While mentioning Luxembourg yesterday, I was struck by its name: we usually associate the suffix -bourg/burg with towns and cities, and in American English, burg is used as an informal word for town. So why would a country (albeit a tiny one) have a name like a town? I decided to investigate…

The name Luxembourg comes from the Germanic words lutilla (little) and burg (fort or castle). Which makes sense, as the modern country of Luxembourg began with the acquisition of Lucilinburhuc (now Luxembourg Castle) by Siegfried, Count of Ardennes, in 963 AD. Around the castle, a town developed. Usually, the towns only grow so far as becoming a larger town or city, which is where -bourg/burg as the ending of the names of many towns and cities comes from. Luxembourg kept going though, and became a country. Or Grand Duchy, if you prefer. A duchy is a region controlled by a duke, and it therefore stands to reason that a grand duchy is ruled by a grand duke, which is a monarchic title below emperor and king, and not to be confused with your average common-as-muck duke. Henri has been Grand Duke of Luxembourg since 2000, and is the only remaining Grand duke in the world. Good for you, Henri!

I could give you a potted history of the country, but for any small Continental European country like Luxembourg it’s insanely complicated. Suffice it to say it  shares many elements of the cultures of the countries that it borders (Belgium, France, and Germany); has high income levels and a successful economy; was a founding member of the European Union; largely due to its history of trying to maintain peace between France and Germany (as it’s stuck in the middle); and I didn’t say anything about Russian Mafia money, did you?

So that’s a suitably small tale of a small country. Finally, I should make it clear that by Luxembourg, I’m referring to the Grand Duchy, not the city, or the castle, or the district, or the canton, or the county, or the constituency, or the Belgian province, or the three American cities (spelled Luxemburg). Seriously, look at Wikipedia’s disambiguation page!

Man, Europe is a complicate place…

16 thoughts on “Luxembourg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s