*Walhaz is almost certainly derived from the name of the tribe which was known to the Romans as Volcae (in the writings of Julius Caesar) and to the Greeks as ? / Ouólkai (Strabo and Ptolemy). This tribe occupied territory neighbouring that of the Germanic people and seem to have been referred to by the proto-Germanic name *Walhaz (plural *Walh?z, adjectival form *walhiska-). It is assumed that this term specifically referred to the Celtic Volcae, because application of Grimm's law to that word produces the form *Walh-. Subsequently, this term *Walh?z was applied rather indiscriminately to the southern neighbours of the Germanic people, as evidenced in geographic names such as Walchgau and Walchensee in Bavaria. These southern neighbours, however, were then already completely Romanised. Thus, Germanic speakers generalised this name first to all Celts, and later to all Romans and Romanised peoples. Old High GermanWalh became Walch in Middle High German, and the adjective OHG walhisk became MHG welsch, e.g. in the 1240 Alexander romance by Rudolf von Ems - resulting in Welsche in Early New High German and modern Swiss German as the exonym for all Romance speakers. For instance, the historical German name for Trentino, the part of Tyrol with a Romance speaking majority, is Welschtirol, and the historical German name for Verona is Welschbern.
Today, welsch is not in usage in German except in Switzerland. This term is used there not only in a historical context, but also as a somewhat pejorative word to describe Swiss speakers of Italian and French.
From the Slavs the term passed to other peoples, such as the Hungarians (oláh, referring to Vlachs, more specifically Romanians, olasz, referring to Italians), Turks ("Ulahlar") and Byzantines ("", "Vláhi") and was used for all Latin people of the Balkans.
Over time, the term Vlach (and its different forms) also acquired different meanings. Ottoman Turks in the Balkans commonly used the term to denote native Balkan Christians (possibly due to the cultural link between Christianity and Roman culture), and in parts of the Balkans the term came to denote "shepherd" - from the occupation of many of the Vlachs throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
The Polish words W?och (pl. W?osi), "Italian", and W?ochy, "Italy", and the Slovenian lah, a mildly derogatory word for "Italian", can also be mentioned.
Toponyms and exonyms
Numerous names of non-Germanic, and in particular Romance-speaking, European and near-Asian regions derive from the word Walh, in particular the exonyms
in German: Wlachen or Walachen - to Romanians of other Romanian/Vlach subgroups; Wallach - a Romanian horse, i.e. a horse that has been gelded, as the Romanians gelded their war horses for practical reasons; Walachei - to any land inhabited by Vlachs, as well as "remote and rough lands", "boondocks";
in Turkish: Eflak - to Wallachia and "Ulahlar" to Romanians or other Romanian/Vlach subgroup.
In Slovene: La?ki, archaic name referring to Italians; it is also the name of several settlements in Slovenia, like La?ko near Celje, or La?ki Rovt near Bohinj. La?ko is also the old Slovene name for the area around Monfalcone and Ronchi in Italy, on the border with Slovenia. These names are linked to the presence of larger nuclei of Romance-speaking populations at the time where the Slavs settled the area in the 6th century.
Welschnofen (Nova Levante), in opposition to Deutschnofen (Nova Ponente), in Alto Adige, Italy. In Welschnofen lived until the eighteenth century a Ladin community, while in Deutschnofen lived a German community.
There is a street in Regensburg named Wahlenstrasse, seemingly once inhabited by Italian merchants. In other German places like Duisburg one can find a Welschengasse, or an Am Welschenkamp, referring to French speaking inhabitants
In Southern Austria, "welsch" is a prefix that generally means Italian. E.g. the wine variety "Welschriesling", common in Styria, Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary (actually not related to the white Riesling variety). It is often used as a rather sweeping, pejorative word for the nearest people of Latin/Romanic origin (the remaining neighbours of Austria being "Tschuschen" - Slavs - and "Piefke" (Germans).
Kauderwelsch (Danish: kaudervælsk, Norwegian: kaudervelsk, Dutch: koeterwaals) is a German word for gibberish and derives from the Rhaetoroman dialect of Chur in Switzerland.
Welche, the French spelling of Welsch, refers to an historical Romance dialect in Alsace bordering German-speaking Alsace
Rotwelsch is the language of traveller communities in Germany.
The Calvinistic Walloon church in the Netherlands, whose native language is French
In most langues d'oïl, walhaz was borrowed and altered by changing the initial w to g (cf. English "war" French guerre, English "William" vs. French Guillaume or even English "ward" vs. "guard", borrowed into English from French) resulting in Gaul- : Gaule "Gaul", Gaulois "Gaulish". (These terms are not related to the terms Gallic or Gaelic - which are likewise etymologically unrelated to each other - despite the similarity in form and meaning. See Names of the Celts for more information.)
French (pays de) Galles, gallois > Italian Galles, gallese "Wales", "Welsh".
In the Pennsylvania German language, Welsch generally means "strange" as well as "Welsh", and is sometimes, although with a more restricted meaning, compounded with other words. For example, the words for "turkey" are Welschhaahne and Welschhinkel, which literally mean "French (or Roman) chicken". "Welschkann" is the word for maize and literally translates to "French (or Roman) grain." The verb welsche means "to jabber".
Nicolaus Olahus (Latin for Nicholas, the Vlach; Hungarian: Oláh Miklós, Romanian: Nicolae Valahul) (1493-1568), Archbishop of Esztergom
The walnut was originally known as the Welsh nut, i.e. it came through France and/or Italy to Germanic speakers (German Walnuss, Dutch okkernoot or walnoot, Danish valnød, Swedish valnöt). In Polish orzechy w?oskie translates to 'Italian nuts' (w?oskie being the adjectival form of W?ochy).
Several German compound words, such as Welschkohl, Welschkorn, Welschkraut, literally mean "Welsh/Italian cabbage" (referring to Savoy cabbage) and "Welsh/Italian corn" (referring to either maize or buckwheat).
^ abcdeAd Welschen: 'Herkomst en geschiedenis van de familie Welschen en de geografische verspreiding van deze familienaam.' part II, in: Limburgs Tijdschrift voor Genealogie 30 (2002), 68-81; separate bibliography in: Limburgs Tijdschrift voor Genealogie 31 (2003), 34-35 (nl).