czechia, of course! The political name (Cz.Rep.) is only applicable in official documents, such as international treaties, its character is naturally transient, limited only to the contemporary political system in the country, the geographical name (Czechia) has its clearly defined natural function in all other cases. In the said “all other cases”, the political name can never replace the geographical name because, unlike the latter, it has a temporary character ignoring the historical continuity of the state, and so its function is limited to the current state subject. Using it without time limits is wrong, confusing and inappropriate.

  15. Mateusz Grzesik

    Definitely Czechia. It’s a logical name with a proper historical background (first appearing in Latin as early as XVI century). I see absolutely no reason not to use it over the long name.

  16. Interesting article. I saw the word Czechia recently and had no idea where it came from. Thanks for posting.

  17. George Malaty

    I think that world has more than hundred republics, but as long as I know no one takes the word republic in its name. This was the case till the split of Czechoslovakia. Czechia is not a bad choice. Yes, people has used to use the name “Czech Republic”, nevertheless including the word republic has brought always a feeling of being strange or at least not needed. The other choice, which I do appreciate Czesco or even Chesco. I am a friend of this beautiful country and it’s friendly people.

  18. David Ulbrich

    Czechia – no matter how “uncommon” it sounds. I really feel ashamed when, in my day-to-day business with international companies, reading a list of countries – any only that of ours being called that awkward way (like the Democratic Republic of Congo…). Shall we once say “the last king of the Czech Republic”???

  19. Hank Williams

    This is the first time I had even heard about the change! I normally wouldn’t miss something like that. Three years and everything. Who knew?!

  20. I prefer the Czech Republic is closer my heart, like San Francisco vs Frisco.

    • You are used to it, that’s all. San Francisco and Frisco is a wrong comparison.
      The correct would be the French Republic and France or the Slovak Republic and Slovakia. Frisco is slang, Czechia the official short name.

    • Our country has more than 1200 years old history and only a very small part of it is the history of the republican system. Czechia is a geographical name, which is independent on time and state-political changes in the country, thus, it can be used for our country both in the historical and contemporary contexts. The Czech Republic is transient political name, which does not work in broader context and all bad consequences of incorrect universal use of it appear everywhere. It is shortsighted to call country by the name, which is changeable. Simply, the Czech Republic is nothing else, than the current state formation in Czechia. The name Czechia is very old, coming from Latin and has its equivalents in all languages (and the similarity of particular translations is obvious – Chequia (ES), Chéquia (PT), Tchéquia (Brazilian PT), Tchéquie (FR), Cechia (IT), Tschechien (DE), Tjekkiet (DK), Tsjechië (NL), Tsjekkia (NO), Tjeckien (SE), Cehia (RO), Çekya (TR), Češka / Чешка (HR, RS), Чехия (RU, BG), Чехія (UA, BY), Τσεχία (GR), etc. Why English should be only exception?

    • You should’ve written it’s “like eg. Hlavní město Praha vs Praha” and then it’d make sense. 😆 “Frisco” isn’t the official short name of “San Francisco”.

  21. Ginny Chichester

    I thought someone misspelled Chechnya. It will be the Ch Republic, to me. The United States of America is a long name, too!

  22. Is not “Czechia” the name the Nazis applied to Bohemia and Moravia after the Chamberlain-Daladier giveaway in 1938?

    • You probably mean Tschechei! Czechia [-k-] is unrelated to the German term „Tschechei“ [-kh-] … and these two terms are pronounced differently. Although Germans had used “Tschechei” before the Nazi period, Czechia had been used many years before Germans first used “Tschechei”. Today, “Tschechei” is rarely used in Germany because Germans use „Tschechien“. If “Tschechei” is used it does not need to be necessarily viewed as a pejorative term since it was created in a similar way as names for other countries in German, such as Slowakei and Türkei.

    • NO! It is traditional myth. In German “Tschechei”, existed long time before. The pre-war editions of the German national Brockhaus encyclopedia define it as the standard “name of the western part of Czechoslovakia. More, it survives in the vocabulary of border-area older German inhabitants, who naturally do not feel it as pejorative. The English name Czechia did not came from German, but from Latin denomination in second half of 18th century.

      In German, after the negotiations with Czech representatives in 1993, the Germans opted for “Tschechien“. The “respective theorists” probably based their proposal on materials from the early stage of the Protectorate when the name “Böhmen und Mähren “was not yet introduced. “Czechia”, on the other hand, is minimally 100 years older than Tschechei. Plus, in the 1920s-30s, the American media used it as a natural denomination of the Czech state in its historical context.

      The name in other languages: Chequia (ES), Chéquia (PT), Tchéquia (Brazilian PT), Tchéquie (FR), Cechia (IT), Tschechien (DE), Tjekkiet (DK), Tsjechië (NL), Tsjekkia (NO), Tjeckien (SE), Cehia (RO), Çekya (TR), Češka / Чешка (HR, RS), Чехия (RU, BG), Чехія (UA, BY), Τσεχία (GR), etc.

Had a good read?

%d bloggers like this: