Total population
c. 100 – c. 150 million worldwide[1]
Regions with significant populations
 United States46,047,114 (descent)[3]
 Brazil12,000,000 (descent)[4][5]
 Argentina3,541,600 (descent)[6]
 Canada3,322,405 (descent)[7]
 Chile500,000 (descent)[8]
 Russia394,138[citation needed]
 Austria186,891 [12]
 Spain153,245[citation needed]
 Sweden50,863[citation needed]
 Ukraine33,302[citation needed]
 Dominican Republic25,000[21]
 Czech Republic21,216[22]
 Portugal10,030 (2016)[23]
2/3rds Protestant[note 1]
1/3rd Roman Catholic
1/3rd Protestant[note 2][24]
1/3rd Roman Catholic
1/3rd Irreligious
Related ethnic groups
other Germanic peoples

Germans (German: Deutsche) are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe,[25][26][27][28] who share a common German ancestry, culture and history. German is the shared mother tongue of a substantial majority of ethnic Germans.

The English term Germans has historically referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages.[note 3] Ever since the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation within the Holy Roman Empire, German society has been characterized by a Catholic-Protestant divide.[29]

Of approximately 100 million native speakers of German in the world,[30] roughly 80 million consider themselves Germans.[citation needed] There are an additional 80 million people of German ancestry mainly in the United States, Brazil (mainly in the South Region of the country), Argentina, Canada, South Africa, the post-Soviet states (mainly in Russia and Kazakhstan), and France, each accounting for at least 1 million.[note 4] Thus, the total number of Germans lies somewhere between 100 and more than 150 million, depending on the criteria applied[1] (native speakers, single-ancestry ethnic Germans, partial German ancestry, etc.).

Today, people from countries with German-speaking majorities which were earlier part of the Holy Roman Empire, (such as Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and other historically-tied countries like Luxembourg), most often subscribe to their own national identities and may or may not also self-identify as ethnically German.[31]


Roman limes and modern boundaries.

The German term Deutsche originates from the Old High German word diutisc (from diot "people"), referring to the Germanic "language of the people". It is not clear how commonly, if at all, the word was used as an ethnonym in Old High German.

Used as a noun, ein diutscher in the sense of "a German" emerges in Middle High German, attested from the second half of the 12th century.[32]

The Old French term alemans is taken from the name of the Alamanni. It was loaned into Middle English as almains in the early 14th century. The word Dutch is attested in English from the 14th century, denoting continental West Germanic ("Dutch" and "German") dialects and their speakers.[33]

While in most Romance languages the Germans have been named from the Alamanni (in what became Swabia) (some, like standard Italian tedeschi, retain an older borrowing of the endonym, while the Romanian 'germani' stems from the historical correlation with the ancient region of Germania), the Old Norse, Finnish, and Estonian names for the Germans were taken from that of the Saxons. In Slavic languages, the Germans were given the name of němьci (singular němьcь), originally meaning "not us". A variety old Slavic dialects were present and dominant in the area of modern Germany. However, under the Celto-German influence and furthered by the violent Partitions of Poland, the modern Polish language has in many of its words has adopted the letter "G" in place of "H". The original common pronunciation was Her-man which relates directly to "Herr" in German. "Her" in old Slavic meant "Mountain" and the Slavs (particularly the Po-Lech) used the combination of words "Her-Man" to describe the dwellers of the Alps as the "Mountain People".

The English term Germans is only attested from the mid-16th century, based on the classical Latin term Germani used by Julius Caesar and later Tacitus. It gradually replaced Dutch and Almains, the latter becoming mostly obsolete by the early 18th century.[34][35]