Native toSpain, North Africa
Extinct6th century AD
Language codes
ISO 639-3xvn

Vandalic was the Germanic language spoken by the Vandals during roughly the 3rd to 6th centuries. It was probably closely related to Gothic, and, as such, is traditionally classified as an East Germanic language.[1]: 9  Its attestation is very fragmentary, mainly due to the Vandals' constant migrations and late adoption of writing. All modern sources from the time when Vandalic was spoken are protohistoric.[2]: 43–44 


Vandalic is traditionally classified as an East Germanic language,[3]: 4 [4] while the reasons for this classification are mostly historical and not linguistical.[1]: 7  Due to the perception of Vandalic as an East Germanic language, its reconstruction from onomastics recorded by Greek and Roman sources relies on Gothic forms. Therefore, it is difficult to assess whether or not Vandalic is closely related to Gothic.[1]: 9 

Theories range from Gothic and Vandalic, together with Burgundian, form a dialect continuum,[5] or that language of the Vandals was actually Gothic,[2]: 47  to them being different languages separating early on, without having an intermediary East Germanic ancestor.[6]


The Vandals during the Migration period.

According to their own mythology, the Goths originally came from Scandinavia. It is therefore debated, whether Gothic and by extension Vandalic, came from Scandinavia or not. Linguistic evidence shows no specific relation between North Germanic and either Gothic or Vandalic. Still, it is possible that both the Goths and the Vandals migrated from Scandinavia southwards, where their respective languages started to diverge from Proto-Germanic.[6]

The linguistic urheimat of Vandalic probably lies south of the Baltic sea. They crossed the Rhine in the fifth century,[6] establishing themselves together with the Hasdingi and the Silingi in Gallaecia (northern Portugal and Galicia) and in southern Spain, following other Germanic and non-Germanic peoples (Visigoths, Alans and Suebi) in c. 410 before they moved to North Africa in the 430s. Their kingdom flourished in the early 6th century, but after their defeat in 534 they were placed under Byzantine administration.[7][8]: 1  The Vandalic language is presumed to still have been spoken at the time of the Byzantine conquest.[8]: 95  It likely disappeared before the end of the century.[4]


Very little is known about the Vandalic language other than various phrases and a small number of personal names of Vandalic origin, mainly known from documents and coins.[1]: 7 [2]: 44  Most Vandalic names were recorded by native speakers of Latin or Greek, who might have misinterpreted phonemes or assimilated names to those common in their mother tongue.[2]

The regional name Andalusia is traditionally believed to have derived from Vandalic, although this claim is contested. Following the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, from the 8th century to the end of the 15th the region was called Al-Andalus.[9]

In one inscription from the Vandal Kingdom, the Christian incantation of Kyrie eleison is given in Vandalic as "Froia arme" ("Lord, have mercy!").[10][11] The same phrase appears in Collatio Beati Augustini cum Pascentio ariano 15 by Pseudo-Augustine: "Froja armes".[12] It is possible that this sentence is, in fact, Gothic since the Vandals might have used Gothic as liturgical language.[11]: 262 

The epigram De conviviis barbaris in the Latin Anthology, of North African origin and disputed date, contains a fragment in a Germanic language that some authors believe to be Vandalic,[13][2]: 49–50  although the fragment itself refers to the language as "Gothic". This may be because both languages were East Germanic and closely related; scholars have pointed out in this context[2]: 48  that Procopius refers to the Goths, Vandals, Visigoths, and Gepids as "Gothic nations" and opines that they "are all of the Arian faith, and have one language called Gothic".[14] The fragment reads:

Other surviving Vandalic words are Baudus, "master" [16] and Vandalirice, "King of the Vandals".[17]


The phonological features of Vandalic are similar to those of Gothic.[3]: 7 


The following vowel inventory is based on Wrede:[3]: 91–101 

Front Central Back
short long short long short long
High i u
Low a

The Proto-Germanic long vowel */e:/ is often written in Vandalic names as ⟨e⟩ (Gunthimer, Geilimer), but it is also represented as ⟨i⟩ Geilamir, Vitarit.[3]: 91 

The Proto-Germanic short vowel */e/ is often written as ⟨i⟩ in Vandalic[2]: 96  when it was not preceded by */r, h, w/. For example, Sigisteun contains -i because g precedes the vowel, but Beremut retains the *e since r precedes the vowel.[citation needed] It could either mean that */e/ turned into /i/ in Vandalic[18] or that the Vandalic short /e/ was interpreted as /i/ by non-natives.[2]: 97 

Similar to Gothic, Vandalic does not seem to have i-umlaut. One example of items that demonstrate the lack of umlaut are names that contain the form *ari (< Proto-Germanic *harjaz 'army'): Ariarith, Arifridos, Guntari, Raginari vs. Old English here, the latter of which does show umlaut with the Proto-Germanic *a having shifted to e.[18]

Proto-Germanic */o:/ is written ⟨u⟩; Blumarit (compare Proto-Germanic *blōmô), Vilimut.[18] This could either mean that */o:/ turned into /u/ in Vandalic[18] or that it is a misinterpretation of the sound by Latin authors.[2]: 98  In Gothic documents, */o:/ is mostly written ⟨o⟩, but sometimes also ⟨u⟩.[2]: 98 

The Proto-Germanic diphthong *eu tends to come down to Vandalic as eu. Take for example the form theudo- ('people'),[18] as opposed to the Gothic 𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰 (þiuda),[19] where it has changed to /iu/.[18]

The Proto-Germanic diphthong *ai is preserved as /ai/, but tends to become /ei/ later on. For example, the name Gaisericus changes to Geiseric in later documents.[18]


The Vandalic consonant inventory according to Wrede.[3]: 101–109 

  Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Labiovelar Glottal
Nasal ⟨m⟩   ⟨n⟩   ⟨ng⟩    
m   n   ŋ    
Stop ⟨p⟩ ⟨b⟩   ⟨t⟩ ⟨d⟩ ⟨c⟩ ⟨g⟩ ⟨c⟩ ⟨g⟩    
p b   t d c ɟ k ɡ    
Fricative ⟨f⟩ ⟨b⟩ ⟨th⟩ ⟨d⟩ ⟨s⟩ ⟨s, z⟩   ? ⟨h⟩ ? ⟨g⟩   ? ⟨h⟩
ɸ β θ ð s z   x ɣ   h
Approximant     ⟨l⟩ ⟨i, j⟩   ⟨w, v⟩
    l j   w
Trill     ⟨r⟩        

The Proto-Germanic */z/ is also preserved in the language as a sibilant (always found written ⟨s⟩ or as part of ⟨x⟩), as opposed to having undergone rhotacism as it has in North or West Germanic.[20] For example, compare the Vandalic form geis (as in Geiseric) 'spear' to Old English gār.[citation needed]

The word-initial /h/ inherited from Proto-Germanic does not consistently appear in Vandalic names recorded by Greek or Latin authors (e.g., the element ari in Arifridos and Guntari, from Proto-Germanic *harja- 'army'). Sometimes the same name appears with and without ⟨h⟩, depending on the author. However, royal names on Vandal coins use a conservative official spelling, with the ⟨h⟩ always being written.[18] This could point to either a loss of the sound represented by ⟨h⟩[18] or errors introduced by authors unfamiliar with the sound.[3]: 107 [2]: 100 

The Proto-Germanic fricatives */þ/ and */ð/ often turned into /t/ or /d/, but there are also some names in which they were retained or otherwise represented distinctly: Thrasamundus, Guntha.[18]

Initial /w/ is sometimes written as ⟨gu⟩.[2]: 104 [18] This could be an issue of Latin spelling[2]: 104  or a point to the development of /gw/. Examples are Guiliaruna, < Proto-Germanic *wilja- and Guitifrida, < *wīti-.[18]

The Proto-Germanic cluster */-ww-/ can be found strengthened to /-g-/.[18]

The Proto-Germanic cluster */-tj-/ can become [tsj], as in matzia from Proto-Germanic *matjaną.[18]


Very little is known about Vandalic grammar, but some things can be extracted from extant Vandalic material.[2]: 105 


The original Proto-Germanic *-z used to mark the nominative masculine singular in nominals, which was lost in West Germanic early on, is attested within some preserved Vandalic forms as -s or as part of -x (occasionally found Romanized in some name attestations as -us). This marker is potentially to be deemed an archaic feature since it is lost in most words, with complete lost within Ostrogothic names from the 6th century onward.[18][2]: 106 

The epithet Vandalirice 'king of the Vandals' gives possible attestation of a genitive plural ending -e (cf. Gothic -ē), albeit written as ⟨i⟩ within this form.[18][11] Old Germanic languages outside of East Germanic have -a (as in Old English and Old Norse)[21][22] or -o (as in Old Dutch or Old High German) as their equivalents of this ending instead;[23][24] compare Old English Wendla against the potential Vandalic form *Vandali.[citation needed]


The tables below show various Vandalic words, phrases and forms that survive in (or as) names and various Latin texts. The majority of these were taken from Nicoletta Francovich Onesti [fr].[18][clarification needed]

Vandalic words attested outside of names
Vandalic form
Gothic cognate Gloss of Vandalic form
arme *𐌰𐍂𐌼𐌰𐌹 (*armai)
(form of 𐌰𐍂𐌼𐌰𐌽 (arman))
'have mercy!'
(cf. -baudes)
'ruler, master'
drincan 𐌳𐍂𐌹𐌲𐌺𐌰𐌽 (drigkan) 'drink (inf.)'
eils 𐌷𐌰𐌹𐌻𐍃 (hails) 'hail!' (greeting)
ia 𐌾𐌰𐌷 (jah) 'and'
froia 𐍆𐍂𐌰𐌿𐌾𐌰 (frauja) 'lord, (the) Lord'
matzia 𐌼𐌰𐍄𐌾𐌰𐌽 (matjan) 'eat (inf.),
have one's meal (inf.)'
scapia *𐍃𐌺𐌰𐍀𐌾𐌰𐌽 (*skapjan),
cf. 𐌲𐌰𐍃𐌺𐌰𐍀𐌾𐌰𐌽 (gaskapjan)
'make, create'
vandalirice 'king of the Vandals'
Vandalic words and forms attested in or as personal names
Vandalic form(s)
Gothic cognate Proto-Germanic
Old English cognate Gloss of Vandalic form
ari 𐌷𐌰𐍂𐌾𐌹𐍃 (harjis) *harjaz here 'army'
(cf. baudus)
*baudiz 'master, ruler'
bere 𐌱𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌰- (baira-) *bera- bera- 'bear, carry'
bluma 𐌱𐌻𐍉𐌼𐌰 (blōma) *blōmô *blōma 'bloom, flower'
dagila *𐌳𐌰𐌲𐌹𐌻𐌰 (*dagila)
cf. 𐌳𐌰𐌲𐍃 (dags)
*dag- (dæg) 'day (dim.)'
*𐍆𐍂𐌹𐌸𐌿𐍃 (*friþus) *friþu- friþ(u)
(cf. MnE †frith)
geis *𐌲𐌰𐌹𐍃 (*gais)
cf. 𐌿𐍃𐌲𐌰𐌹𐍃𐌾𐌰𐌽 (usgaisjan)
('frighten, scare')
*gaiza- gār
(cf. MnE garlic)
*gunþjo gūþ 'battle'
hildi-, -ild 𐌷𐌹𐌻𐌳𐌹- (hildi-) *hildjō hild 'battle'
*𐌼𐌴𐍂𐍃 (*mērs) *mēraz, *mērijaz mǣre
(cf. MnE ‡mere)
munds *mundō mund
(cf. MnE ‡mound)
mut 𐌼𐍉𐌸𐍃 (mōþs)
('mood, anger')
*moda- mōd
(cf. MnE mood)
oa 𐌷𐌰𐌿𐌷𐍃 (hauhs) *hauha- hēah 'high'
*𐌰𐌿𐍃𐍄𐍂𐌰- (*austra-) *austra- ēast 'east'
-𐍂𐌴𐌳𐌰𐌽 (-rēdan)
('to advise')
*rēdaz rǣd, rēd
(cf. MnE †rede)
'advice, counsel'
𐍂𐌴𐌹𐌺𐍃 (reiks) *rīk- rice ('dominion') 'king'
runa 𐍂𐌿𐌽𐌰 (rūna) *rūnō rūn
(cf. MnE †roun, rune)
scarila *skarō scearu
(cf. MnE share)
'band (dim.)'
sifila 𐍃𐌹𐌱𐌾𐌰 (sibja) *sibjō sibb
(cf. MnE sibling)
'kindred (dim.)'
sindi- 𐍃𐌹𐌽𐌸𐍃 (sinþs)
('time, occurrence')
*sinþa- sīþ
(cf. MnE send)
'travel, path'
trioua 𐍄𐍂𐌹𐌲𐌲𐍅𐌰 (triggwa) *triwwa trīewu 'loyal, true (f.)'
teus 𐌸𐌹𐌿𐍃 (þius) *þewaz þēow
(cf. MnE †thew)
'slave, servant'
theudo 𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰 (þiuda) *þeudō þēod
(cf. MnE †thede)
vili, guilia 𐍅𐌹𐌻𐌾𐌰 (wilja) *wiljô willa 'will (noun)'
*𐍅𐌴𐌹𐍄𐌹- (*weiti-) *wīti- 'struggle, combat'
vult 𐍅𐌿𐌻𐌸𐌿𐍃 (wulþus) *wulþu- wuldor 'glory'

Writing system

The few names on coins issued by the Vandalic kingdom were written in Latin script.[25]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Hartmann, Frederik (2020). The Vandalic language – origins and relationships. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter. ISBN 978-3-8253-4752-9.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Reichert, Hermann (2009). "Sprache und Namen der Wandalen in Afrika" [The language and names of the Vandals in Africa]. In Greule, Albrecht; Springer, Matthias (eds.). Namen des Frühmittelalters als Sprachliche Zeugnisse und als Geschichtsquellen [Names from the early Middle Ages as linguistical evidence and as historical sources] (in German). Berlin: W. de Gruyter. ISBN 9783110208153.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Wrede, Ferdinand (2018) [1886]. Über die Sprache der Wandalen [On the language of the Vandals] (in German). Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter. ISBN 9783111347615.
  4. ^ a b Hennings, Thordis (2012). Einführung in das Mittelhochdeutsche [Introduction to Middle High German] (in German) (3 ed.). Berlin: De Gruyter. p. 26. ISBN 978-3-11-025959-9.
  5. ^ Hartmann, Frederik; Riegger, Chiara (16 March 2022). "The Burgundian language and its phylogeny: A cladistical investigation". NOWELE. North-Western European Language Evolution. 75 (1): 42–80. doi:10.1075/nowele.00062.har. S2CID 247514646.
  6. ^ a b c Hartmann, Frederik (2023). "Genealogical implications and Germanic phylogeny". Germanic Phylogeny. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 172–211. doi:10.1093/oso/9780198872733.003.0005. ISBN 9780191983719.
  7. ^ Moorhead, John (2013). "Goths and Vandals, migration history". The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration (1 ed.). Wiley. ISBN 978-1-4443-3489-0.
  8. ^ a b Merrills, Andrew H.; Miles, Richard (2010). The Vandals. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781444318074.
  9. ^ García Sanjuán, Alejandro (2017). "al-Andalus, etymology and name". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Stewart, Devin J. (eds.). The encyclopaedia of Islam. 2017,5: Band. Leiden/Boston: Brill. ISBN 9789004335745.
  10. ^ Schäferdiek, Knut (2016). "Ulfila und der sogenannte gotische Arianismus" [Ulfila and the so-called Gothic Arianism]. In Berndt, Guido M.; Steinacher, Roland (eds.). Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed (in English and German). Abingdon/New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781317178651.
  11. ^ a b c Tiefenbach, Heinrich (1991). "Das wandalische Domine miserere" [The Vandalic Domine miserere]. Historische Sprachforschung / Historical Linguistics (in German). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 104 (2): 251–268. ISSN 0935-3518. JSTOR 40849030.
  12. ^ Steinacher, Roland (2008). "Gruppen und Identitäten. Gedanken zur Bezeichnung "vandalisch"" [Groups and identities. Thoughts on the term "Vandalic"] (PDF). In Berndt, Guido M.; Steinacher, Roland (eds.). Das Reich der Vandalen und seine (Vor-)Geschichten. 2005 (in German). Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. p. 254. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2012.
  13. ^ "Inter eils Goticum (De conviviis barbaris)". Indogermanistik Wien: Quellentexte. Archived from the original on 17 October 2010.
  14. ^ Procopius of Caesarea, THE VANDALIC WAR I,2–8
  15. ^ Quoted in Magnús Snædal, 'The "Vandal" Epigram', in Filologia Germanica/Germanic Philology, 1 (2009), 181–213 (pp. 183–84).
  16. ^ Anthologia Latina No. 307, I. 5
  17. ^ Anthologia Latina No. 215, 523–543
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Francovich Onesti, Nicoletta (2013). "Tracing the language of the Vandals". Goti e Vandali. Rome: Artemide. pp. 179–195. ISBN 9788875751821.
  19. ^ Balg, Gerhard Hubert (1887). A comparative glossary of the Gothic language with especial reference to English and German. Halle: Max Niemeyer. p. 470.
  20. ^ Francovich Onesti, Nicoletta (2009). "Zeugnisse der vandalischen Sprache". In Hattler, Claus; Erbelding, Susanne; Wenzel, Astrid (eds.). Das Königreich der Vandalen: Erben des Imperiums in Nordafrika; Große Landesausstellung Baden-Württemberg 2009 im Badischen Landesmuseum Schloss Karlsruhe, 24. Oktober 2009 bis 21. Februar 2010 (in German). Mainz: von Zabern. pp. 228–233. ISBN 978-3805340830.
  21. ^ Brunner, Karl (1965). Altenglische Grammatik [Anglo-Saxon grammar] (in German) (3 ed.). Tübingen: Niemeyer. p. 195.
  22. ^ Noreen, Adolf (1970). Altnordische Grammatik. 1: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (Laut- und Flexionslehre) unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen [Old Norse grammar. 1: Old Islandic and Old Norwegen grammar (phonology and morphology)] (in German) (5 ed.). Tübingen: Niemeyer. p. 246. ISBN 3484101458.
  23. ^ Gallée, Johan Hendrik; Tiefenbach, Heinrich; Lochner, Johannes (1993). Altsächsische Grammatik [Old Saxon grammar] (in German) (3 ed.). Tübingen: Niemeyer. p. 195. ISBN 3484106816.
  24. ^ Braune, Wilhelm; Ebbinghaus, Ernst A. (1989). Abriss der althochdeutschen Grammatik: mit Berücksichtigung des Altsächsischen [Basics of Old High German grammar] (in German) (15 ed.). Tübingen: Niemeyer. p. 34. ISBN 3484106433.
  25. ^ Friedländer, Julius (1849). Die Münzen der Vandalen [The coins of the Vandals] (in German). Leipzig: Wigand. p. 6.

Further reading