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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

German, "kingdom, realm, state," from Old High German rihhi, related to Old English rice, from Proto-Germanic *rikja "rule" (cognates: Old Norse riki, Danish rige, Old Frisian and Middle Dutch rike, Dutch rijk, Gothic reiki), from PIE *reg- (1) "move in a straight line," hence, "direct in a straight line, rule, guide" (see regal). Don Ringe, "From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic" [Oxford 2006] identifies it as a Celtic loan-word in Germanic rather than a direct evolution from PIE, based on the vowel. Used in English from 1871-1945 to refer to "the German state, Germany." Most notoriously in Third Reich (see third); there never was a First or Second in English usage.


Reich (; ) is a German word literally meaning " realm". The terms (literally "realm of an emperor") and (literally "realm of a king") are used in German to refer to empires and kingdoms respectively.

As such, the term Deutsches Reich (often translated to " German Empire") continued to be used even after the collapse of the German Empire and abolition of the monarchy in 1918, without any imperial connotations.

The term derives from the Germanic word meaning "realm" in general, but is typically used in German to designate a kingdom or an empire, especially the Roman Empire. The terms (roughly "Emperordom") and are used in German to more specifically define an empire ruled by an emperor.

Reich is comparable in meaning and development (as well as descending from the same Proto-Indo-European root) to the English word realm (via French reaume "kingdom" from Latin regalis "royal"). It is used for historical empires in general, such as the Roman Empire (), Persian Empire () , and both the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire (, literally " Tsar realm").

In the history of Germany specifically, it is used to refer to:

  • the early medieval Frankish Realm ( Francia) and Carolingian Empire (the and );
  • the Holy Roman Empire (), which lasted from the coronation of Otto I as Holy Roman Emperor in 962, until 1806, when it was dissolved during the Napoleonic Wars;
  • the German Empire ( or ), which lasted from the unification of Germany in 1871 until its collapse after World War I, during the German Revolution of 1918–1919;
  • the Weimar Republic of 1919–1933 continued to use as its official name;
  • Nazi Germany, the state often referred to as the Third Reich, which lasted from the Machtergreifung in 1933 until the End of World War II in Europe in 1945.

The historical Reich is commonly split into three periods:

  1. First Reich : the Holy Roman Empire 962–1806; later the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation , also called the Old Empire
  2. Second Reich : the German Empire 1871–1918
  3. Third Reich : Nazi Germany 1933-1943 later the Greater German Reich 1943-1945

The 1918–1933 Weimar period, which is also called German Reich is ignored and denounced by the Nazis as a historical aberration, contemptuously referring to it as " the System".

In a 1923 book entitled Das Dritte Reich by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, the medieval Holy Roman Empire is counted as the first and the 1871–1918 monarchy as the second, which was then to be followed by a "reinvigorated" third Reich, i.e. Nazi Germany.

Reich (disambiguation)

Reich is the German word for "realm" or "empire" and may refer to:

Reich (video game)

Reich was a first-person shooter video game in development by UTV True Games.

Usage examples of "reich".

Count Janos Zichy and Count Antal Sigray, both of the opposition party, propagated a Christian Democratic program and demanded that the war be ended immediately on our side and that we detach ourselves from the Third Reich.

In Saxony the Socialist-Communist government was arrested by the local Reichswehr commander and a Reich Commissioner appointed to rule.

He seemed to be on the eve of sensational successes in foreign policy with regard to both the cancellation of reparations and equality of armament for the Reich.

Reich euphemisms, and that this particular one related to the secret training of fighter pilots.

The bookshelves of his landlady sternly turned the backs, spines rather, of their contents towards him: not our business, we are concerned with the real issues of life, meaning women downtrodden by men, the economic oppression of the blacks, counter-culture, coming revolt, Reich, Fanon, third world.

On April 24 Hitler appointed Josef Terboven, a tough young Nazi gauleiter, to be Reich Commissar for Norway, and it was he who actually governed the country, with increasing brutality, during the occupation.

And though he brought what the conservatives had lacked, a mass following, the Right was sure that he would remain in its pocket - was he not outnumbered eight to three in the Reich cabinet?

Fourth Reich, with Maas the superhuman leader, Der Neuerer Grossfuehrer!

In the other leg of the L, besides the armchair, were more books, a heavy concertina blind sealing off the window, two narrow doors that I supposed were those of a closet and a lavatory, and what looked like a slightly scaled-down and windowless telephone booth until I guessed it must be an orgone box of the sort Reich had invented to restore the libido when the patient occupies it.

The constant shipments of ownerless jewelry, clothes, and other goods from the death camps to the Reich could not be concealed.

They stirred and rallied a divided, defeated people and their resounding echoes could still be heard in the Third Reich.

He remembered screaming in anger as German machine guns turned the Rapido River to white froth, the way his arms ached as he drove the sinking rubber raft across to the north bank where the brush was already full of the black helmets and cammo ponchos of SS Division Das Reich, the shells called by the spotters at Monte Cassino splashing down everywhere, half his squad dead or wounded, bodies sprawled on the bottom of his boat in a mixture of river spray and their own blood.

Third Reich and its reoccupation of the Rhineland in the spring of 1936, Belgium, which wisely had abandoned neutrality after 1918, again sought refuge in it.

Reich, bis ich vor vier Wochen etwa einen Brief von ihm erhielt und seit der Zeit habe ich keine Ruhe gehabt bis zu dem heutigen Tag.

The month before, on January 13, the inhabitants of the Saar had voted overwhelmingly - 477,000 to 48,000 - to return their little coal-rich territory to the Reich and Hitler had taken the occasion to publicly proclaim that Germany had no further territorial claims on France, which meant the abandoning of German claims on Alsace and Lorraine.