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Viro Vs. Eesti?

Do Finns ever use Eesti & related words for Estonia, Estonia, Estonians, etc.? Is it more formal or archaic or something? Do Estonians use Viro themselves?

July 2, 2020



We use in Finland:
• Viro
• virolainen
• viron kieli / viro
• vironkielinen
• virolaisittain (virolaisten tapaan)
• vironnos (vironkielinen käännös)
• virontaa (kääntää viroksi)

That is my opinion.

P.S. – Kielitoimiston sanakirja: viroeesti


Viro (Maiden nimet seitsemällä kielellä)

(Kotus = Kotimaisten kielten keskus)


Hey. As Estonian I can tell you that we do not call ourselves viro or anything related to that. The closest to viro anyone calls themselves is if they are from a region Virumaa (that is the old name of the area, now it's split into two counties) and they call themselves virumaalane. An Estonian calls himself 'eestlane'.


Lennart Meri, the first elected president of Estonia since the restoration of independence, said that when he speaks Estonian, he uses the name Eesti, and when he speaks Finnish, he uses the name Viro. According to president Meri, during the Soviet era the name Viro was disliked, as it reminded of the special contacts that existed between Finland and Estonia. Therefore, the Finnish radio broadcasts from Tallinn were sent from "Neuvosto-Eesti" (Soviet Estonia). On the other hand, some eager friends of Estonia in Finland have preferred the name Eesti to Viro. Both names are officially acceptable in Finnish.


Tere! Just curious, how do you personally feel about the whole country being called Viro? Isn't it a bit weird?


Weird? We Finns call Germany Saksa Denmark Tanska and Sweden Ruotsi

And yes. We use both Eesti and Viro when speaking about Estonia.

Russia in estonian is Venemaa, isn't it?


Saksa < Sachsen; Tanska < danska (Danish); Ruotsi < Roden (Roslagen, the coastal area of Uppland)... not really weird. Interestingly, the name “Russia” has the same origin as Ruotsi.


Viro belongs to the same series as Saksa and Ruotsi: the neighboring countries have got their names according to the province with which Finns have had especially tight contacts. Anyway, the name Eesti is different from Deutschland and Sverige, as Eesti fits well into the Finnish sound system (and one could claim that Eesti is a more beautiful word than Viro). Therefore, Eesti is sometimes used as a synonym for Viro, and there are those in whose opinion the only acceptable name for our southern neighbor is the same word as they themselves use, namely Eesti. On the other hand, these persons hardly demand that Finns should begin to talk about Sverige and "sverigeläinen", or Deutschland and "deutschlandilainen" (or "doitslandilainen").


That is true, Finns actually call Sweden 'Russia'. The Estonian word 'Venemaa' sounds like 'a land of boats' which could refer to the river routes used in the early medieval trading.


And don't forget that Suomi also used to mean just the southwestern part before it became the name of the whole country that is now Finland. Hence Varsinais-Suomi / Egentliga Finland / Finland Proper.


Tanska is from Swedish dansk and generally from the same root as Denmark/Danes/Danish etc, and so not a weird "call an entire country by a name derived from just one region in it" situation at all.

It's just been adapted to fit Finnish phonology, which plenty of languages do quite commonly. We don't say España or Italia when we speak English.


Eesti, eesti, and eestiläinen should be acceptable answers in every sentence with Viro, viro, and virolainen. If they are missing, report it. :)



Aww that's cute :') söpöä


I have heard Estonians who are in Finland and work there (the ones in blue collar professions like a construction worker or a cleaner), use variations of Eesti/eestiläinen etc and they seem to use slightly grammatically incorrect versions of country and city names when speakin in Estonian too.

I am Estonian myself and have no problem using Viro for Estonia. That is how it has been historically and I wouldn't change it to Eesti/eestiläinen.


I am Estonian myself and have no problem using Viro for Estonia.

In Finnish or in Estonian?


In Finnish, in Estonian language there are only a few placenames that have "Viru" in it, so Viro is just a Finnish-specific thing.


Kiitos paljon, ystävä.


The history here is that during its Soviet occupation, Estonia was called "Socialist Soviet Republic of Estonia", and Soviet Union also designated an official Finnish name for occupied Estonia, that being "Eestin sosialistinen neuvostotasavalta", where the Estonian name of the country had replaced the Finnish name.

If you said "Viro", it was clear that you were a person who supported Estonian independence - in other elwords you were a supporter of a loathed separatist movement. If a Finnish tourist was in Estonia and called the country Viro, the guide was obliged to tell that it is a forbidden word. Guides who wouldn't say that, could end up spending the rest of their life at a horrible camp in Siberia.

Finns eventually learned that one is not allowed to say "Viro", except those who were ardent supporters of Estonian independence, and kept calling it "Viro". So, "Eesti" when used in Finnish language meant "Estonia, a country that is better off as a part of USSR" and "Viro" meant "Estonia, a country illegally occupied by Soviet Union that should break free."

In Finnish and in Estonian, countries are often called with names associated with them before they became countries. We came from the northwest to what is now Germany, asking: "What is the name of this land?" and after hearing "Sachsen" we decided to call the place "Saksa" ("Saksamaa" in Estonian). Later a country called "Deutschland" appeared on that area, but we never started calling the country "Toitsi" or "Toitsumaa". Same with Sweden (Roslagen -> Ruotsi / Rootsi) and Estonia. Estonia was founded in 1918 and until very shortly before that, the people in its area were calling themselves just "maarahvas", meaning "land people". It was their language and their area, so they didn't really need a name for it. In 1918, the country got independent and decided a nae for itself: "Eesti". For Finns, it was something distinct from us, so we've had a name for that people for several centuries: Viro. Its history is that we came to Estonia's northern coast, asking for the name of the place where we had landed, and the answer was "Virumaa", and later "Viru" transformed ino "Viro" in our mouths. It was very clearly meaning "that language the people people speak on the other side of the Bay of Finland". Already before Estonians came to think that the whole area inhabited by Estonians should have one single name, Finns had been calling all of that area "Viro".

It shows that they were always important for us and that they were treated as equals. In most other languages, the Estonians were ignored and the land was seen to belong to the Low-German-spaking elite. They therefore never saw a reason to have a name for Estonia at all.

Because of Estonia's history under Soviet occupation, many Finns still call the country "Eesti". As younger people don't even know the 1980's political meanings of the word "Eesti", it's now a neutral word. And some time ago, "Eesti" was also accepted as a crrect word for Estonia. So, it's got two names in Finnish, and both are correct. Some people call it Viro, some call it Eesti, all of them are right and equally neutral. If someone calls it "Igaunija" in Finnish, then that's wrong :)


Eesti was also used during the first independence of Estonian (1918 - 1940) by some eager Finnish friends of Estonia. They wanted to emphasize that the newly independent neighbor is indeed Eesti (even when speaking Finnish), maybe as contrast to "Viro" that had traditionally existed on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland. Thus, there existed disagreement on the Finnish name of Estonia already a hundred years ago. Nowadays it is clear that "Viro" is the norm in Finnish, but "Eesti" is also accepted, as Dakkus explains.


Viro is an older name than Eesti. Place names at the southern coast of Finland, like Vironlahti, Virokoski, Virojoki and Vironniemi are old, and refer to contacts to and migration from Estonia. On the other hand, Eesti is a rather new word, and came into use in Estonia during the national revival in the 19th century. Previously, Estonians called themselves "maarahvas" (land people) and their language "maakeel" (land tongue). Germans were the upper class, and they called the Estonians "Undeutsche" (Non-German). Thus, Eesti is not a more archaic word than Viro, but it is the name Estonians use of their own country.


I have seen Finns use Eesti, Eestilainen, Eestissä, etc. Specially among Finn-Estonians. So I would say is not uncommon.


Yes! Eesti/eestiläinen are actually commonly used in spoken language. Viro/virolainen would be more formal but very commonly used too. I think the word Viro stems from "Virumaa" which is just a region in Estonia, which is probably why estonians might prefer we'd call it Eesti (or so I've heard). And no, I'm pretty sure they don't use "Viro" for themselves.


The Viro/Eesti difference appears to have some parallel in the Holland/Netherlands naming situation: in both cases the one I've listed first is only a region of the entire country.


The important difference is that no region in Estonia is called Viro, neither in Finnish or in Estonian. In both languages, the province is called Virumaa: Virumaa on Virossa (fi) - Virumaa is in Estonia (en) - Virumaa on Eestis (et)

The Dutch region of Holland is called with precisely the same name as some people use for the whole country of the Netherlands.


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